January 20, 2011
A kinder, safer Toronto IndyBarrier overhaul will ease a lot of headaches for fans and drivers
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
When the green flag drops on the 25th running of the Honda Indy Toronto in July it will be wearing a brand new skirt.
Green Savoree Toronto — promoters of the race — will install new block and fencing around the Exhibition Place temporary street course in time for this year’s event.
GST boss Kevin Savoree Thursday unveiled the $1.5 million upgrade to the fencing that has acted as both a physical barrier and safety net for the downtown Toronto event over the past 25 years.
One huge advantage that the new block and fence system has over previous efforts — and this should be music to the ears of the tens of thousands of Lake Shore Blvd. commuters who have cursed the annual speedfest — is that the week to 10 days previously needed to put up and take down the fencing should be cut in half.
“In terms of getting in and getting out of everyone’s way on Lake Shore and around Exhibition Place we are very happy that both will be a big improvement over past years,” Savoree said. “From a safety standpoint it’s going to be much better for the drivers and just as important is the fencing that is connected to the blocks.
“It will not only provide another layer of protection for drivers but the new design will allow fans a better view of the racing on the track.”
And to think it was all made possible by Canadian taxpayers.
Savoree recounted how he became aware — in 2008 — of a proposed federal program that the Honda Indy group could tap into to cover the costs of this major undertaking.
“We went to Ottawa to make a face-to-face presentation and we were able to satisfy the requirements for the grant,” he said. “With this funding from the Southern Ontario Development Corporation it allowed us to advance our plans by quite a bit.”
Savoree also pointed out, however, that study after study has shown that the Honda Indy is a cash cow for the whole of the GTA.
“As an event for the city, the GTA and the province, the Honda Indy gives back $50 million annually,” he said. “That is a pretty good return on investment.”
The real winner in all of this, however, will be the drivers in the IZOD INDYCAR and NASCAR Canadian Tire series and others who take part in the three days of racing who sprint around Exhibition Place at speeds approaching 320 km/h.
Honda Indy general manager Charlie Johnstone said that it was with driver safety in mind that A-G commissioned the construction of the fencing.
All the work, by the way, from planning to finished product — 1,200 cement blocks and 5,181 metres of fencing — was done in Toronto.
“We set the gold standard for safety,” Johnstone said. “In any industry, safety standards change over time. We were able to incorporate all the latest and greatest safety changes in racing into the design of the block and fencing.”
Johnstone emphasised as well that the new infrastructure was just part of a master plan that A-G has in store for the event.
He said that since re-starting the Honda Indy after a one year absence in 2008, A-G has concentrated on returning the race to its place among the biggest sporting events in the country.
“The combination of the 25th running of the Honda Indy, the investment we’ve made in the infrastructure and our commitment to improving the on-track attractions, you will see we are making very positive strides into bringing back this race to its glory years,” Johnstone said. “We have to keep challenging ourselves to make the race better. And to do that we will keep investing in the race to make it bigger and better year after year.”
Savoree added that the construction of the new block and fencing will be all finished my March 31, well ahead of the July race weekend.