While not yet exceeding track record pace, the fastest Verizon IndyCar Series drivers on Friday around Toronto’s Exhibition Place were lapping considerably quicker than one year ago.
In 2017, the final year of manufacturer-specific bodywork and first year when alternate Firestone tires were available in practice, Team Penske driver Simon Pagenaud was quickest through Practice 2 with a 1:00.2573, affording him a 0.2271-second advantage over Will Power, his closest competitor.
A year later, with the universal aero kit replacing Chevrolet and Honda bodywork, Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon topped the combined timesheet after two 45-minute practices with a 59.0751-second lap on red-sidewalled alternate tires, going 1.1822 seconds quicker than Pagenaud’s 2017 pace.
Impacting overall lap times was a significant increase in trap speed year over year. On the run down Lake Shore Boulevard out of Turn 2 — the fastest section of the 1.786-mile temporary street circuit — Josef Newgarden recorded a trap speed of 179.033 mph in Practice 2, an improvement of nearly 7 mph compared to the top speed set last year in the same session by Spencer Pigot.
After completing Practice 2, Dixon and second-fastest Takuma Sato agreed on several elements contributing to increased speeds early in the three-day race weekend.
“I think to me and I don’t know if with Takuma too, it’s more the surface grip,” said Dixon. “They’ve only really paved one straight but the whole track, whether it’s the tire — and Firestone said they brought the same tire — so I don’t know, it just feels grippy.”
Beyond changes to the track itself and Firestone’s tire compound, the aerodynamic characteristics of the the Dallara-supplied bodywork also contributed to the downward shift in lap times.
“You talk about lap time, you really talk about aero efficiency,” Sato said. “At some of the tracks it doesn’t matter much, but this track has a couple of long straights so here the twisty sections are a lot slower than last year for sure, but because you gain so much down the straight it just compensates the same.
“And then today seems to be with the weather condition or matching the conditions with the tires, it seems to be we’re getting a lot of mechanical grip, so it’s going faster than last year.”
With speeds already quicker than 2017 after just 90 minutes of practice time and 877 laps turned by the 23-driver field, Pagenaud’s standing lap record on the current 11-turn configuration of 58.9124 seconds will likely fall during knockout qualifying.
Preparations for the 2018 Honda Indy Toronto continue Saturday with Practice 3 at 9:50 a.m. EDT followed by three rounds of qualifying beginning at 1:55 p.m. and culminating in the Firestone Fast 6.