Paul Tracy is back in the saddle with KV at Toronto. (Ron McQueeney/IndyCar photo)
Well, it's not a great start to a race weekend on home soil – the time sheets put me quicker than Milka Duno but no-one else! The truth is that we only got in about five laps this afternoon after a problem I'd caused in the morning session came round to bite our ass in the No. 15 Honda Canada/Make A Wish car.
Maybe this weekend was just not destined to start smooth: last night – or should I say, this morning? – around 1am, the freaking fire alarm went off in our hotel for about 45mins, so we had fire trucks and cops – the whole nine yards. That's how my day started.
As for the track action, well, that didn't make me feel a whole lot better. What happened was that in the morning, I brushed a couple of walls – pretty light contact, not enough to even tear the advertising banners off – but then this afternoon I got on the brakes and the car took a hard left. Obviously I pitted, and my KV Racing crew found that a stud that holds the upright to the A-arm had sheared off, so we had to go back to the trailer and try to fix it. By the time we got back out to pit lane, there were only about five minutes left: once you've warmed up the motor and warmed up the tires, we'd have been out of time to really put the hammer down, so that was that. It wouldn't have been worth going out because the data we got wouldn't have been any use.
First practice started out OK, and we had pretty good pace, but the car was really slipping and sliding all over the place, so we made some changes. They didn't work though, so we changed it back but by the time we got out, the session was ending. The reason the changes didn't work is that it wasn't just us: every car was slipping around. The track surface hasn't changed since last year, but recently there's been some real warm weather – I'm talking days of 95degF and up – and then also thunderstorms too, so maybe that's caused some weird chemical reactions. Plus I think the tires are harder this year, but I don't mean that they're longer lasting. It's the opposite: they're scraping across the surface – which is rough here, with concrete patches and so on – so they're getting chewed up pretty quick. And then obviously there's a pretty major support bill here – CASCAR, Trans Am and so on – so there are a lot of rubber compounds getting laid down so that always adds to the slipperiness of the surface.
Because of that, I'd say the only positive from our issues today is that I've put away a set of tires that barely got used today. That means we can afford to run pretty hard tomorrow in morning practice and in qualifying – but it needs to be worthwhile; not just lapping for the sake of lapping. We've got to make up for lost time, so we'll baseline tomorrow off what Bill Pappas has done with E.J. Viso's car. We started off with pretty similar setups this morning and Bill and E.J. progressed to seventh by the end of the day, so it should be a good starting point for myself and my engineer Olivier on Saturday.
It's important to remember that it's virtually impossible to find such a thing as a “the right balance” here. It's so damn slippery with – concrete, manhole covers, changes in pavement texture – you can never achieve everything you want from the car. It's going to be pushing in one corner, loose in the next, and so you're constantly correcting. It's just a case of chucking the car into the corner and sucking up what it gives you in return.
Overall, it's been a long week, but there's been some good sides to that – we've been in the papers every day, and we had a good deal with IZOD – Race to the Party – last night, and a pit stop competition against Tag and his FAZZT crew. The fans have been great, too, with the Make A Wish deal that Honda Canada put on the car, and as a whole, it looked like there were about twice as many people compared to the Friday here last year. That's a good sign.
I'm feeling the love from the sponsors too – Motegi Racing are up here in force, with Jody Grose and his partner from WheelPros and Rhett Sanders from KMC and their wives, taking in the sights and sounds of Honda Indy and Toronto as a whole. I think they're pretty impressed. As well as Motegi, I've got to thank Kicker Car Audio, CEC AlpineStars, Oakley and Monster for continuing to support me.
In fact, I gotta go have dinner with the Motegi Racing posse right now, so I can go to bed early, get a decent night's sleep, and hit the ground running tomorrow. We've got a lot of work to get through.