On Monday, Honda Indy Toronto President Charlie Johnstone was at William-Ashley’s flagship location in Toronto, Ontario to unveil the trophies for this year’s Honda Indy Toronto. It marks the third straight year that William-Ashley has been part of the trophy designing.
For the first time, Toronto will host two races over the course of the weekend. The first race will be on July 13th, with the second race on July 14th. It’s part of the new double-header weekend format that IndyCar has developed for some of the road courses this year.
On top of the double-header aspect being new, there will also be a standing start for one of the two races, instead of the traditional rolling start.
“I am looking forward to doing that,” Justin Wilson commented. “I don’t want them to go too far away from the tradition of the rolling start, but I think adding some standing starts is going to be fun.
“The clutches – one of my engineers was speaking with the clutch manufacture that it wasn’t one of the critias when we developed these. With a formula one series or other series that do standing starts, the clutch is designed to just slip. Ours, is more of an on-off spin. So you’ll see a lot of wheel spin or cars stalling.
“I think it’s going to be fun. It’s going to add another element. It’ll be nice to see the contrast between the two.”
2005 Honda Indy Toronto winner Justin Wilson was on hand for the unveiling and says that the event brings in a lot of tourism as there are about 1000 people that travel with the series alone each week, as team members. You also then have those that come to the event as fans across the three days.
Getting the team people to each race is a “big logistics operation” and very important.
“You can’t afford to mess up because we’re racing back-to-back right now so if you don’t get across (the border), you can’t race,” he said. “So it’s got to be a good transition in and out of the country both ways. It takes a lot of work.”
Part of the work is ensuring all the passports are up to date. Then when it comes to the trucks, teams have to do a list of everything that is on the truck to show the border patrol going from the U.S to Canada and back across.
Every team has their main engineer who the driver is in constant contact with, as well as an assistant engineer.
“He has over a 100 channels of data that he is going through trying to determine where the car is bottoming out,” Wilson explained. “I can tell them what I feel, but they can go see it for themselves what it is doing. They can see the suspension, ride height – there’s a lot of information.”
Teams sometimes start based off of data from previous years, but also have the opportunity to see this data live.
On top of those two crew members, there is a crew chief who’s in-charge of the car, a front end mechanic, a rear mechanic and a gear box mechanic.
“We change the gear ratio between every session,” he said. “These cars will go to 1200 RPM but if you’re getting there too soon, you’ll hit what we call an RPM limiter and that slows you down. If you’re not getting there and you’re going too slow, you got to change to get the most out of it that you can.”
There are also other mechanics, as well as truck drivers who are in charge of transport and nothing else. For the two-car team at Dale Coyne Racing that Wilson is part of, they have 20 people between the two cars and two people that stay at the shop. However, a team like Andretti Autosport with four cars, they have 20 people per car.
Having a good group of people working for any team is important as the competition is close right now with everything coming down to needing to be tenths of a second within each other.
“In qualifying, it all comes down to tenths of a second,” he said. “It gets pretty intense. The competition level right now is pretty high so if you get pole position, you got to do a really good lap – the car has to be just perfect. If you’re off two tenths, you’ll be starting 10th. You may one slight, not even get a corner wrong but don’t get everything out of a corner, you’ll lose 10 spots on the grid.”
With the close competition, it makes it fun, but there’s also a lot of pressure.
“We got to practice – we get two one-hour sessions,” Wilson explained. “In those sessions, you can make three to four changes each time. So eight changes that you can make. If you can make seven or eight changes in the right direction, you’re going to be good. If you don’t get them all right, you don’t have a chance. So there’s a lot of pressure on making the right change and not dwelling on it if it’s the wrong one. You got to keep moving forward.”
Wilson feels that he has a good chance as he currently sits eighth in points.
“We got pretty good cars,” he commented. “We’re a smaller team, but we’ve got some pretty good people on the team. Our cars have been fast.”
He also reflected back on the previous street course in Detroit, noting that his teammate Mike Conway won the race while he finished third.