Monday, July 18, 2016

Musings From the Weekend: Cutting Out the Little Guys

There was a lot of contact in Toronto as the track deteriorated underneath the competitors. MotoGP had another wet race but it ended in the dry with a familiar winner. NASCAR raced at Loudon and Joe Gibbs Racing swept the two races. A Canadian won at home and another Canadian won in the Netherlands. A few drivers swept the weekend. There was some late drama in the European Le Mans Series race at Red Bull Ring. Here is a run down of what got me thinking.

Cutting Out the Little Guys
For 30 years, IndyCar has raced around Exhibition Place in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The event seen the highs of the premier open-wheel series of North America, held strong during the split, slipped after hiatus because it couldn't be squeezed on to the 2008 schedule after reunification and has been holding its own since returning in 2009. The race moved to June for the first time last year because of the Pan American Games were hosted by Toronto and this year the race returned to its comfortable home in the middle of July, albeit with an altered course that features a tighter final three corners and a twisty pit lane. While Toronto is traditionally a race that drivers, teams and fans enjoy, it would be wrong to ignore that the fact the race isn't as celebrated as it once was.

Toronto still draws a respectable crowd but not the same size as it did in the 1990s and even the final years of Champ Car. The race weekend featured all three Road to Indy Series, Stadium Super Trucks, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada and NASCAR's Canadian series as undercards to the IndyCar race but that full plate of motorsports doesn't seem to be helping the issue. Editor-in-chief of RacingNorth Stephanie Wallcraft, formerly of More Front Wing fame, wrote early last week about an event at Shannonville Motorsport Park, three hours east of Toronto that featured Canadian Touring Car Championship, Toyo Tires F1600 Series, F1200 Series and a GT Invitational.

The Shannonville event drew many local racers, marshals and volunteers. The Canadian Touring Car Championship and the F1600 Series were once support series for the IndyCar Toronto weekend but as IndyCar has developed the Road to Indy ladder system, the local series have been bumped from the billing in favor for IndyCar-related series. Green Savoree Racing Promotions, the promoter of the Toronto race, has all the right in the world to choose what series it wants to fill the weekend but perhaps have a more local show would boost attendance.

Bringing in local racers, whether they are 16-year-old boys and girls starting their racing career with dreams of making it to the top or 36-year-old men doing it as a hobby, will draw out there local families to watch their son/daughter/husband/wife compete at a notable race weekend. Imagine the excitement if someone were to hear a family member would be racing the same weekend on the same track as the IndyCar race. It's like when a high school football teams makes it to the state championship game and it is at an NFL stadium. Family members will go the extra mile to make it to the title game. Consider there were ten cars entered for the Pro Mazda weekend and the F1600 Series had over two-dozen cars entered at Mosport in the spring and at the Canadian Grand Prix while at Shannonville there were 20 CTCC entries. How many more people would F1600 have drawn out compared to Pro Mazda?

I loved the Road to Indy ladder system and Pro Mazda is currently evolving before the introduction of the new car in 2018 but it is ok if Pro Mazda doesn't go to Toronto in favor for local series that may sell more tickets. Pro Mazda has plenty of other chances to race with IndyCar and next year the series will only have one street course race (likely St. Petersburg) as the series cuts back on race weekends in hopes of making the final season with the current chassis more affordable. Maybe 2017 will see CTCC and/or F1600 at Toronto and the Canadian motorsports community can avoid this split weekend with the locals going in one direction and the premier open-wheel series in North American going in the other.

Winners From the Weekend
You know about Will Power but did you know...

Marc Márquez won the wet-to-dry MotoGP German Grand Prix. Johann Zarco won the Moto 2 race. Khairul Idham Pawi won the Moto3 race.

Matt Kenseth won the NASCAR Cup race at Loudon. Kyle Busch won the Grand National Series race on Saturday.

Felix Rosenqvist swept the Indy Lights races from Toronto. Aaron Telitz swept the Pro Mazda races and is tied with teammate Pato O'Ward for the championship lead. Victor Franzoni and Parker Thompson split the U.S. F2000 races.

The #46 Thiriet by TDS Racing Oreca-Nissan of Pierre Thiriet, Mathias Beche and Ryō Hirakawa won the European Le Mans Series 4 Hours of Red Bull Ring. The #2 United Autosports Ligier-Nissan of Alex Brundle, Christian England and Mike Guash won in LMP3 after the #18 Duquesne Engineering Ligier-Nissan of Dino Lunardi, David Hallyday and David Droux was penalized for not respecting minimum pit stop reference times. The #66 JMW Motorsport Ferrari of Rory Butcher, Andrea Bertolini and Robert Smith won in GTE.

Robert Wickens and Jamie Green split the DTM races from Zandvoort.

João Paulo de Oliveira won the Super Formula race from Fuji.

Coming Up This Weekend
FIA World Endurance Championship returns to action at the Nürburgring.
Formula One will be in Hungary.
NASCAR runs the Brickyard 400.
The Supercars head to Queensland Raceway.
IMSA takes Prototype Challenge, GT Le Mans and GT Daytona to Lime Rock Park.
Super GT returns to racing at Sportsland SUGO after a two and a half month hiatus.