Toronto’s new turn complex, revised pit lane receive mixed reviews

Photo: IndyCar

TORONTO – The final four, but primarily the final three, turns of the now revised 1.786-mile Exhibition Place street course at the Honda Indy Toronto are easily the hot topic of conversation after the first day of track activity here.

Construction on the new Hotel X has prompted the Green Savoree Promotions promoted event to move the pit lane from the right side of the course, where it has traditionally been, to driver’s left. Cars will enter 35-foot pit boxes, among the shortest on the schedule.

And then there’s the turn complex itself, where with pit in at driver’s left just after Turn 8 – and it’s barely wide enough for one car – the course then narrows significantly through the left-handed Turn 9, the right-handed Turn 10 and then the final left-handed Turn 11. The event promoters told USA Today Sports‘ Brant James it’s a 32-feet difference.

Incidents were aplenty, with a handful of significant accidents occurring in the earlier Mazda Road to Indy sessions. There were at least six crashes between the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, and two cars were tubbed and needed replacements.

A deal was struck to see Jordan Lloyd (Pabst Racing) take over Ayla Agren (John Cummiskey Racing’s) chassis in USF2000, with Agren unfortunately sidelined this weekend due to financial constraints. Meanwhile Jake Parsons moved from his own car to Garett Grist’s old Juncos Racing chassis in Pro Mazda.

Then we got to the IndyCar session, where Juan Pablo Montoya and Charlie Kimball crashed hard at Turn 11.

Driver reactions were mixed on the course changes and with the first day of running in the books, the potential exists there still could be further tweaks.

Here’s a sampling of the reactions from the five drivers who came into the media center today:

Photo: IndyCar
Photo: IndyCar

Helio Castroneves, No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet

“If I have a say, I would make some change, for sure. The main thing is IndyCar, they always adapt, especially the competitors, the drivers, they always adapt whatever circumstances.

“At the least, we don’t have a railroad in the middle of the tracks, like we did in the past. That I have to admit was a little bit too extreme

“It’s a challenge for everyone. It’s difficult. Certainly, yes, if you ask me, if you have the power to change, I would like to make a little bit better. In the end of the day, you have to go with what you have.

“For me the pits are very tough. Where I’m stopping, it’s crooked, I don’t see people coming. I have to rely on the radio sometimes. It’s a little bit difficult because people have different perceptions.

“The racetrack, it will be tough to have a restart side-by-side. However, it might be good so you don’t have a pile of cars in turn one crash. You’re going to have a little bit of separation.

“There is a pro and a con. I would say I would make the walls a little bit wider. If we have to remove the light poles, to make it a little bit wider, I definitely would do that.”

James Hinchcliffe, No. 5 Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda

“It’s a pretty big learning process for everybody out there. One-third of the lap roughly is completely different than it has been for as long as I’ve been racing here. It’s definitely very challenging. They didn’t make it easier, that’s for sure.

“Simon likes it better, which is good for him (laughter). I think it presents a tremendous challenge for the engineers. Really tricky sections in terms of concrete patches, blind corners, tight corners.

“It was tricky to get through 11 behind a car. I haven’t done it now in the new configuration. It’s a bit slower, trickier. I think it’s a little bit easier to screw up than it was, which could potentially lead to more passing into turn one. So that is not a bad thing.

“Eight was silly. I don’t know why we did that, why we let that happen. No reason to take the curve away in eight on the apex. It massively slowed down the corner, took away the opportunity for racing. It wasn’t the best opportunity, but it was an opportunity for sure.”

Simon Pagenaud, No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet

“I like the fact that Turn 10 is off camber. It’s probably the only place where you have a corner off camber. All of a sudden you really have to think about it. Okay, how am I going to make this corner? I’m not used to this. We usually go in an oval where it’s banked the right way. Mid-Ohio some like that, too. But it’s quite new.

“I like changes. I may be different to most, but I like changes. I like slippery places because you really have to place your car the right way, like James pointed out.

“Yeah, I like that you have to dance with the car. You have to be inches precise. The last corner, you saw it, if you’re not inches precise, you’re going to hit the wall. It’s going to be a big one. I like that risk/reward kind of situation.

“I think 11 is better for passing because, yeah, it’s so hard to get right that there will be a speed differentiation. If the guy behind you manage to get it right, on ‘push to pass’, it could have more of an effect.

“Restarts, I also think it’s going to be a very tricky corner, very tricky section on cold tires. There will be a lot of action in turn one now. So I think it’s a plus.”

Josef Newgarden, No. 21 Preferred Freezer Services Chevrolet

“What are you going to do at the start. How are you expecting people to go two-wide and prepare for a two-wide start. I don’t know what they’re going to do yet. They were waiting to see feedback from session one.

“I think it will be very difficult if that’s what we’re going to do. I think you just have to delay the start way down the straightaway because we’re going to have to go really slow around turn 11 to get cars two-wide around there.

