July 25, 2016
IndyCar drivers have this gizmo on their engines that gives them 30 extra horsepower called “Push to Pass”. You get 10 squirts of extra power, with each squirt lasting 10 seconds to pass people.
It’s shown as PP on timing and scoring, and shows up as PP in that little LED digital window on the side of the engine cowlings behind the cockpit, and flashes when the driver’s activated his “Push to Pass” system.
After the 30th running of The Honda Indy Toronto, PP should stand for “Pave and Promote!”
30 winters of frost heave have ravaged the streets of Exhibition Place, down town Toronto.
While the Lakeshore portion of the 11 turn, 1.78 mile street course has been recently re-paved, the rest of the track that runs through the CNE grounds is in terrible shape. It’s become a rutted washboard that plays havoc with balance and traction.
The infamous concrete patches have become so slippery, several had to be sand-blasted to provide even a minimal amount of grip.
The curbing was coming apart in places during the race.
It looks old and junky on television, unbecoming to North America’s 5th largest city.
Since I have been involved with all 30 Toronto Indy events since 1986, first as track P.A co-announcer and then with Raceline Radio broadcasts track-side since 1992, I believe I have license to tell you in my opinion, this track is just plain worn out, and is no longer suitable to stage this event, unless the entire 1.78 miles of it is re-paved.
Finding the funding from The City to laydown new asphalt won’t be easy. But it needs to be done if this race is to remain where it is.
The new hotel on site forced a shift of pit road to the north side of the start-finish straight that reduced turns 10 and 11 into a very narrow and tricky complex.
Race winner Will Power told me racing through there was like threading a needle.
Being the pros they are, they adapted to the cramped configuration, but the racing surface needs a major face lift. We owe the series a decent playing field.
The other “P” in the display should stand for “promote.”
Since the Indy went dark in 2008, the goal was to bring it back to prominence.
Free Fridays, double header weekends, and other attractions were installed to re-spark interest.
Raceline Radio carried on the tradition of broadcasting live shows featuring interviews with drivers surrounded by fans. It made for great radio and effective promotion of the event.
It looked like the fans were starting to return when The Ontario government dropped the Pan-Am games in our laps last summer, forcing a shift in the date to June, and a scramble to change the site layout.
2016 then, was supposed to be the start of a return to a positive buzz, a vibe of excitement in the City and outlying areas for the Indy.
The race was back to the mid-July date. Local hero James Hinchcliffe was back, and so were The NASCAR stock cars.
Well, I don’t know where the marketing and promotion budget was spent. The promoter can spend his advertising funds any way he likes.
But I do know there wasn’t anything in the budget to keep the track-side Raceline Radio broadcasts on the air.
I don’t need to tell you how disappointing that was for me professionally and personally. More than a few fans and drivers also expressed their disappointment.
They don’t announce attendance figures, but making an objective observation, the momentum gained to bring the fans back has taken a severe hit. Sunday looked healthy, but Friday especially, and Saturday saw far too many ticket buyers disguised as aluminum pews.
Where was the buzz… the vibe of excitement?
The law of the racing jungle is very clear. It doesn’t matter if it’s an IndyCar or a NASCAR race in the middle of your city, or a small dirt track on the outside of town, if you’re open for business you need to tell people.
Your advertising, marketing and promotion budget should be a top of the list priority, never the first thing you slash when money gets tight.
I used to tirelessly advocate the Indy needs to be down town, and I have no idea what the future of the event is now, but unless the track is brought back to professional standards, bolstered by full and effective promotion, we just might just see it move up the highway to that iconic road course in Bowmanville we used to call Mosport.
Canadian Tire Motorsport Park principals know the law of the jungle, and their attendance reflects it.
And who knows what role Canadian Motor Speedway may play in the future of open wheel racing in Canada.
Open wheel racing on a ¾ mile oval can be darn exciting!