Pagenaud quickest in Toronto qualifying

Pagenaud quickest in Toronto qualifying

15 July 2017 – Simon Pagenaud broke the lap record to gap the field by 0.3121 seconds on Saturday to take pole for the Honda Indy Toronto race.

The Frenchman was the sole driver to break into the 58-second range, although both he and second-placed Graham Rahal went quick enough in Q3 to break the previous lap record that Pagenaud had set in Q2.

Last week's winner, Hélio Castroneves, will start on the inside of the second row next to Penske team-mate Will Power. Scott Dixon and hometown hero James Hinchcliffe occupy row three.

Power and Catroneves were quick from the start, leading midway through the first round of Q1 after setting quicker times on blacks than any of the other competitors had on reds. In fact, Power's 59.3910-second lap surpassed the track record at the time.

Rahal made a jump to second on his final run, just 0.0074 seconds adrift of Power, with Takuma Sato bumping Castroneves to fourth. No other car would unseat the Australian or get in front of the Brazilian, guaranteeing those two would have an extra set of red tyres should they make the Fast Six.

J.R. Hildebrand and Marco Andretti also advanced with their final runs, edging out Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones. Charlie Kimball and Carlos Muñoz were a further few tenths off the pace and will start 17th and 19th tomorrow, respectively.

Pagenaud and Tony Kanaan's first laps on blacks in the second round of Q1 were half a second off Power's time, but they slowly improved on their fourth and fifth laps along with Josef Newgarden and Max Chilton. Pagenaud's 59.5570 ended up being good enough to lead the session, ensuring him an unused set of reds later, too.

Dixon slotted into second after swapping to red tyres, but he was quickly pushed down the order to fifth. Alexander Rossi tried his best to match Pagenaud's brilliant lap but ended up a mere 0.0007 seconds back in second. Newgarden's attempt on reds elevated him to third in front of Chilton, and Hinchcliffe squeaked by Kanaan for sixth.

Several drivers were on flying laps as the chequered flag came out, but a massive impact by Esteban Gutiérrez brought out a red flag and nullified them. The ex-Formula 1 driver got onto the bumps coming out of Turn 11 and nearly hit the outside wall head-on. Sizeable flames were soon shooting out from the right rear, but they dissipated quickly. Gutiérrez climbed from the car under his own power but took his time getting into the Holmatro Safety Team vehicle; he stated later that he was fine.

Gutiérrez would lose his fastest laps for bringing out a red, meaning he will start last tomorrow. He fell behind Ryan Hunter-Reay, Conor Daly and Sebastien Saavedra in Group 2, as well, none of whom advanced from the session.

Lengthy clean-up efforts and repairs to the concrete barriers delayed the start of Q2 by over 10 minutes, but soon the quickest 12 were back on track.

Castroneves and Power continued to set sub-one-minute laps on blacks to start the session, and just as the drivers' final runs were beginning on reds, Hildebrand bounded over the Turn 8 kerbs, which shot his car into the barrier. Despite being a relatively slow impact, his front wing and left front suspension were destroyed, bringing out another red flag.

With little time left on the clock, IndyCar decided that each driver would only get one chance to set a flying lap on reds once they went back to green.

Pagenaud responded by breaking Power's track record with a 59.2922, shouldering away Dixon, Power and Castroneves. Hinchcliffe also broke the one-minute barrier on his last lap, as did Rahal, to advance to the Fast Six.

Newgarden was the quickest driver not to advance, setting a 59.8992 to beat Rossi, Chilton and Takuma Sato.

Pagenaud set the early pace again in Q3, settling on provisional pole with a minute to go in a quick session. Castroneves took a quick turn at the top before an even quicker lap by the Frenchman reset the lap record and guaranteed pole. Rahal sandwiched himself between the Penskes and will start second.

The 85-lap Honda Indy Toronto goes green at 15:40 local time (GMT-4) tomorrow

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