“Maybe that’s what we’re going to have to do, is push it to the backstretch. I’d be surprised if they do it. From a promoter standpoint, they don’t want to do that. So I don’t have an answer for you. I think it will be in discussion. I think it will probably be like a vote thing. We’ll see how session two goes again.

“My guess will be that they will either push back on the front straight where they throw the green to give us more time to get on the front straightaway or maybe they’ll do something like that on the backstretch. It’s going to be really tight. I think we’re going to have to go really slow at the start of the race.”

Luca Filippi, No. 19 IMPCO ComfortPro Honda

“This year obviously it is a bit difficult, a bit different because I didn’t race in Detroit obviously. I get a car that is not exactly the car that I built for myself. I’m trying and get it more suitable for me and more drivable.

“Also the circuit has changed a little. So what we know was working here in the past may be a little different for this year what we need.

“We are working. But I think the gap to the leaders is not so big. I think we know where to improve. I’m really looking forward to practice two because I want to see if we can really improve and get a strong result.

“I’m not here, honestly speaking, just to participate and trying to aim for a potential top 10. I want to do very well. I’m motivated. I’m pumped up. I want to really fight to the front.

“I know it’s difficult. There are many, many fast guys and fast teams out there. But we here to try and do a good job.”

Hunter Lawrence defends Haiden Deegan after controversial block pass at Detroit


Media and fan attention focused on a controversial run-in between Haiden Deegan and his Monster Energy Yamaha Star Racing teammate Jordon Smith during Round 10 of the Monster Energy Supercross race at Detroit, after which the 250 East points’ Hunter Lawrence defends the young rider in the postrace news conference.

Deegan took the early lead in Heat 1 of the round, but the mood swiftly changed when he became embroiled in a spirited battle with teammate Smith.

On Lap 3, Smith caught Deegan with a fast pass through the whoops. Smith briefly held the lead heading into a bowl turn but Deegan had the inside line and threw a block pass. In the next few turns, the action heated up until Smith eventually ran into the back of Deegan’s Yamaha and crashed.

One of the highlights of the battle seemed to include a moment when Deegan waited on Smith in order to throw a second block pass, adding fuel to the controversy.

After his initial crash, Smith fell to seventh on the next lap. He would crash twice more during the event, ultimately finishing four laps off the pace in 20th.

The topic was inevitably part of the postrace news conference.

“It was good racing; it was fun,” Deegan said at about the 27-minute mark in the video above. “I just had some fun doing it.”

Smith had more trouble in the Last Chance Qualifier. He stalled his bike in heavy traffic, worked his way into a battle for fourth with the checkers in sight, but crashed a few yards shy of the finish line and was credited with seventh. Smith earned zero points and fell to sixth in the standings.

Lawrence defends Deegan
Jordon Smith failed to make the Detroit Supercross Main and fell to sixth in the points. – Feld Motor Sports

“I think he’s like fifth in points,” Deegan said. “He’s a little out of it. Beside that it was good, I don’t know. I wasn’t really paying attention.”

Deegan jokingly deflected an earlier question with the response that he wasn’t paying attention during the incident.

“He’s my teammate, but he’s a veteran, he’s been in this sport for a while,” Deegan said. “I was up there just battling. I want to win as much as everybody else. It doesn’t matter if it’s a heat race or a main; I just want to win. I was just trying to push that.”

As Deegan and Smith battled, Jeremy Martin took the lead. Deegan finished second in the heat and backed up his performance with a solid third-place showing in the main, which was his second podium finish in a short six-race career. Deegan’s first podium was earned at Daytona, just two rounds ago.

But as Deegan struggled to find something meaningful to say, unsurprisingly for a 17-year-old rider who was not scheduled to run the full 250 schedule this year, it was the championship leader Lawrence who came to his defense.

Lawrence defends Deegan
A block pass by Haiden Deegan led to a series of events that eventually led to Jordon Smith failing to make the Main. – Feld Motor Sports

“I just want to point something out, which kind of amazes me,” Lawrence said during the conference. “So many of the people on social media, where everyone puts their expertise in, are saying the racing back in the ’80s, the early 90s, when me were men. They’re always talking about how gnarly it was and then anytime a block pass or something happens now, everyone cries about it.

“That’s just a little bit interesting. Pick one. You want the gnarly block passes from 10 years ago and then you get it, everyone makes a big song and dance about it.”

Pressed further, Lawrence defended not only the pass but the decision-making process that gets employed lap after lap in a Supercross race.

“It’s easy to point the finger,” Lawrence said. “We’re out there making decisions in a split millisecond. People have all month to pay their phone bill and they still can’t do that on time.

“We’re making decisions at such a fast reaction [time with] adrenaline. … I’m not just saying it for me or Haiden. I speak for all the guys. No one is perfect and we’re under a microscope out there. The media is really quick to point a finger when someone makes a mistake.”

The media is required to hold athletes accountable for their actions. They are also required to tell the complete story.