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Realistically, could Toronto IndyCar shift date to CTMP?

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The 800-pound gorilla in the room this weekend at the Honda Indy Toronto was the future of the race’s event date next year, as the Pan-Am Games come in August 2015 and would require INDYCAR to shift its date forward from July.

Honda Indy Toronto President/GM Charlie Johnstone hinted to MotorSportsTalk over the weekend that a deal was close for IndyCar to return next year, but couldn’t be pressed on a date itself.

As the Toronto weekend fell at the end of a six races in four weekend stretch, options to move it forward are a bit limited. Late June would seem to be the best option in theory.

But here’s where things get interesting. A report from The Globe & Mail’s Jeff Pappone said the Toronto weekend, per a source with knowledge of an early 2015 IndyCar schedule, could move to early June. That would put it near or perhaps on the same weekend as the Canadian Grand Prix, the country’s marquee motorsports event at Montreal. The Toronto race also has to renew its deal with the city.

The TUDOR United SportsCar Championship raced at nearby Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in mid-July this year, and the investment made by the new ownership group of Ron Fellows, Carlo Fidani and Al Boughton has seen the Bowmanville track upgrade its facilities, paddock, media center and atmosphere. Promotion has also increased, with several events.

A CTMP race would solve several problems for IndyCar. For one, it’s a natural terrain, permanent road course – something that only appears on the schedule three times all this year (while the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course exists, it’s an infield one, and not set up purely as a road course).

Secondly, it could enhance the track’s bottom line. While the TUDOR Championship seeks to be a marquee series, an IndyCar event has the potential to see an increase in ticket and merchandise sales. Camping could occur, something that isn’t an option at Exhibition Place. The track’s openness could allow for INDYCAR-type facilities like the Fan Village, which was not in Toronto this year, to be brought in. The potential downside is the track would need to pay INDYCAR’s sanctioning fee, and there’d be the cost of potential infrastructure/safety upgrades at some areas of the track.

But where there’s a potentially thorny conflict would be with IMSA itself, assuming it returns to CTMP next year (given most new IMSA dates are multiyear contracts, there’s every reason to expect it will). IMSA has stated that as it plans to grow the TUDOR Championship, it seeks to be the lead event on race weekends; with no disrespect, an IndyCar race on the same weekend likely would see it as the headliner and the TUDOR Championship secondary.

It’s the same problem that currently exists at Road America here in Elkhart Lake, Wis., another pristine road course that doubles as a natural park. Seemingly everyone and their dog wants it to come back for IndyCar, but until a sponsor pays for it and the sanctioning fee amount comes down, it’s not going to happen. Every year around this time is the same song and dance about wanting it back, but it will remain an eternal pipe dream until everyone gets on the same page.

Where TUDOR has opted to take the undercard has been at the Long Beach and Detroit street races, because it would have no other way of getting onto the schedule given the streets are only shut down once annually.

If CTMP could make the numbers work to where a separate IndyCar weekend could occur, with the usual additions of the Mazda Road to Indy and/or the Pirelli World Challenge (PWC raced a Touring Car event in May at CTMP this weekend and GT has been there before), then a late July date would be possible. It’s doubtful IndyCar and TUDOR would race on the same weekend at CTMP.

But man almighty, the prospect of open-wheel back at a legendary road course is mouth-watering. Like Road America however, it may only be a dream.

McLaren releases audio of first MP4-31 fire-up

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - NOVEMBER 01:  Jenson Button of Great Britain and McLaren Honda drives during the Formula One Grand Prix of Mexico at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez  on November 1, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
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As the countdown to the beginning of Formula 1 pre-season testing in Barcelona continues, McLaren has followed Ferrari’s lead by releasing an audio snippet of its 2016 car being fired up for the first time.

McLaren enters the new year hoping to bounce back from a miserable 2015 campaign that was marred by struggles with its Honda power unit, limiting drivers Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button to just 27 points across the course of the season.

The crew at Woking has been working tirelessly over the winter to get the new car, the MP4-31, ready for the new season, and everything now appears set for the first pre-season test in Barcelona.

On Sunday, McLaren released a short audio snippet of the car being fired up at its base ahead of its official unveil on February 21.

