Tag Archives: Honda Indy Toronto

Damned if they do, damned if they don’t…

I’m going to have to tackle my home race in a couple of posts me thinks, because there is so much to say and talk about, and I don’t want to get overloaded or sidetracked in just one post.

So lets just get this stuff out of the way first.

The armchair critics out there, those that not only bitch about this genre of racing, but many of whom will also openly admit they haven’t and wouldn’t even consider attending one, pan “street courses” as boring, non-challenging parades amongst many other descriptive labels.

Their blind with rage hate of this type of event seemingly clouding their judgment in such a pre-conceived way that they are unable to actually see the positives when the event is actually good! (both on and off track)

There is so much vitriol rolling around on all my stops on the inter-webs today both publicly and privately about how awful the event was, and how damaging to the sport it was,  Blah blah fucking blah. From the raving you would think that 9 cars finished the race, 6 people were in the stands and there were only 12 laps of green flag racing.
It was quite the opposite actually. Continue reading

So the event itself…

was not much of an event at all. Aside from zero general promotion until the Tuesday of race week, there was also distinct lack of fanfare when you arrived onsite.
I don’t even know why I’m about to bother with the following post, other than the persistent nudging from my inbox to “tell me what you thought!!”

so here goes I guess… Just a little snippet of what I saw, heard, felt..

Gone was the giant “Welcome Race Fans” inflatable, the turn styles, the souvenir stand, the program hawkers…
In it’s place two guys yelling at cars and a line of rent-a-cops in yellow shirts that looked more like they were blocking the entrance than welcoming you to what used to be a world class event.

Inside the door a couple of tables with photo copied signs. One where you could buy tickets (in theory, if you had the patience to wait while they tallied your purchase by abacus) and one for will call. But don’t try to leave tickets at said will call for anyone. It’s not “that” kind of will call. (WTF kind is it then?!) Imagine how happy I was when I found out that I couldn’t leave the free tickets (gold seats I was handed the night before by someone in the organization to attempt to paper the place on Saturday) at the Will Call, but rather had to walk the half hour from the Pitlane to the front door once my guests arrived. (see you could no longer access the pitlane from both ends this year, or at the mid point) (oh not wait, if you were a relative or a pit lizard you could access midway, but we in the media who HAD to be on pitlane to do our jobs had to walk to the far end to access it…) (but I digress)

Oh and don’t try to find customer service either. There was none. That’s right, the one thing that made this event stand apart head & shoulders over the others, the amazing Customer Service, was but a memory.

Now the talking heads, who got real good at pissing into the wind and telling us it was raining all weekend, insisted there was tons of “activation” pre-event. Yes, if you drink bud, by the case apparently, there where promotions on that.

Firstly, who the fuck drinks Bud if they aren’t forced to at a sporting event.
Secondly, what about the rest of the population that doesn’t fall into whatever that demographic is?
There were no posters or billboards or banners or flags anywhere!
I finally saw a few Budweiser “Welcome Race Fans” signs go up on race week at select bars in the city.
No Subway/TTC activation, other than one IZOD Streetcar which I didn’t see until race weekend.

Gone was the grandstand lined, majestic front stretch. In it’s place ONE grandstand, half the height, with a lovely view of the now TREE Lined front straight.
Gone was the huge turn 10 double beer garden, in it’s place a big open empty area, and a tiny Hooters beer garden.
Gone was the large variety of vendors and food. In it’s place Pizza Pizza stands.
Gone was the nightly off track events, parties, charity events, balls, street parties. (Thank you Hinch for caring enough to throw a post race party!)
Gone was the ATMOSPHERE!! In it’s place, emptiness and silence by 6:30pm each night. I kid you not.

