The Honda Indy Toronto getting back to its usual mid-July date this year after moving up one month to accommodate the Pan American Games last season is just one of many changes fans will see in 2016.
A big thing they will notice once they spin the turnstiles is the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock taking up residence inside the Enercare Centre to the north of Prince’s Boulevard, joining the Mazda Road to Indy teams indoors.
Having the paddock inside will not only help the crews as they work on the cars, but also make it more accessible and comfortable for the fans who can find some respite from the hot (or perhaps rainy) weather.
“We want to make sure traffic flow works well, but if anything, having the paddock inside allows some of our more passionate fans to get out of the sun,” said Jeff Atkinson, president of the Honda Indy Toronto. “The paddock layout will be a similar experience to when it was outside with a control area where you go through with your ticket and wristband.”
Fans exiting the Enercare Centre will notice the major difference in the track layout itself (a track map is below) is the pit lane, which switches sides this year to help ease issues related to a new hotel going up in the infield. It also necessitated a reconfiguration of the final three corners of the 11-turn temporary street circuit, lengthening it slightly to 1.786 miles. (Chip Ganassi Racing driver Tony Kanaan is pictured above discussing track changes with INDYCAR track inspection consultant Tony Cotman (left) and INDYCAR vice president of competition/race operations Brian Barnhart (center) during Thursday's track walk.)
While it's new and untried, local hero James Hinchcliffe said teams and drivers will figure it all out and put on a great show.
“Anything that's different we will adapt to and be happy to keep going racing here,” said the No. 5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda driver, who is from the Toronto suburb of Oakville.
Driver and teams got their first look at the new configuration during Thursday’s track walk.
“It’s good old Toronto,” said KVSH Racing’s Sebastien Bourdais, a two-time winner and five-time podium finisher at Exhibition Place. “It’s always been a challenging place for surfaces and bumps and everything, and it’s adding to the legacy, I think. Obviously now it’s rougher than ever. The last section is the best they could do with the evolution of the area and it’s exciting.
“I’m glad they could keep the shape of the track. That last corner is going to be a challenge, it’s going to be interesting to see, but I’m looking forward to it. I think it keeps the spirit of the track and it’s going to be harder than ever, so it’s all good.”
The pit entry moves from the drivers’ right at Turn 10 to the left at Turn 9, with the pit lane curving around the final two corners before the drivers exit at the beginning of the start-finish straight.
The new configuration may make getting in and out for Sunoco E85R ethanol and Firestone tires more of a challenge for some of the drivers because several pit boxes will be on a corner.
“It makes it a very unique pit lane in that sense because you don't have big curvatures on pit road at any other road or street course — you see it at short ovals but that's about it,” Hinchcliffe said.
“Ultimately, the track layout is staying pretty much the same, which is important because there were certain proposals going around that would have radically changed the last complex (of turns) and I think that would have been a big mistake, so I am happy it's all come out the way it has.”
Another thing that hasn't changed from the past few years is the free Friday sponsored by Honda Canada in support of the Make a Wish Foundation. Fans can make a donation upon entering the gates to the charity.
When fans finish their inspection of the new pit lane and head over the bridge that spans the pit lane, they'll also get a look at the results of the hard work the promoters have done in the past few years attracting more exhibitors to the Honda Indy Toronto.
“Thunder Alley is going to be a huge area this year — probably the biggest in over a decade. There really is something for everyone” Atkinson said.
“This year will very much be a return to the off-track entertainment. We are really focusing on stuff you can interact with, stuff you can taste and stuff that you can really experience over the three-day weekend.”
Honda Indy Toronto fast facts:
• Race 11* of 16 in the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season (*-The race at Texas Motor Speedway, scheduled to be the ninth of the season, was suspended June 12 after 71 laps and will be completed Aug. 27). There have been nine previous Verizon IndyCar Series races at Iowa Speedway.
• Race distance: 85 laps/151.81 miles
• Track length: 1.786-mile temporary street course
• Track record: Gil de Ferran, 57.143 seconds, 110.565 mph (under 1.75-mile configuration), July 17, 1999
Tickets and event information:
• Twitter:, #IndyTO; @IndyCar, #IndyCar
• TV: NBCSN will telecast qualifying (1:30-3 p.m. ET Saturday) live. The race airs live (2:30 p.m. ET Sunday) on CNBC with a re-air at 5:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. Leigh Diffey is the lead announcer alongside analysts Townsend Bell and Paul Tracy. Pit reporters are Jon Beekhuis, Katie Hargitt, Kevin Lee and Robin Miller.
• Radio: The Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network is led by chief announcer Mark Jaynes, with booth analyst Davey Hamilton. Pit reporters are Dave Furst, Rob Howden and Jim Murphy, with Jake Query and Nick Yeoman calling the turns. All Verizon IndyCar Series races are broadcast live on network affiliates, Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Qualifying broadcasts are available on Sirius 212, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app. Practice sessions are on IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR Mobile app.
• Video streaming: Saturday’s practice sessions – 11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. ET and 7:15-7:45 p.m. ET – will stream live at RaceControl.IndyCar.comand include Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network audio. Live timing and scoring for all weekend sessions is available at the same site. All Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires sessions (two practices Saturday; qualifying and the race Sunday) will also be streamed live.
• Fantasy league: The #INDYRIVALS Fantasy Challenge driven by Firestone allows fans to become a team manager by fielding a four-driver lineup for each Verizon IndyCar Series race, with prizes awarded after each race. Sign up at fantasy.indycar.com.