Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Power has edge at Indy Toronto

Fastest at practice amid rough conditions

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TORONTO -- Will Power got off to an auspicious start to repeating at the Honda Indy Toronto, despite a street course that had the defending champ and his colleagues grumbling about surface conditions.

The Australian driver for Team Penske posted the fastest lap in the second practice session, clocking a time of one minute 0.558 seconds on a sunny Friday afternoon.

After four straight oval competitions on the IndyCar circuit, most drivers seemed ill-prepared for the bumps on the 1.75-mile street course at Exhibition Place.

"It's an unbelievably challenging track because of the different surfaces and bumps," said Power, who is second in the IndyCar standings with 283 points, 20 behind leader Dario Franchitti.

"To do it fast, you have to give it absolutely everything you got."

Scott Dixon was second in 1:00.665 and two-time Toronto winner Franchitti third in 1:00.974.

"This year the track seems to be a little bumpy, especially into Turn 1 and maybe down the back road as well," said Dixon. "It's created a few new issues that we haven't seen here before. It makes it tough to drive and gives the track character."

Toronto's James Hinchcliffe was the top Canadian, placing fourth in 1:01.005. The local rookie is making his first hometown appearance on IndyCar's top circuit after driving for years in junior formulas and a lifetime of attending the event as a spectator.

Hinchcliffe, driving the No. 6 car for Newman/Haas, acknowledged the street course takes some getting used to after months on the oval blocks, but welcomed the change of pace.

"It's like coming back to your girlfriend after being away for a couple months," he said with a laugh. "It was nice to turn right again and hit the brake pedal aggressively and do all things we haven't done in a while."

Hinchcliffe's best finish this season (fourth) was on a street course in Long Beach, Calif., similar to Toronto's, and hopes this gives him edge going into the weekend. But after Friday's practice sessions, he realizes there's still plenty to learn about the Toronto course.

"This place is so demanding, so challenging in so many ways, and all those little challenges get magnified the faster the car is," he said. "It's incredibly difficult to get around here without making any mistakes or hitting anything, so I can only imagine what it's going to be like when you have the whole field out there."

Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., finished the second practice in 14th with a time of 1:01.429. He bumped tires with American Graham Rahal.

Qualifying is set for today and the race is scheduled for Sunday.

 

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 9, 2011 C6

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