Into The Crystal Ball… Canada: The Act Two Edition

For the second race in a row we head to Canada to finish the swing through the north. Edmonton City Centre (the Queens’ English is awesome) plays host to the final Canadian round of the year. The airport circuit was inaugurated in 2005 by ChampCar and was kept on the IRL schedule after the 2008 unification. Although we are only in the eight edition of this event, we know the Canadian fan base is rabid and this is a “contract” year for the event so local support needs to be high. Long straights and tight turns punctuate the 2.2 mile track and this will be the second time teams have seen the new layout. As we enter the waining stages of the season, set ups have become very refined, teams have gelled and we should be in for one heck of an event.

Sebastien Bourdais – Mark my words: SeaBass will be back in victory lane by the end of 2013 at the latest. I honestly think he has a chance this year. Say what you will about Jay Penske and Dragon racing; he has put together a crew that can make things happen. The chassis is tailor made to his driving style and he looks to be hungrier than ever for a win; the stars are aligned for the Frenchman. I respect and root for Bourdais because of his complete and utter domination of ChampCar. See: Michael Schumacher and Valentino Rossi; similar to Bourdais, they once dominated their respective series only to be cast aside at a pivotal point in their careers. Love them or hate them, watching a “past champion” regain some of the fire they once had is a magical thing to be a part of. After his performance in Toronto, I’m really feeling it for Bourdais this week.

Ryan Hunter-Reay – How could I not… He has done it; RHR has beat Will Power at his own game. Entering Toronto, the only thing standing in the way of Hunter-Reay and a championship was taking Power down on his home turf. The monkey has been removed, and placed squarely on the shoulders of Power. All Hunter-Reay has to do is finish the season in one piece. Barring mechanical failure, he has finished outside of the top ten only one time this season, whereas Will Power has been slightly inconsistent since his blazing hot pre-Indy streak. And it is this inconsistency that will not allow the other 2012 championship pretenders to factor into the story. Power has proven time and again he does not play well from the back foot so I’m sure his performance during the closing stages of the season will be more of the same inconsistency. Go ahead and pencil Hunter-Reay in for the big check at the end of the year.

Drag – My main complaint with the old Dallara chassis was that it stalled out at 165 to 170 miles per hour at the end of any road course straight they visited. No one could gain anything on the guy ahead because you could never carry your momentum all the way through to the braking zone. The “snowplow effect” has been greatly decreased this year leading to far better action. We have seen top speeds of 188 miles per hour this year in Brazil, and the long runway straights in Edmonton should lend themselves to similar numbers. It has been amazing to see indycars come ever so close to the elusive 190 miles per hour barrier; a very important barrier that must be reached to increase the legitimacy of the new equipment. Just like 220 is important to some at Indy, 190 is important to me on the twisties.

Push to Pass – I’m torn. On one hand, p2p “sullies” the “sanctity” of “racing” by adding a driver aid of sorts. On the other, it really is kind of cool; not much more needs to be said… it’s a turbo button… cool. I have never seen p2p to be as big of an assist as something like traction control. Before you can even get on the button, you have to solidly exit the corner and quickly, but precisely, get the power down. Driving is not compromised, holding the car in a straight line is. Nothing is being taken away from the drivers and take that as double considering the defending driver can use it too. This is all fine and dandy, but if we are going to have it, I want to know about it. We are aware that it is available for use, but as far as I can tell, there is no way to know when drivers are on the button and neither can the fans in the stands. This is not complimentary customer service in response to a gimmick only the engine manufactures wanted.

Engine Manufactures – (I’m feeling ranty) Continuing on the same subject; as best we can tell, the driving force behind adding p2p was the questionable durability of engines through the end of the season. A byproduct of p2p was a decrease in base boost, horsepower losses and durability gains follow said decrease. Let’s look back at this saga for a minute:  manufacturers were given a 150 mile gift from INDYCAR when they decreased agreed upon rebuild window from 2000 to 1850 miles. The manufactures then agreed to contest the 16 race season with 5 engines, fully within the rebuild requirements. They were then gifted an engine for Carb Day and The 500. Next, one full race weekend was cancelled, but no changes were made to engine count or mileage requirements. Now we are running less horsepower to “save” the engines. What the heck is going on? I understand they are new units and the cost was high, but this is becoming embarrassing for Honda and Chevy. Two companies that are committed to the pursuit of speed and horsepower could change the outcome of the championship because their engines were designed by accountants.  ..(sigh)..  Situation normal, nothing to see over here…

Predictions

Pole – Charlie Kimball – It would be a huge victory, and just what the young American needs to continue his rise to fame.

Winner – Sebastien Bourdais – This is what redemption tastes like…

Epic performance – Lotus – After a tough week in Toronto, the upgrades pay off and something other than circulating in the back will give the team some much needed hope.

Biggest loser – Chevy/Honda – With all of that said, any blow engines from here on out are black eyes of silliness for the manufacturers.

Every week we always hope for a close, competitive, clean and safe race. This week we need to hope for a well-attended event. The city has the option to not renew the contract for 2013 depending on the usual myriad of factors. With Randy Bernard’s push for 20 races next year, we cannot lose a good event like this. I can only count a handful of signed sealed and delivered events for next year: Sao Paulo, St. Pete, Long Beach, Barber, Toronto, Milwaukee and Indy. Six races is a long way from 20. All of that aside, this and every race from here on out are the most pivotal races of the season as Hunter-Reay attempts to defend his lead from Power. But we have to think about the rest of the field as well. Much of the competition is points racing no more; its wins from here on out baby. Exciting action on an airport is just what the doctor ordered to continue the momentum the series has been carrying for the last month.

Eric Hall

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