Dixon wins Honda Indy Toronto pole position


TORONTO – Scott Dixon scored the Verizon P1 Award ahead of Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto (2:30 p.m. ET, CNBC), and thus has his first pole position of the Verizon IndyCar Series season, the 24th of his career and first since Mid-Ohio last year.

The New Zealander in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet edged Helio Castroneves on his final lap in the Firestone Fast Six, with a 59.9073 lap time at the 1.786-mile Exhibition Place street course just ahead of Castroneves’ 59.9425.

The driver of the No. 3 Pennzoil Team Penske Chevrolet was first into the 59-second bracket in the Fast Six session after also doing so in Q2. But it wasn’t enough to hold off Dixon’s final lap flier.

Points leader Simon Pagenaud in the No. 22 PPG Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet starts next to Will Power on Row 2 ahead of past Toronto winner Sebastien Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe in Row 3. The P6 start is Hinchcliffe’s best in Toronto.

Temperatures of 68 degrees ambient and 107 on track set the stage for qualifying at Exhibition Place.

The highlight of Q1, Group 1, was both Dale Coyne Racing cars making it through to Q2, for the first time since Mid-Ohio 2014 (Justin Wilson P8, Carlos Huertas P10). Conor Daly was third in his group in the No. 18 Jonathan Byrd’s Hospitality Honda, with the returning Luca Filippi fifth in the No. 19 IMPCO ComfortPro Honda.

Those two were mixed in with session leader Pagenaud, then Castroneves, with Tony Kanaan and hometown hero Hinchcliffe also advancing.

The five dropped included Jack Hawksworth, Carlos Munoz, Charlie Kimball, Alexander Rossi and Spencer Pigot, the latter in a disappointing effort considering he won both Indy Lights races last year.

Times tumbled with the track rubbering in further in Group 2. Juan Pablo Montoya in the rebuilt No. 2 DeVilbiss Team Penske Chevrolet was first into the sub-60 second bracket on Firestone reds, at 59.9964, only to be usurped by teammate Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet at 59.7747.

Others who advanced included Bourdais, Dixon, Newgarden and Aleshin. The five that didn’t were Max Chilton, Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Takuma Sato and Marco Andretti.

“What we’re missing is overall grip and compliance. That’s so important on a track like this,” Hunter-Reay told NBCSN. “We’re not even on the same planet as the front runners when it comes to grip. … We’re fighting the car. Really swatting at flies.”

Rahal added, “I (went for it) and we hit the fence. The car is still ill-handling. I told the guys it was going to take a magic lap to advance, I knew it. Our basic balance, all weekend, we’ve been killing the rear tires, can’t put power down at all. … I went for it and the sucker went straight and we just tagged the wall.”

The Andretti Autosport quartet did not advance in total, with Coyne and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports carrying the flag for Honda in the Honda Indy Toronto qualifying.

In Q2, Dixon and Pagenaud both went into the 1:00.4 bracket on Firestone blacks. Meanwhile Daly went reds to reds for Coyne in his quest to advance.

Castroneves added his name to the 59-second bracket with a 59.8562 lap, ahead of Power, Dixon, Pagenaud, Bourdais and Hinchcliffe.

Daly came up just short of the Fast Six in seventh, albeit still in a career-best starting position. He was just ahead of longtime friend Newgarden in eighth – thus making for an American Row 4 lockout – with Montoya ninth, Aleshin 10th, Filippi 11th and Kanaan in 12th.

“We’re just trying to improve. … It’s real challenging to make it there,” Daly told NBCSN. “Everyone is so good in this series. It’s just cool to be in that group and kind of fighting for those positions. I’m proud of the team, we needed a rebound from last weekend.”

Newgarden, the defending Toronto winner and Iowa dominant race winner, added to NBCSN: “I’m always optimistic. There’s always something that can happen in the race. This is our best session; qualifying is the highest we’ve been this weekend. You hate to say eighth is the best we’ve been this weekend, but I’ve always got faith we can figure it out. That’s what happens when you get to racetracks, you try to solve the puzzle. We’re going to have to figure it out, man, we’re the defending champs. We’ll see what we can do tomorrow.”

