If today’s practice rounds at the Honda Indy are anything to go by, this year’s race will be full of surprises. While rookie Raphael Matos finished with the best time of 1:01.4739 and Justin Wilson, who is 10th in points, finished second with a time of 1:01.7627, points leader Scott Dixon finished at a mere 8th place, female phenomenon Danica Patrick finished 22nd out of 23 drivers, fan favourite Paul Tracy spun out of control and Dancing With The Stars contestant Hélio Castroneves slammed into the wall.
Admittedly, practice rounds do not mean much. But the fact that two underdogs beat more experienced racers’ time around the track set a suspenseful tone for tomorrow ‘s qualifying rounds as well as for the highly anticipated race on Sunday.
Despite today’s success, Raphael Matos did not appear overly enthusiastic at the press conference that followed the practice rounds. This season has been full of ups and downs, said the Brazilian. It’s going to be a learning process this year. Matos is running his first full season in the IndyCar series.
Justin Wilson is the more experienced of the underdogs. In 2005 he won the Molson Indy in Toronto. The next year he won the 2006 West Edmonton Mall Grand Prix of Edmonton, and in 2007 he finished an impressive 3rd place in what turned out to be the last Molson Indy in Toronto, until Honda took over for 2009.
But despite his success, Wilson does not underestimate the track. You have to respect this place, especially if its raining, said Wilson during the press conference. He believes the present state of the track is more difficult than in past years: Biggest difference is that it feels bumpier. You get thrown about, hit your head on the head rest and you lose your focus a bit.
Both Justin and Raphael hope to take their momentum into the qualifying rounds tomorrow , when racers such as Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti and Ryan Briscoe will put up better fights. This should make for an exciting and successful race weekend in Toronto, one that will hopefully lead to the revival of Indy racing in Toronto.
View the rest of the day’s photos here and the rest of The Medium’s Honda Indy Toronto coverage here.