Honda Indy Toronto – 30 years of racing on the shore of the Lake Ontario
The Honda Indy Toronto is an annual IndyCar Series race, held since 1986 in the Canadian town Toronto, on the Lake Ontario. The race takes place on the temporary street circuit located at Exhibition Place, which is 1.75-mile long and has 11 turns. In 2016 season, it is one of four street circuits which host IndyCar races and only Canadian venue in the IndyCar calendar.
Indy Car Series in Toronto since 1986
Toronto became the host of IndyCar races in 1986, eight years after the last IndyCar event was held at Mosport Park. The idea of the temporary street course in Toronto was born in 1985 when Molson Breweries proposed to run a CART-sanctioned event and Toronto City Council approved the proposition.
The street course was constructed near the Exhibition Stadium
The street course was constructed in the Exhibition Place district, at the shore of Lake Ontario, next to the Exhibition Stadium (now BME Field). The track layout uses local roads that wind through and around Exhibition Place. The start/finish line is located on Princes’ Boulevard. From there, drivers head East towards the Princes’ Gates, turning right (south) onto Canada Boulevard before reaching the gate.
Lake Shore Boulevard is the longest straight
From Canada Boulevard, the Turn 2 blends to the Lake Shore Boulevard (west). There is the longest straightaway on the circuit. Drivers re-enter the Exhibition grounds at Ontario Drive, heading North towards Prince’s Boulevard where they turn left (west). The circuit continues on to Manitoba Drive and heads north-east then east until reaching Nova Scotia Avenue. At Nova Scotia Avenue, drivers turn right (south) then navigate a left-right-left series of turns until rejoining Prince’s Boulevard and heading east towards the start/finish line.
Gil de Ferran was the fastest man in Toronto
The first layout was 1.78-mile long. In 1996, turns 10 and 11 were changed, with an extension of the start/finish line, so the circuit was shortened to 1.721 miles. Since 2009, the length is 1.75 miles. An average lap time is about a minute. The record lap time was set in 1999 when Gil de Ferran rounded the circuit for 57.143 seconds.
Bobby Rahal was the first winner
The first Molson Indy Toronto race was held on July 20, 1986, in front of a crowd of 60,000. Emerson Fittipaldi won the pole, but the first winner was Bobby Rahal. In 1996, the course was changed due to the construction of The National Trade Centre building. The pit straight was extended and new turns 10 and 11 were formed. That year tragedy struck the race, when driver Jeff Krosnoff and volunteer corner marshall Gary Avrin were killed, after the Krosnoff’s car was launched into the side barriers at the end of Lake Shore Boulevard.
Honda Indy Toronto was the name since 2009
In 1999, one of the iconic backdrops, the Exhibition Stadium, was demolished and converted into a parking lot. In 2007, the new stadium BMO Field was constructed on that site. In the same year, the race had a new sponsor, with Steelback Brewery replacing Molson. In 2008, due to the reunification of the IndyCar and Champ Car, Toronto was dropped off from the calendar. For 2009, Andretti-Green Racing became the new event organizer and promoter. It signed a multi-year agreement with Honda and the race became the Honda Indy Toronto. Since then, Toronto’s street circuit is a regular venue for IndyCar Series races and supporting events.In 2013 and 2014, the double-header events were held.
Michael Andretti triumhped seven times in Toronto
Michael Andretti has a special connection with Toronto street circuit because he is a record holder with seven victories to his name. After Rahal’s inaugural victory, the next winner was Emerson Fittipaldi in 1987 and then Al Unser Jr in 1988. Unser has won one more time in 1990.
Michael Andretti triumphed for the first time in 1989 and then six more times in 1991, 1992, 1994, 1995, 2000 and 2001. There are four more multiple winners of Molson/Honda Indy Toronto races: Dario Franchitti and Will Power won three times, Scott Dixon and Sebastien Bourdais triumphed two times.
Paul Tracy – the only Canadian who won in Toronto
In 1993, Paul Tracy became the first Canadian winner in the Canadian round of the IndyCar Series. He repeated the victory ten years later and he is still the only Canadian who won on the streets of Toronto. It’s interesting that Tracy also won in Toronto in the Indy Lights race in 1990.
Other drivers on the winners list are Josef Newgarden, Mike Conway, Ryan Hunter-Reay, AJ Allmendinger, Justin Wilson, Cristiano da Matta, Alex Zanardi, Mark Blundell and Adrian Fernandez. Gil de Ferran, the fastest man on the track, never won in Toronto. He set the record lap time during qualifying for the 1999 race. He started from the pole position but lost the lead on the opening lap and later dropped to the back of the field.
Full schedule in the anniversary year
In 2016, Toronto is celebrating the 30 years of premium racing. In the anniversary year, the circuit hosts IndyCar Series, Indy Lights, US F2000 Championship, Pro Mazda series, Canadian Touring Car Championship, IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge Canada, SPEED Energy Formula Off-Road and NASCAR Pinty’s Series.
Address: Honda Indy Toronto, 370 Queens Quay West, Suite 300A, Toronto, ON M5V 3J3, Canada
Phone: +1 416 588 7223
Official website: www.hondaindytoronto.com