Dario Franchitti qualified on pole and led most of Sunday’s Indycar race in downtown Toronto. Franchitti scored his third win of the year and the second of his career on Toronto’s streets.
The Scotsman also retook the IRL’s IndyCar Series lead from team-mate Scott Dixon, who finished fourth behind Penske pair Ryan Briscoe and Will Power. Briscoe retains third in the championship, but Indy 500 winner Hélio Castroneves has lost ground after crashing into local hero Paul Tracy with 20 laps to go.
Castroneves had to endure a rolling round of boos from the Canadian fans who had watched Tracy charge from 15th on the grid to second. Hélio had just lost the lead to Franchitti following a restart when he tried to block Tracy from taking another place away from him. The two collided, abruptly ending both their races.
There were plenty of other incidents too in a messy race, but everyone was happy to see motor sport return to Toronto after a year’s absence. Crowds were way down from the old days with maybe 15,000 showing up on race day, but everyone hopes the race will come back slowly but steadily over the next four or five years.
Franchitti led the opening 24 laps but had to pit early when his rear tyres started to go off. Trouble changing the left rear tyre meant Dario lost time in the pits and found himself stuck in traffic, where he had a devilish time trying to pass Brazilian Mario Moraes.
“I came out behind a couple of slower cars,” said Franchitti. “I passed a couple of them but got stuck behind one I couldn’t pass. Make a move and he’d chop you. So that was frustrating. But I couldn’t risk taking the wing off or something.
“That was a tough point in the race, just to keep pushing as hard as I could. Then I came in for my second stop and a third of the way down the pitlane [the race] went yellow. We had a great stop and heading out Paul [Tracy] and I were really close. I guess the timing showed I was ahead.
“I was behind Hélio. I pressured him and he looked like he was in trouble, so I was able to pass. He looked like he didn’t have any grip. Whether that was because my car was building tyre temperature better than his, I don’t know. He was trying to brake late and was sliding all over the place. He was definitely pushing hard.”
Seconds later Castroneves ran into Tracy, leaving Franchitti in command. “From that point on it was about controlling the pace,” said Dario. “The track seemed to get a lot faster towards the end. I did my fastest lap on my second-to-last lap and I wasn’t pushing hard.
“The Target guys gave us great cars today. We had an awesome car in qualifying and the team just keeps doing a great job for me. Scott and I are in the same equipment. One week Scott is going to be better than me, and the next weekend I’m going to be better than him. We’ll go out there and have fun and try to beat each other. Scott and I are having a good time. Long may it continue.”
Franchitti is already very much in championship-chasing mode: “There were a couple of instances today where I felt if I’d had taken a bigger risk there was a good chance I was going to end up with a bent car. And I wasn’t prepared to take those risks because we’ve got to keep finishing.”
Dario also had some good words for his friend Tracy. “When PT wrecked he was getting out of his car when I went by and he gave me a kind of ‘get on with it’ signal. That was a good bit of motivation and nice to see. Paul did a good job today but unfortunately ended up in the barriers. He’s coming back at Edmonton [in two weeks]. Hopefully, we’ll see him full-time again because it’s great to have him in the series.”