TORONTO (Reuters) - Double-headers have long been part of baseball and it is nothing to see golfers pull double duty, but rarely are drivers forced to take on the challenge of two races in the same day as they did on Sunday at the Toronto Indy.
Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais and Briton Mike Conway shared the honors, each picking up a win on a wild weekend of racing that renewed the debate about drivers’ safety.
Bourdais, who had ruled over Indy car winning four successive driver’s titles from 2004 before jumping to Formula One with Toro Rosso, picked up his first series win since 2007.
Conway, who suffered serious leg and back injuries in a 2010 crash at the Indianapolis 500 and refuses to race on ovals, claimed his second win of the season - both coming on temporary road courses.
After rain on Saturday washed out Race One of the weekend double bill, IndyCar officials decided to squeeze in two races on Sunday on Toronto’s temporary street course.
The postponement created the first same-day doubleheader since 1981 at the Atlanta Motor Speedway when Rick Mears swept the Kraco Twin 125s. An IndyCar series twin bill of shortened races was also contested at Texas Motor Speedway in 2011 where Dario Franchitti and Will Power each took the checker flag.
“It is not ideal...it’s brutal,” said Brazil’s 2013 Indy 500 winner Tony Kanaan, who is not short on stamina having competed in the Hawaii Ironman. He managed third place in Race One and a second in Race Two.
“I don’t think people understand how hard it is to drive a race car in two races in one day,” he added. “It’s tough but it is what it is, we have to do it. That is why we work out.”
Earlier this year, Kurt Busch made headlines when he tried to complete a U.S. Memorial Day double, racing in both the Indy 500 and NASCAR’s Coca Cola 600 but had spent months meticulously preparing for the attempt.
Drivers had no such warning in Toronto as rain forced a rewrite of the schedule with many teams split on IndyCar’s decision not to race in wet conditions as Formula One does.
The scene of a gruesome crash in 1996 that killed driver Jeff Krosnoff and a course worker, the bumpy 11-turn circuit can be tricky even in ideal conditions leaving most drivers applauding the postponement.
But in the end there was no avoiding the wet.
While the morning race was run on a dry track, rain was back in the afternoon creating more havoc on a grueling weekend that took a mental and physical toll on drivers and teams.
“It is something no one wants to happen, what happened yesterday was the right decision for the series to call it a day,” said three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves.
“It was extremely dangerous for us to drive in those conditions and right now it is tough on everyone.”
With only four races remaining on the schedule, the bill added more drama to a tight battle for the driver’s crown.
Castroneves leaves Toronto sitting atop the standings on 533 with Penske team mate Power just 13 points back and Indy 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay 69 adrift.
Editing by Larry Fine