Justin Wilson’s love affair with Toronto reached a new high on Saturday when he set an IZOD IndyCar qualifying record of one minute .271 seconds around the Exhibition Place 2.82-kilometre temporary street course.
That puts the Englishman’s No. 22 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara on the pole for Sunday’s Honda Indy Toronto, breaking the Team Penske string of seven straight poles.
The last time Wilson was on the pole in Toronto — in 2006 — he won the race. He said he hopes that the same kind of magic can work again.
But he admitted he is all too aware of how tough the Exhibition Place street course can be on both car and driver, so he isn’t about to rest on the laurels of the top spot he earned in qualifying
“I’ve experienced how to make a car work around here,” he said “But I have also experienced how to make it not work. I’ve made mistakes.”
What planned to work into the night on Saturday with his engineers to come up with a package that will keep him up front in Sunday’s race.
“We have a good car now, but I don’t want to get into the pattern of relaxing tonight, thinking we’ve done our job for the weekend,” Wilson said. “I think we can find more speed yet.”
Australia’s Will Power, who leads the IZOD IndyCar driver’s championship will start beside Wilson on he front row in the No. 12 Team Penske Racing Dallara. Like Wilson, Power said that the course is so tight and there are so few places to pass that one wrong move by anybody could result in havoc on the track.
“Listen, I’m pretty happy with second place,” he said. “But (Toronto) is a strange track. If everyone isn’t super careful there could be a lot of mayhem in Turns 1 and 3.
The threat of rain is another of the things that has both Wilson and Power worried.
“I’m not sure if it’s going to rain,” Power said. “That will mix things up if it happens. We just have to be solid.”
Wilson said that rain is the big unknown.
“The car is going to be a handful around this track at the best of times, rain will just add to the drama,” he said.
Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves will start third, his best qualifying effort at Toronto.
“We certainty had the car to get up there, but we just wanted to play it safe and to be in the top six,” Castroneves said. “But in the top three is certainly a good position to win a race from.”
Defending race champion Dario Franchitti will start fifth, but he said he is happy to be that high up on a day when everyone was so competitive.
“Normally I wouldn’t be happy with fifth,” he said. “Because, really, in each of the sessions I felt like they were some of my best laps ever on this track. The competition level is so tough. On one hand it’s a pain in the butt because you are constantly pushing. But that kind of parity is great for the IndyCar series.”
The top Canadian on Saturday was Montreal’s Alex Tagliani who pushed his
No. 77 FAZZT Racing team to ninth spot on the grid.
“The team is working really well, but we’re missing something,” he said. “The track is really bumpy. We’re sliding around even before we get to the bumps. But we are confident we can fix what’s wrong.”
The only other Canadian — Toronto’s Paul Tracy — will start from 24th place.