By Christopher DeHarde, Staff Writer
TORONTO — More victims fell to the Turn 11 outside wall as Simon Pagenaud set the fastest lap in Friday practice for the Honda Indy Toronto.
The 2016 NTT IndyCar Series champion went around the 11 turn, 1.786 mile street circuit with a fastest lap of 59.8708 seconds, averaging 107.391 mph in his No. 22 DXC Technology Team Penske Chevrolet.
The 45 minute session saw more wall contact as some drivers struggled with the patching in Turn 11 heading onto the main straightaway. Marcus Ericsson and Takuma Sato both had contact in Turn 11, Sato’s contact ended his session early with right rear contact.
Turn 11 wasn’t the only problem spot, however. Ericsson also had contact with the Turn 5 barrier and Alexander Rossi had contact at the Turn 9 barrier that necessitated a red flag to interrupt the session.
Pagenaud’s best finish at Toronto is a second last year to Scott Dixon and the Frenchman was the first driver to go under a minute this weekend.
“It’s been a really good day,” said Pagenaud. “I think it comes from all the preparation ahead of time. Just very happy with the DXC Technology Chevy. I love this track, it’s just a lot of fun.
“The car is really honestly really good. I just needed to put a good lap together, and it seems good on every tire in every condition. I’ve got to get the job done, and I’ll tell you what, man, this is so much fun. It’s just awesome. I told the team, it’s such a pleasure to drive this car; thanks for preparing it.”
Felix Rosenqvist was second fastest in the session with a fastest lap of 59.9311 seconds. The Swede has two wins at Exhibition Place in Indy Lights competition in 2016 and didn’t have issues with Turn 11 and preparation helped him avoid those issues.
“I think it’s hard to explain how bumpy these circuits are,” said Rosenqvist. “Having done most of my racing career in Europe, I think what I used to call bumpy is not even on the scale on a track like this. It’s not even visible. It’s such big bumps and surface changes, and this track and Detroit particularly, you need a good set of dampers. There’s just so much you can do with them on the settings, and that’s what we really work on a lot between the races, especially after Detroit, which is the most similar track. We spent a lot of time trying to improve that. So I think the team has done a really good job with that.”
Saturday practice begins at 10:20 a.m. ET and can be viewed on the NBC Sports Gold app.