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Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport's Simon Pagenaud was the fastest man on track on Friday on the 1.7-mile, 11-turn Toronto street circuit ahead of this weekend's Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader event.
Pagenaud set a time of 1:00.0084s (105.285mph) to pip Penske's Helio Castroneves to the top spot by just 0.0134s in the second 45-minute practice session held in the afternoon.
“It's always a challenge in Toronto because of the different tarmacs," said Pagenaud, referring to the asphalt and tarmac sections of the circuit.. "Practice went well for us. Our sponsor, Oculus, is a Canadian company so it's great to shine here. The car is beautiful, similar to Houston, so I feel confident."
The Frenchman had taken the top spot early in the session, but had been shuffled back down the rankings by the time he posted his best lap just after the midway point of the 45-minute practice, a time to which no one quite had the answer for the rest of the session that remained.
It nonetheless was a close-run affair, with a further three drivers - Ganassi's Scott Dixon, Penske's Will Power and Andretti Autosport's local here James Hinchcliffe all posting times within a tenth of a second of Pagenaud's benchmark.
20 of the 23 drivers at work in Toronto on Friday were within a second of the top time, with Luca Filippi just missing out in his second weekend appearance of the 2014 season for Rahal Letterman Lanigan. He finished just ahead of Mike Conway, also returning to action this weekend for Ed Carpenter Racing.
In the earlier morning session, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's Josef Newgarden found clear space toward the end of the 45 minutes to set the pace with a time of 1:00.238s two tenths ahead of Power. However, Newgarden was not able to improve on that in the afternoon and dropped to seventh place in the overall combined times for Friday.
"It's a strong start for us, but the name of the game is trying to figure out how to keep it that way," Newgarden had said after the morning practice. "It's promising to start, but we have to keep it up."
The morning session had run uninterrupted despite a wild moment for Power through one of the righthanders that the championship leader did well to save. That meant it wasn't until the afternoon session that the first red flag incident of the day materialised, and it came when second-place man Castroneves came to a halt in turn 8 complaining that the #3 Penske car had no power. The team suspected a battery issue, and the session was halted while the car was retrieved by the safety crew.
Practice did restart, but almost immediately there was a second red flag this time for Ganassi's Ryan Briscoe spinning and stalling in turn 1. That brought the session to an end, allowing the drivers time for standing start practice ahead of Saturday's first race.
Qualifying for the first race of the weekend will take place on Saturday morning at 10am local time (3pm BST) using the familiar elimination round format for setting the grid for street and road courses. The 85-lap race itself is set to get underway at 3.55pm local time (8.55pm BST) on Saturday afternoon.
Sunday will see the same times for qualifying and the second race of the weekend. However, qualifying for race 2 will consist of drivers setting their best lap times in a 12-minute track session rather than the elimination system; race 2 will also feature a rolling start rather than a standing start to proceedings when the green flag drops.
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