Dario Franchitti was delighted after winning yet another pole at the Honda Indy Toronto. That didn’t ease his anxiety about what will be an unusual start to the race.
Franchitti led qualifying for the second straight year Friday, marking the fifth time he will start first at the race as he chases a fourth career win at Exhibition Place.
But winning Saturday’s 85-lap race, the first of weekend doubleheader, will mean surviving IndyCar’s first standing start since 2008. Several drivers expressed anxiety about the change, which is different from the rolling starts drivers are used to.
Just being on pole isn’t calming Franchitti’s nerves.
“If you stall, you’re screwed anyway,” said Franchitti. “But we’re starting in the right place, I would say.”
Franchitti, who led qualifying with a lap of 59.6756 seconds on the 1.75-mile street track, previously won the event in 1999, 2009 and 2011. He’ll start ahead of Sebastien Bourdais, who won Toronto in 2004 and was second in qualifying with a lap of 59.7701. Will Power starts third.
“It feels good to get our third pole of the year,” said Franchitti, who opened the day by popping his front tire after brushing the wall during practice. “I made it difficult this morning, I made a little mistake at Turn 5 there, took the right side off the car so the guys had to repair the car.
“But the Target car was good ... I was able to find it a little bit every lap.”
It was a disappointing day for Canadian drivers. James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ont., just missed out advancing past the first round of qualifying and will start 14th. Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., who also failed to get past the first round, starts 17th.
“This is certainly not the way we wanted qualifying to go,” said Hinchcliffe, who will get another shot Saturday morning during qualifying for Sunday’s race. “I feel bad for all the fans here. (They) deserved better than that, but we’ll put our heads down tomorrow. It’s a long race, and I know we’ll have a good car.”
Concern and confusion over the standing start dominated what should have been relief among the top qualifiers.
Tony Kanaan, who qualified fourth, was surprised to find out the standing start — wherein cars begin the race from a stationary position on the grid and is best known for its use in Formula One — was scheduled for Saturday. The popular Brazilian said he hadn’t participated in the format since 1993.
He’s not a fan.
“Because IndyCar for me, it’s always been about rolling starts,” said Kanaan. “We’re talking about tradition and stuff. Maybe tomorrow I’ll end up in the end of the race saying I love it. That’s just because of the tradition. That’s my preference.
“I’m not against it. It’s just you guys asked my opinion. I said I don’t like it.”
The regular rolling start returns Sunday.
Franchitti’s last standing start didn’t go so well. He was participating in the Australian V8 Supercar championship in 2010 when he crashed into the first turn with Power.
Jacques Villeneuve of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., spun and clouded the grid in smoke, and Franchitti reversed right into current teammate Scott Dixon.
“Hopefully tomorrow’s standing start goes a bit smoother than that,” quipped Franchitti.
The first turn, which Franchitti said couldn’t be more slippery, and the hairpin at Turn 3 proved difficult for drivers throughout the day. Power said he was lucky to finish third after running into a tire wall in practice then struggling to keep pace through qualifying.
“Very difficult out there. The car, bloody hard to find a balance around this place. Track keeps getting worse every year,” he said to laughter. “The cement in the middle of the corners gets more slippery and it’s quite bumpy. Makes for a bit of character, you could say. Ring the car’s neck to get some lap times.”
Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay, who won Toronto last year, will start sixth behind Dixon and just ahead of points leader Helio Castroneves.
Hunter-Reay had the poor luck of being just outside of qualifying in Round 2 when Takuma Sato crashed into a wheel barrier and effectively ended the round.
It’s the second time this week Sato has inadvertently got in Hunter-Reay’s way. Sato ran into the Andretti Autosport driver in pitlane at Pocono on Sunday, ending the race for both drivers and injuring Hunter-Reay’s thumb.
“I’d like to thank Sato for knocking us out of the session again today,” said Hunter-Reay. “It’s unfortunate, but we’ll be fighting again tomorrow, we’ll be fighting again Sunday.”
Notes: James Jakes, who qualified fifth, will start 15th after incurring a 10-spot grid penalty with an unapproved engine change after Pocono. ... Newly acquired Toronto Maple Leafs Dave Bolland and David Clarkson will serve as grand marshals for the pair of races. ... IndyCar announced it gave operating rights to the Indy Lights developmental series to Andersen Promotions beginning in 2014.