July 7, 2012
Bitter rivals sit in the front row
By DREW MCNULTY, QMI Agency
TORONTO - It will be a front row of bitter rivals for Sunday's Honda Indy Toronto after Dario Franchitti won the pole in final qualifying Saturday and Will Power finished second to start beside him.
Both drivers said afterwards that they expect it will be a rough and tumble affair ‹ like it always is on the streets around Exhibition Place.
And they would not have it any other way.
"Obviously we all know what this race is about," Power said. "Plenty of crashing and bashing. If we can survive that, we will be in good shape."
It was Franchitti who punted Power aside near the end of in last year's Toronto race, something that Power said he will not put up with this time around.
"I don't know what happens to everyone at the end of the race here," he said. "I guess everyone just gets really aggressive, getting yellow after yellow.
"This year if someone takes me out, they are going to get a smack across the chops." Franchitti said the track conditions, even with new pavement down the long stretch of Lake Shore Blvd., make the Toronto track a bit of a perfect storm.
"This is close-quarter racing," the reigning race champion said. "And everybody is fighting for the same thing: a win." Franchitti's lap of 59.3510 seconds in the No. 10 Target Ganassi Racing Honda on the 2.824 km, 11 turn Exhibition Place course was fastest among the final six qualifiers.
Power put down a lap of 59.3757 in the No. 12 Penske Racing Chevrolet.
Franchitti said that he was particularly pleased with his result because he considers the field this season to be the best ‹ back to front ‹ that he has ever faced since he first raced in Toronto back in 1998.
"A lot of the satisfaction (of winning the pole) is beating guys of this calibre," he said. "Putting one lap together, we're all capable of it.
"You look at the spread between getting past the first round, it's so close."
It doesn't even take a mistake, it just takes leaving something on the table.
"The fact I was able to get that lap in at the end, I'm proud of that, proud of my Target guys and Honda, too."
Power said he was actually taken by surprise that he was able to get his fast lap in after he had a run-in with Takuma Sato in the final session.
"I didn't have anything," the Australian said. "I was very happy to be second. We kind of struggled to get through every round actually. We just made it in each time.
"I just had one good lap. I just put everything together. That was as good as we could possibly do," he added. "We're happy to start on the front row."
He said he was not at all happy that Sato blocked him on one of his runs, but he said that was just typical of what fans can expect on Sunday.
"I gave him the Australian hello (a one fingered salute)," Power said.
Justin Wilson, in the No. 18, Dale Coyne Racing Honda and Sebastien Bourdais in the No. 7 Dragon Racing Chevrolet were third and fourth fastest Saturday with laps of 59.4506 and 59.4721 respectively.
It was a great comeback for both after they were involved in a pit lane accident Friday when Wilson's car suffered a gear box failure and his brakes would not engage, sending him into the wall and then into the Dragon Racing car. Four crew members -- two from each team -- were injured.
"It's never a nice experience," Wilson said. "I went around this morning to see the guys, to make sure everybody was okay."
Top Canadian in qualifying was Alex Tagliani, of Montreal, who was sixth fastest at 59.5616.
Oakville's James Hinchcliffe finished ninth at 59.5958.
Both drivers will start 10 spots back from the qualifying positions, however, after their teams changed engines.
*Will recieve a 10-spot penalty for changing engines