Pre-season testing begins at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya on February 22, with the eighth and final day of running taking place on March 4.

NHRA: Parachute fails on Gary Densham’s career-best Funny Car run (video)

Densham crash
(Photo courtesy NHRA's official Twitter account)
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Veteran NHRA Funny Car driver Gary Densham has been hurtling down drag strips for more than 30 years.

Saturday, the 69-year-old Densham had the best day of his career — and one of the worst, at the same time.

The Southern California native was making a qualifying run during the season-opening Circle K Winternationals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, Calif.

The good news for Densham: he ran a career-best 4.050 seconds in his Dodge Charger, qualifying 11th in the 16-car field for Sunday’s eliminations.

The bad news: the parachutes on his Funny Car failed to deploy and Densham ran head-on into a catchfence at the end of Auto Club Raceway’s short runoff area. While Densham’s car was destroyed, he walked away uninjured.

And that’s the best news of all.

Check out the video and then some tweets about the incident and the day, including visits by former IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti and Tommy Lee of rock group Motley Crue:

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Haas confirms F1 pre-season testing running order

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO - OCTOBER 30:  Haas F1 Team logos during the press conference for their driver announcement on October 30, 2015 in Mexico City, Mexico.  (Photo by Andrew Hone/Getty Images for Haas)
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Haas Formula 1 Team has confirmed its running order for the upcoming pre-season test sessions in Barcelona, Spain.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas’ new F1 team will grace the grid in 2016 after two years of preparation, with the covers being taken off its car on the morning of the first test on February 22 at the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya.

Romain Grosjean will be the first driver to head out on-track in a Haas F1 car, completing all of the running on February 22.

Teammate Esteban Gutierrez will then get his first taste of the car the following day, with the two drivers then alternating duties for the final two days of the opening test.

Gutierrez will enjoy both of the first two days of running at the second test (March 1-2) before handing back over to Grosjean for days three and four in Barcelona.

“The first thing for the test is to get the car to run and to work well from there. Hopefully, we can get a lot of mileage,” Grosjean said.

“This is a new team, so we need to get everyone to work together, all the engineers, mechanics and the drivers. We need to get as much data and knowledge as we can.

“It’s important to get the reliability sorted as early as possible because we don’t get much testing and we’re going straight to Melbourne.”

Haas F1 Team driver line-up for first Barcelona test (February 22-25)

Monday February 22: Grosjean
Tuesday February 23: Gutiérrez
Wednesday February 24: Grosjean
Thursday February 25: Gutiérrez

Haas F1 Team driver line-up for second Barcelona test (March 1-4)

Tuesday March 1: Gutiérrez
Wednesday March 2: Gutiérrez
Thursday March 3: Grosjean
Friday March 4: Grosjean

Romain Grosjean pleased with initial Haas simulator feedback

KANNAPOLIS, NC - SEPTEMBER 29:  Romain Grosjean of France speaks during a press conference as Haas F1 Team announces Grosjean as their driver for the upcoming 2016 Formula 1 season on September 29, 2015 in Kannapolis, North Carolina.  (Photo by Jared C. Tilton/Stewart-Haas Racing via Getty Images)
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Romain Grosjean felt pleased with his first simulator run in the new Haas Formula 1 car ahead of its on-track debut in Barcelona on February 22.

NASCAR team co-owner Gene Haas will take his F1 operation onto the grid this season after two years of preparation, with Grosjean joining ex-Ferrari reserve Esteban Gutierrez at the team for its maiden campaign.

Ahead of the car’s first on-track run at the beginning of pre-season testing in Spain later this month, Grosjean has completed some laps in it using a simulator, and reported that the initial feedback was positive.

“The impressions were quite good, even if in the beginning it was necessary to resolve a lot of small technical problems such as turbo lag, the energy recovered under braking, etc,” Grosjean told L’Equipe.

“The morning was spent doing this. But once everything was settled we had the opportunity to run extensively in the afternoon.

“I think the car’s baseline appears to be good. We now know the simulator corresponds to the windtunnel, but the differences with what we find in reality are sometimes huge – at Lotus for example, the car changed dramatically between track and simulator.”

Haas will lift the covers off its first F1 car on Monday 22 February ahead of the initial on-track running later that day.