The layout was so bad and awkward and uninviting, I stopped walking the grounds. (not that I had a lot of time to do so anyway cause the half hour walk back to the media centre meant I was mostly held hostage on pitlane so as not to miss any of the action or the shots I needed to get during each session)

The media centre… lol… well, since I have done both Indy and Watkin’s Glen recently, let me tell you… much improvement is needed there.
While they finally took the step of putting the media room and the press conference room in one, :thumbsup: Yay! they dropped the ball with feeding us. (Something that Toronto is notorious for other than the final CC year when they actually feed us half decently)

In addition to the food being mediocre at best (if and when there was any at the times that you could actually eat), there was no place to actually sit and eat it, other than to try to balance it on your lap while sitting in front of your computer in the media room. And true to form, there wasn’t a bottle of water to be found on Raceday. Apparently the fact that it’s July and we work outside for hours at a time failed to register on the caterer, who I’m guessing from the reaction of the AGR folks won’t be hired back next year. Luckily I was able to grab a couple of sports drinks from the Conquest gang post race (yes POST race, approximately 9hrs after I arrived that morning) so I didn’t pass out from dehydration.

I have to give huge kudos to AGR’s Tip Nunn who was on top of everything for us in the media all weekend though. (you go “Big Daddy”)

I was really REALLY hoping to be chowing down on a giant plate of crow this week, having been proved wrong and attending a fabulous event, but alas, I can save the crow recipes for another day.

I don’t want to rip on my home race, any more than I wanted to see it presented with such a lack of… I can’t even think of an appropriate word.

I spent the weekend with visiting media asking me what the deal was, and all I could do is shrug silently. Then I just bit my tongue while those in charge shoveled enough PR lies and bullshit to fill the Direct Energy Centre 3 times over down our throats. My favorite moment was being told to my face that they didn’t give away one ticket this weekend. Funny I said to the person, I was personally handed 5 free tickets from a stack of at least a hundred, to which I was greeted with gaping mouthed silence.
I’m the wrong person to attempt PR spin on. Trust me.

I made the mistake of taking a stroll through my photos of Toronto Indys gone by. It just gave me a lump in my throat. Even the last two CC events, that were on the decline ironically, looked like the Indy 500 comparatively.

I can only hope that the epic failure of waiting until the last minute while arrogantly depending on the misguided notion of Torontonian’s blindly accepting anything thrown at us and coming back in droves, quality be damned, will make “them” sit up and take notice and put a little effort into it next year, because what I saw this weekend was like charging the paddles to 300 and resuscitating a DNR patient… and that breaks my heart.

So… Here’s what I discovered…

When you are the sole representative editor/photographer/chief cook & bottle washer at the event, there is very little time for blogging, tweeting, socializing, sleeping… Zoinks! Walking, running, shooting, interviewing. That was my last three days. Probably a good thing as it kept me from sitting at my computer and tearing the event apart limb from limb. (that will come later)

Actually that was my last two weeks. I hadn’t even had time to unpack from the Glen when I started my T.O. Coverage. Truthfully I’m exhausted and glad for the break in the action.

So I’m taking a little decompression time. Going to reflect and choose my battles and my words wisely with regards to the event itself.

I was let down by a lot of people and situations this week, but the worst was the devastating, premature ending to Paul’s race, which is still a day later making me angry and well up with tears. I haven’t felt that fired up or connected to a race since I can’t remember when. Sunday’s drive was a podium for sure, the only thing to be determined was what step. Well race control and their “let’s make shit up as we go along to suit our own purposes” rule book & Helio “Cant-turn-right-never, unless PT is beside me then look out!” took care of that didn’t they?

I was so proud of Paul all week. He really has grown out of that “lunkhead” reputation, and turned into a real role model. Don’t get me wrong… He still has his “boys will be boys” moments and Vasser is accomplice numero uno there!! But he shone brightly as a driver, a dad, a husband, a teammate.

