Canadians Hinchcliffe, Tagliani seek the big result in Toronto

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For the two Canadians in this year’s Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader, there’s been some success but not the ultimate result in front of their home fans.

Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Quebec, has a fairly respectable record in CART, Champ Car and now the IZOD IndyCar Series around Exhibition Place. He has two podiums (second in 2001, third in 2005) and nine top-10 finishes in 12 prior Toronto starts.

James Hinchcliffe, of Oakville, Ontario, meanwhile has been snake bit in his two prior Toronto starts. He ended just 14th in his rookie start in 2011 and retired early with engine issues last year.

Both have the built in, added pressure that comes with racing in their home country. Tagliani more than “Hinch” could use a decent result, although the way Hinchcliffe’s bipolar season has gone you may as well pencil him in for at least one win.

Since a 10th-place finish in the season opener at St. Petersburg, a race Hinchcliffe won, Tagliani has yet to make it back to the top 10 in the No. 98 Barracuda Racing Honda – albeit not for a lack of effort. A myriad of bad luck has plagued his season and Tagliani enters just 22nd in the points standings.

Meanwhile, Hinchcliffe has alternated between winning and last place on several occasions in the No. 27 GoDaddy Chevrolet for Andretti Autosport. He is the only three-time winner in 2013, but that’s been negatively countered by a 24th and two 26th place finishes. He’s fifth in points, and a podium or win would send the crowd wild.

Either way, with two races, there’s a chance both of the locals could have their day on top this weekend.

Reports: Fernando Alonso to test on September 5 at Barber Motorsports Park

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According to a number of media stories Thursday afternoon and evening, two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso will reportedly test an Indy car at Barber Motorsports Park on Wednesday, September 5.

The 2.38-mile permanent road course just outside Birmingham, Alabama, per those stories, will play host to Alonso as he reportedly tests with IndyCar’s Andretti Autosport team and Honda.

Honda Performance Development (HPD) President Art St. Cyr issued a statement late Thursday afternoon about Alonso’s reported upcoming test:

“Fernando Alonso is one of the premier racing drivers of this generation, and we very much enjoyed working with him at the 2017 Indianapolis 500.

“He has shown that he can be very competitive right off the bat, and it would be great for IndyCar if he were to decide to drive here full-time after his F1 career. Having Alonso as a driver would be an obvious benefit for any team or manufacturer.”

However, St. Cyr’s statement also included a reference to Honda potentially not being able to field a new engine for Alonso in the IndyCar series in 2019.

“Our engine lease agreements are made between HPD and specific teams,” St. Cyr’s statement said. “Several of our current IndyCar Series teams already have agreements in place with HPD for the 2019 season, and we have been operating near maximum capacity all year long to properly provide powerful, reliable engines for all of our teams.

“We have had discussions with several current and potential teams for 2019, and those discussions are ongoing.”

Rumors of Alonso potentially racing for a hybrid operation that would include Andretti Autosport, McLaren and Harding Racing have been picking up speed. But there’s one potential major hurdle: Harding’s Dallara’s are powered by Chevrolet engines.

Alonso announced earlier this week that he’d be retiring from Formula One at season’s end, saying he’s looking forward to new adventures.

Because of his loyalty to McLaren, it’s increasingly looking as if Alonso comes to IndyCar, McLaren will have some involvement – although perhaps not as much as it potentially could do if it went all-in with a full-time effort immediately in 2019.

There is no word whether Chevrolet or Harding Racing could potentially be on hand at the Sept. 5 test at BMP, even in just an observation role.

Since being part of the winning team at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June, Alonso’s desire to become only the second driver to win motorsport’s triple crown – the Monaco Grand Prix, Le Mans and the Indianapolis 500 – has increased exponentially.

He’s already won the first two; just a Indy 500 triumph remains on his bucket list.

The late Graham Hill is the only driver to have accomplished the triple crown feat to date.

Alonso, who turned 37 on July 29, has made just one prior IndyCar start, in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. He led 27 laps of the 200-lap event and appeared to have a car strong enough to win before it suffered engine failure with 21 laps remaining.

Instead of what likely could have been a top-five finish, if not a win, Alonso’s first foray into IndyCar racing ended disappointingly with a 24th-place finish.

In addition to being courted by IndyCar, NASCAR has also jumped into the Alonso sweepstakes, saying he’d be welcome to race in the 2019 Daytona 500.

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