Times are below:


Ford unveils a new Mustang for 2024 Le Mans in motorsports ‘lifestyle brand’ retooling

Ford Mustang Le Mans
Ford Performance

LE MANS, France — Ford has planned a return to the 24 Hours of Le Mans with its iconic Mustang muscle car next year under a massive rebranding of Ford Performance aimed at bringing the automotive manufacturer “into the racing business.”

The Friday unveil of the new Mustang Dark Horse-based race car follows Ford’s announcement in February (and a ballyhooed test at Sebring in March) that it will return to Formula One in 2026 in partnership with reigning world champion Red Bull.

The Mustang will enter the GT3 category next year with at least two cars in both IMSA and the World Endurance Championship, and is hopeful to earn an invitation to next year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans. The IMSA entries will be a factory Ford Performance program run by Multimatic, and a customer program in WEC with Proton Competition.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, also an amateur sports car racer, told The Associated Press the Mustang will be available to compete in various GT3 series across the globe to customer teams. But more important, Farley said, is the overall rebranding of Ford Performance – done by renowned motorsports designer Troy Lee – that is aimed at making Ford a lifestyle brand with a sporting mindset.

“It’s kind of like the company finding its own, and rediscovering its icons, and doubling down on them,” Farley told the AP. “And then this motorsports activity is getting serious about connecting enthusiast customers with those rediscovered icons. It’s a big switch for the company – this is really about building strong, iconic vehicles with enthusiasts at the center of our marketing.”

Ford last competed in sports car racing in 2019 as part of a three-year program with Chip Ganassi Racing. The team scored the class win at Le Mans in 2016 in a targeted performance aimed to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Ford snapping Ferrari’s six-year winning streak.

Ford on Friday displayed a Mustang with a Lee-designed livery that showcased the cleaner, simplified look that will soon be featured on all its racing vehicles. The traditional blue oval with Ford Performance in white lettering underneath will now be branded simply FP.

The new mark will be used across car liveries, merchandise and apparel, display assets, parts and accessories and in advertising.

Farley cited Porsche as an automaker that has successfully figured out how to sell cars to consumers and race cars in various series around the world while creating a culture of brand enthusiasts. He believes Ford’s new direction will help the company sell street cars, race cars, boost interest in driving schools, and create a merchandise line that convinces consumers that a stalwart of American automakers is a hip, cool brand.

“We’re going to build a global motorsports business off road and on road,” Farley told the AP, adding that the design of the Mustang is “unapologetically American.”

He lauded the work of Lee, who is considered the top helmet designer among race car drivers.

“We’re in the first inning of a nine inning game, and going to Le Mans is really important,” Farley said. “But for customer cars, getting the graphics right, designing race cars that win at all different levels, and then designing a racing brand for Ford Performance that gets rebranded and elevated is super important.”

He said he’s kept a close eye on how Porsche and Aston Martin have built their motorsports businesses and said Ford will be better.

“We’re going in the exact same direction. We just want to be better than them, that’s all,” Farley said. “Second is the first loser.”

Farley, an avid amateur racer himself, did not travel to Le Mans for the announcement. The race that begins Saturday features an entry from NASCAR, and Ford is the reigning Cup Series champion with Joey Logano and Team Penske.

The NASCAR “Garage 56” entry is a collaboration between Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and is being widely celebrated throughout the industry. Farley did feel left out of the party in France – a sentiment NASCAR tried to avoid by inviting many of its partners to attend the race so that it wouldn’t seem like a Chevrolet-only celebration.

“They’re going right and I’m going left – that NASCAR thing is a one-year deal, right? It’s Garage 56 and they can have their NASCAR party, but that’s a one-year party,” Farley said. “We won Le Mans outright four times, we won in the GT class, and we’re coming back with Mustang and it’s not a one-year deal.

“So they can get all excited about Garage 56. I almost see that as a marketing exercise for NASCAR, but for me, that’s a science project,” Farley continued. “I don’t live in a world of science projects. I live in the world of building a vital company that everyone is excited about. To do that, we’re not going to do a Garage 56 – I’ve got to beat Porsche and Aston Martin and Ferrari year after year after year.”

Ford’s announcement comes on the heels of General Motors changing its GT3 strategy next season and ending its factory Corvette program. GM, which unlike Ford competes in the IMSA Grand Touring Prototype division (with its Cadillac brand), will shift fully to a customer model for Corvettes in 2024 (with some factory support in the IMSA GTD Pro category).