Topsy turvey Toronto

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Saturday’s doubleheader in Toronto is kind of a taste of what IndyCar is, great racing but overshadowed by politics. First was the aborted standing start that could have been avoided with a little due diligence. Per their rules, if the standing start is aborted, a rolling start will occur. Steve Matchett explained during the broadcast that the reason for no second attempt is because the cooling system is not designed for a standing start and even with another formation lap it could have been risky. So if the car is not designed for a standing start, it makes you wonder why they are trying it in the first place?

Formula 1 rules on the other hand state that if a car has trouble on the grid, the field will make another formation lap while the disabled car is pulled back to the pits for repair and another standing start will be attempted.

In the end, the fans at the track were unhappy, and rightfully so. They marketed the race as having a standing start and they were looking forward to it. INDYCAR and track promoter Green-Savoree Promotions made the decision to reattempt a standing start for race 2 and if a car has a problem on the grid, they would do it again until they get it right. They came to the decision after looking at clutch temperature data and realized that the temperatures were not near the point of overheating and a second attempt was viable.

So how could the first failed start have been avoided? INDYCAR, Dallara and the Engine manufactures could have easily tested an engine before the race to see what the temperatures in similar conditions would have been and maybe the mess could have been avoided.

The other issue was changing the rule in the middle of the race of letting the drivers cut the curbs. Changing the rules in the middle of the race, in of itself is never a good thing, but letting the drivers cut the track goes against road racing. The drivers know they layout of the track and should use the designated part of the track to drive on.

The final musing of race 1 was the absurd blocking call on Dario Franchitti. Blocking is making multiple moves to keep a guy behind you, and Franchitti did not do that (see video here). Power made a dive bomb move to pass him and wound up in the tire barrier, he did the same thing earlier in the race but didn’t crash. Franchitti and Chip Ganassi Racing protested the call and won and Franchitti gained his position back.

This blocking penalty was as absurd as the one thrown down on Helio Castroneves at Edmonton in 2010. The person who made that call was former IndyCar race director Brian Barnhart, or as he has been sarcastically coined by Robin Miller “The Great Brian Barnhart”. Barnhart was removed from his position as race director at the end of the 2011 season and replaced by current Race Director Beaux Barfield. Barfield was not in Toronto due to passport issues and Barnhart was chosen as the substitute race director.

Barnhart was notorious for making ridiculous calls, like the aforementioned Edmonton call (see here), restarting the 2011 New Hampshire race in the rain (see here), no clean formation at the start of the Indianapolis 500 and according to Miller he would scream at the drivers during the race for running too close to each other. Point being, with Barnhart’s track record it is easy to point the finger at Barnhart for making the calls. I believe that he is an incompetent race director and the mere thought of someone at IndyCar thinking it was a good idea for him to be there, I was not looking forward to having him in the booth this weekend and I even used the Twitter hashtag #blamebarnhart to vent during the race. Sometimes sarcastic, sometimes serious.

However, by the same token, race control is not run by just one guy. Derrick Walker, INDYCAR’s new President of Competition said to the Associated Press that he claimed the final word and admitted that the lack of camera angles was the reason for the call as well as the aforementioned corner cutting. So they decided to let drivers get away with cutting corners because they didn’t have cameras to make a decisive decision, but they thought with just one angle they could make a decisive decision on Franchitti, give me a break.

All complaining aside, Saturday’s race was a good one. From seeing long dormant Sebastien Bourdais showing his muscle throughout the race and Power’s dive bombs in turn 3, although he almost lost it the 1st time and stuffed it in the tire barrier the 2nd time, it made for great racing.

On Sunday you have to hand it to Scott Dixon. When a driver has the fastest car and the team it just as good, you sometimes have to hand it to them for being that good. Both races also had drivers come through the field on the tight circuit. Detroit winner Mike Conway was the biggest mover in both races, finishing 7th both days after starting 20th and 23rd. Seeing Franchitti run down the field and make up time without the aid of cautions shows the determination of the Scotsman despite a tough season of hardship.

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