1. Wilson eager to return to Raceway at Belle Isle Park
2. Honda Indy Toronto construction officially begins at Exhibition Place
1. Wilson eager to return to Raceway at Belle Isle Park: Many would call gaining 14 positions to finish seventh in the Indianapolis 500 a great day. Justin Wilson appreciates the sentiment, though he’ll stick to the claim of having “a top-three car.”
“We would get shuffled back a few spots, but then immediately come right back in a lap or two,” said the driver of the Honda-powered Sonny’s BBQ car for Dale Coyne Racing who recorded his third top 10 in the five IZOD IndyCar Series races. “The car in front of me slowed me up and kept me from getting a fast (Lap 194) restart. The wind also played a factor as it was very difficult to pass in Turns 1 and 2. The team gave me a great car to drive.”
Wilson is expecting another great car this weekend for the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix as the IZOD IndyCar Series returns to the 2.07-mile, 14-turn circuit for the first time since 2008.
Wilson was the winner the last time Indy cars raced in Detroit.
Driving for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in the penultimate race of a trying rookie season, Wilson had mixed results (six top 10s in 14 races; four DNFs). Also, the health of team co-owner Paul Newman was deteriorating.
“I really enjoyed getting that win for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and feel like I got to prove myself after a very difficult year,” Wilson said. “Paul passed away weeks after. Great memories, but some sadness, too.”
Wilson’s No. 02 McDonald’s car assumed the lead on Lap 73 of 87 when Race Control black-flagged Helio Castroneves for blocking.
“It’s not the way you really want to win the race, though I felt we had the quickest car all day,” said Wilson, who led 15 laps. “I tried to put a move to get the lead and had to hit the brakes instead. They reversed the positions and got the lead and pulled ahead (to win by 4.4058 seconds).”
More than $6 million in site improvements have been made to the Raceway at Belle Isle since racing was reinvigorated in 2007 after a six-year absence, including 460,000 square feet of concrete for the paddock and 150,000 square feet of concrete to the road course.
Like any street course, it’s bumpy. But that “adds character,” according to Wilson.
“You’ll never please a driver; we’re always trying to improve the track,” he said. “You want the corners to be faster and the track to be smoother so everything is flat out. We’re always looking for something better than what we have; it’s part of our job. It’s a driver’s track. It’s challenging to overtake at Belle Isle but you can.
“The (new car) was good in Brazil, and at Long Beach it was the best car I’ve ever driven there. I’m looking forward to getting back there. It’s great for the city of Detroit and it lets the rest of the world know that yes we’ve had some difficult times but we’re on the increase and will climb out of this and will put on a top sporting event. There are lots of things they’re doing to attract more than diehard race fans, but the race fans will come because we’re in the center of the automobile world.”
2. Honda Indy Toronto construction officially begins at Exhibition Place: For more than two decades, Jim Tario has led the construction of the race track at Toronto’s Exhibition Place.
With this season’s race weekend fast approaching, Tario, the director of operations for the Honda Indy Toronto, and his highly-skilled construction team began the conversion of the city’s streets surrounding Exhibition Place into the 1-86-mile, 11-turn street course that continues to feature the fastest, most versatile race cars and drivers in the world.
“The Honda Indy Toronto has one of the most challenging and exciting layouts among the street courses in North America,” said Roger Peart, president of FIA Circuits Commission and ASN Canada FIA. “The build is a complex process and it’s amazing what (Jim) Tario and the team are able to construct over such a short period of time. Organizers of the event in recent years have invested in new track infrastructure, making the racing experience at Toronto not only thrilling, but safe for everyone involved.”
The Honda Indy Toronto race track, built by approximately 200 construction workers, takes 39 days to build, and 21 days to tear down and remove all traces of the race. It is comprised of over 2,000 steel-reinforced concrete barriers each measuring 12 feet long and three feet high.
The total length of the blocks span over 12,000 feet and are each made using approximately 8,650 pounds of concrete. More than 1,200 sheets of fencing surround the track with each fence standing at eight feet high and 12 feet long. The track also features over 1,600 feet of tire wall, each one standing at five tires high and four race car paddocks.
“There is a definitely a delicate balance in the work involved with constructing a race track that’s fast, exciting, challenging and, first and foremost, safe,” Tario said. “While the track remains largely unchanged in its 26-year history, we continue to invest in the race track infrastructure to ensure it exceeds all international standards and maintains our status as one of the premier street race circuits in the world.”
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix on June 3 at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit. The race will be televised by ABC at 3:30 p.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix on June 2 at the Raceway at Belle Isle Park in Detroit. The race will be televised by NBC Sports Network at 5 p.m. (ET) on June 7 and broadcast live by the IMS Radio Network.