Lotus will be looking to move up in the standings when the series resumes street and road course racing beginning this weekend with the Honda Indy Toronto on the streets of Toronto, Canada.
Following four events on ovals the Toronto race kicks off three consecutive races on street or road circuits (Edmonton, airport street circuit, July 22-24 and Mid-Ohio, permanent road course, August 5-7). The 2011 season opened with four events on street and road circuits with KVRT – Lotus drivers Tony Kanaan, No. 82 GEICO- KV Racing Technology – Lotus, Takuma Sato, No. 5 KV Racing Technology – Lotus and E. J. Viso, No. 59 PDVSA – KV Racing Technology – Lotus, all having strong efforts at various times.
Kanaan opened the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season by qualifying eighth and finishing on the podium, placing third, on the streets of St. Petersburg. The achievement was even more remarkable considering that he signed with the team and his crew was assembled just six days before the event. He went on to qualify 24th and then pass an incredible 18 cars to finish sixth on the Barber Motorsports Park permanent road course. In Long Beach, he qualified 10th and finish eighth. Only in Brazil has Kanaan failed to finish in the top-10 on a road/street course this year. Kanaan will be making his seventh start in Toronto. In six previous races he has qualified in the top-10 five times with a best starting position of fourth in 2001. He has finished in the top-10 twice with a best showing of fourth last year.
“The Honda Indy Toronto is a great event all around; not only is it challenging to drive, but Toronto is a fantastic city with great fans, as well,” Kanaan said. “The course itself has given me problems in the past so I am very excited to get out there this weekend to see if the GEICO – KVRT – Lotus guys can help me to change my luck so I can give my son Leo the trophy he’s hoping to get this weekend while he is here with me.”
Kanaan has been the strongest of the three KVRT – Lotus drivers this year. In nine races (counting Texas as two races), the 34-year-old Brazilian and perennial championship contender, has finished in the top-10 six times with four top-five placements and two podium performances (second in Iowa and the third at St. Petersburg). Kanaan has led a total of 97 laps this season, all on ovals. He is fifth in the championship race with 211 points and is just three points out of fourth and 19 out of third.
Sato has been almost as strong as Kanaan on the street/road circuits, but some unfortunate incidents have hindered his results. Sato qualified 11th and finished an IndyCar road course career high fifth at St. Pete. He started 11th at Barber and was running solidly in the top-10 but was involved in a couple of incidents that damaged his car and forced him to the pits. He finished 16th. At Long Beach, Sato started 22nd, racing with eventual winner Mike Conway, when he was hit from behind and finished 21st. In Brazil, Sato had a breakout performance qualifying 10th, but fought his way into the lead with several outstanding passes in rainy and wet conditions. He led 23 laps, his first in the IZOD IndyCar Series however, he unfortunately was forced to pit for fuel late in the race and ended up eighth. Sato will be making his second start in Toronto. In his debut last year he qualified 18th and finished 25th.
“Toronto has a great atmosphere and the fans are very enthusiastic as it’s historically a very successful street course,” Sato said. “The track is quite tricky as it has a concrete patch in the middle of a corner which is very slippery but a long straight with heavy braking helps overtaking and it will be an exciting race. It feels like a long time since I drove my last street course in Brazil so I am looking forward to getting back into action on the streets again.”
Sato’s second IndyCar season has been highlighted by firsts. In addition to leading his first IndyCar race, he captured his first pole two weeks ago in Iowa and has scored his first top-five finishes. The 34-year-old from Japan has shown he is fast, qualifying in the top-11 in seven of the eight events (no qualifying for second Texas race), including five top-10 starting spots and three in the top-five and the one pole. He has finished in the top-10 four times (fifths at St. Petersburg and Texas, eighths at Milwaukee and Brazil) and led 30 laps (23 in Brazil, his first in the IndyCar Series and seven in Iowa). Sato, who has been in the top-10 in the standings much of the season, currently sits 13th with 155 points just six points out of 10th.
Viso has struggled in street and road course qualifying, but while his results don’t necessarily show it, he has had some very strong and competitive performances only to have his efforts destroyed by what can only be described as bad luck. At St. Petersburg, Viso started 21st, but got as high as ninth before suffering a punctured tire and finishing 19th. At Barber, he started 18th and was running in 11th when he was hit by another competitor and finished 24th. At Long Beach, he started 17th and was sitting in 10th when he attempted to pass another competitor and the two cars made contact knocking Viso out of the race in 25th place. However, Brazil was probably the most bizarre. After qualifying 26th, Viso, over the two days of the rain delayed event, made a charge to the front and was running in second place, behind Sato, when IndyCar officials determined he was blocking and accessed him a drive through penalty dropping him to 13th place where he finished. Viso will be making his third start at Toronto. His best qualifying position is 13th last year and his best finish is 13th in 2009. The 26-year-old Venezuelan is 21st in the standings with 113 points, 29 out 15th.
“Toronto is one of the most colorful races in the calendar,” Viso said. “There is large variety of corners from very slow to fast and a lot of changes in direction. The track surface is also very irregular and bumpy. I think this circuit has the second longest and fastest straight away in the championship, which then leads into the slowest corner on the track. This is a place where you can always overtake. I am looking forward to the race. Every weekend we have looked stronger and I think Toronto could provide the KV Racing Technology – Lotus team with another podium finish.”
The Honda Indy Toronto will be broadcast live, Sunday, July 10 on Versus at 2:00 p.m. ET