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Though it’s only a hunch, we doubt Ontario native James Hinchcliffe becomes just the second Canadian ever to win an IndyCar race on the shores of Lake Ontario. And that’s in three decades of racing there.
Merely hours after he ripped our hearts out – or those of our Iowa Predictions, anyway – Hinch and the rest of the series are already preparing for Sunday’s happenings at a track we like to call the Canuck concrete car crusher, better known as the streets of Toronto. More on the sub-par circuit in a moment.
Photo from speedsport.com
The pressure building on Hinch – the face of the series – for his hometown, Honda sponsored event is immense, made even more gargantuan by his thrilling though baffling win Sunday. Real fans of Hinch won’t like what follows, as it’s not pleasant. Nevertheless, it’s true.
The strain always proves too much for the plucky Canuck, the multiple demands too great for Canada’s greatest racer since Patrick Carpentier. Just kidding – since Paul Tracy. He was the lone Canadian to win Toronto, taking his second and final victory exactly fifteen years ago.
The few hundred thousand IndyCar fans north of the border sure had something to cheer for on Sunday, but apart from the odd Robby Wickens top five of late they’ve had little else at which to hoot. Other than Alex Rossi, that is. Hinch hadn’t won in over a year prior to Iowa, with an earlier drought stretching to two seasons before his win at Long Beach last spring. And don’t get us started on NOLA. Rookie Wickens hasn’t won anything yet in his inaugural season despite the hype, and isn’t likely to do so in our estimation.
Robby’s competition for ROY is also oddly a Canadian, this one of the French variety. Zachary Claman DeMelo, in Coyne’s second car, has been ok thus far showing flashes of talent and gaining invaluable experience while substituting during his ride share Pietro Fittipaldi‘s injury absence. He won’t win ROY over Wickens and reportedly is a bit of a hot head – mon frére! – but does bear watching in the remainder of his races. Why, we’re not entirely sure.
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Speaking of the French, Bourdais won Toronto in 2014 redeeming himself after his faux pas the previous year, dropping the third place crystal trophy and shattering it to bits. Newgarden won a rare entertaining event the next year, while his teammate Will “sour grapes” Power won the third of his career there in 2016. Newkid won another laugher last year, thanks in part to TK’s recurring bungling. Similarly, Dixie swept the twin bill back in 2013.
So how has Hinch performed in his old stomping grounds? Decently, but only of late. The comedic Canuck earned his first podium finish before a hometown crowd in 2016, with another third place showing last season. Otherwise, he’s seriously struggled. His best result in the six other contests he participated in was eighth, achieving it twice in 2013-2014 during the short lived doubleheaders. His worst result was twenty second in 2012, with a twenty first place thrown in the next year for good measure.
Photo from torontograndprixtourist.com
Now that Hinch’s issues in the great white north have been established, let’s turn back to the course itself. For years we at IRR have been vociferously against the so-called track, for despite some history it seldom delivers decent racing. The temporary, ramshackle circuit’s too rough, narrow and winding while its mixture of crumbling concrete, manhole covers and asphalt lined with barriers and fencing is an affront to racing. The curvy pit lane’s even worse since the 2016 reconfiguration, “ridiculous,” as one driver frankly called it. That pretty well sums up Toronto’s “track,” sadly.
Add in a bunch of disappointed paying fans with a built-in inferiority complex, drunk on Molson and you’ve got a pretty fair vision of what’s coming this Sunday afternoon. On the bright side, at least the Canucks haven’t sacked the grid girls – yet.
Photo from torontograndprixtourist.com