His drive on Sunday was electrifying. And anyone that still contends that he is somehow too old or undeserved of a ride has their fucking head up their ass and ZERO appreciation for real, balls to the wall, racing. Racing for the win, not just driving for points. Those will always be the drivers I support. (and I guess that will always be the reason at the end of the weekend I will be emotionally exhausted)

While Tracy was showing remarkable restraint, Scheckter went old school & challenged Tags to a duel a la Dangerous Liasons with the victorian glove throw. (Tags got it ALL wrong with that move, but come on Tomas… throwing stuff at drivers on track?… ) Moraes did a little fencing with his car on E.J., after the race was over! Now I like both of these drivers, and won’t take sides here, but I will say this: let your driving do the talking. Using your car as a weapon is a fucking cowardly thing to do. If you feel the need to attack each other, throw on some boxing gloves, get in a ring and pummel the crap out of each other. Settle it like men face to face.

Can’t say I was overly disappointed with the podium. (Other than Paul being robbed of it) And though it was bleeding top three/red cars. (Actually, I don’t think it’s three anymore) at least it was the second tier of drivers. I’m most happy for Will of course.

For those of you that sent congrats on the Seneca Lodge pic being shown on the broadcast, thanks! I was glad to share Dale’s moment with the 10 people that watched the race.

For those seething with misguided jealousy, get over it. They hassled me for a week, didn’t pay me a dime, & made me feel I was the worst person in the world if I didn’t allow them to use it. Then to appease me, put a microscopic credit on the bottom. ESPN sucks. They are cheap bullies who think it’s ok and apparently have the budget to pay a production assistant to hassle me all week, send 15 emails and leave numerous phone messages, yet not even offer $50 bucks for something I spent hundreds on to capture.

more on the weekend later…

Who’s a happy boy?…

PT was like a kid in a candy store this morning as he unveiled his new car for the Honda Indy Toronto!
Even Jimmy was full of smiles!
I too couldn’t wipe the grin off my face.
Nothing makes me happier than seeing Paul so happy and knowing that he will be racing in the next two races I will be attending.
He looks great! He’s dropped some weight, looks rested and focused and happy. He was very comfortable and laid back this morning.

Patti (his wife) looks equally great and happy and I hear Viv is coming to the race, which will make my year. (nothing more fun than hangin in the pits with PT’s mom)
Hopefully CJ will make an appearance too.

Since this was a reveal for Paul as well, it was fun to watch his reaction when he saw the car. He even ran back up to the podium and made them turn the mic on so he could speak some more. VERY un PT like action that is! (not fond of public speaking) He just gushed about the car and the race and how proud he is of his car and to be back racing in Toronto.

For the first time, I’m actually excited for this race and feel like it’s coming. It sure as hell isn’t because of the “buzz” in the city.

When I asked Charlie J if this was the kick off to some serious promotion now as so far it’s the best kept secret in town, I got the standard PR answer of “well I’ve heard nothing but the opposite”. Bullshit.
Norris MacDonald came to my rescue and called him on the “PR” answer. If there has been major promotion going on, I sure as hell haven’t seen it. (other than Honda Dealer ads, which quite frankly promote Honda, not the race)

Apparently there is a huge promotional thing happening for two days the week before the race at Dundas Square.
Ya… newsflash… promoting a supposed international racing event 5 days before the event is not “huge promotion”

I actually feel sorry for Charlie. He busted his ass for this race for years. I imagine his hands are tied and he just has to tow the party line, but man… who does he think he’s fooling? I live here man! I remember all the events I went to prior to the races in previous years and all the promotion.

As I already alluded to earlier in my blackberry drive-by, the issue of the run off’s was also brought up and denied. Again, we will see.
I also laid that juicy tidbit of information at the feet of those paid to write and report, so we’ll see if they dig up anything to the contrary.
Again, I hope it was just a silly rumour, because it will be a disaster if not. I asked Paul about his thoughts on it. When I get home (yes I’m still at work as I put in some extra hours to cover the time I took for the Press conference) I’ll transpose the quotes.
(I felt like such a dork sticking a digital recorder in front of Paul… we both actually chuckled at the weirdness of it)

anyway… here is a wee gallery of snaps from today. My flash died (of course) and we were in a fricken shitty lit Military hanger… so it is what it is…

KV/PT unveiling

The more things change…

The more things fade into oblivion… T-minus 3 weeks and counting til the Honda Indy Toronto suffers the indignity of a return without fanfare… or at this point… fans…

So a little birdie called me this week to tell me that on top of cutting the staffing to about 30 percent of previous years. (Guess since they’ve obliterated the grandstands, they don’t need anyone to staff them…)
They are not putting in any run offs.

*blink*
*silence*

That’s right. On an uber tight street course, with two fields of drivers most of whom have never driven here, in cars that have never been on this circuit, they (the royal “they”, the braintrust that are driving this apple cart) are eliminating the one, not even certain, means of preventing carnage and destruction. Apparently AGR found out that while they own the race, they don’t own the barriers. An independant crane company was paid to install and then remove them every year. So rather than fork out the extra money for the barriers and tires that these runoffs require, they are just going to put an extra layer of tires.

Those sitting in the Turn 3 grandstands better wear flack jackets…
(oh no wait, the got rid of the Turn 3 stands, as well as the Turn 6/7 stands, and half of the Silvers, and the outside of Turn 1 if I’m not mistaken… nevermind, the 10 people that know about the race and might show up should be safe… wish I could say the same for the drivers and corner workers… )

I only have one thing to say…

Are they out of their fucking minds??

To save a couple of thousand dollars they are willing jeopardize the event, the teams lively hood and the drivers?? Not to mention track workers and spectators!

Are they really that arrogant and that cheap?
Have they done zero research?
Do they want this to be the first AND last Honda Indy Toronto?

They already think this event is just going to magically happen with pretty much ZERO promotion. It’s less than a month and there is nary a poster, billboard, checkered flag anywhere! Oh wait, I did see a poster hastily taped on the door of Hooters when I walked by the other day…

IMG00148

*don’t know why it’s still sideways… maybe it’s a metaphor… *
Yup… Ed Carpenter, Graham Rahal, and Marco Andretti… Those three will get the Canadian’s buzzing!! Not!

What used to be a spectacular event that the city and all the local downtown establishments would get decked out for and promote months in advance is flying so far under the fucking radar right now I’m not even convinced it’s actually happening.

The least and the lesser were on breakfast television last Thursday.
Really, who better to have up here promoting the race and getting people interested than Marco Andretti? I mean it’s not like local hero Paul Tracy is in the race or anything… Pshaw….

They were on for barely two minutes and talked mostly about the Andretti family. Michael did mention how AGR promotions came to acquire the race. (And to his credit, you can tell how much he loves this race/track) but that was it. Nothing about the race, the support series, the fact that Tracy, Tags & Hinch will be racing, hell they didn’t even plug Parkco’s Gillette publicity stunt later that day (which may or may not have happened as it rained all day)

One thing I’ve noticed, AGR promotions is in the business of promoting AGR. Every tidbit of “news” surrounding the race revolves around AGR drivers. (The weekly pit notes this week talked about the BT appearance and included quotes from the princess about racing in Toronto.
I mean it’s not like Paul Tracy announced this week that he was running at the Glen so he could be better prepared for Toronto…
Maybe Paul should have struck a deal with AGR for the race, then at least he would be getting some media play.

That said, PT and Vasser are in town tomorrow to make his sponsorship announcement. (Honda Canada) Honda is now running their big “race event” sale ads, and using the show car in their commercials and saying the word Indy multiple times… what they AREN’T saying is that the RACE is happening in Toronto in 3 fricken weeks! Not even a silent graphic with a date and url. Fuck! that’s so basic and simple.

My heart is breaking for my home race. The city should be ramping up, yet there is barely a whisper that it’s around the corner.

Anyway, I’m heading down to the press conference in the morning. Hopefully the “real” journalists will bring up the lack of barriers and promotion, otherwise I just may have to get a little brassy tomorrow morning…