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Roundtable: Third Race in Canada?

Chris Estrada, Stephanie Wallcraft, Zachary Houghton, Kyle Lavigne
| Jul 30, 2012

Opinions expressed below are those of the authors and not of INDYCAR.

Over the past month, rumors have persisted about a potential third race in Canada for the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2013. The future of IndyCar racing in the country appears to be bright, with the Toronto round re-gaining strength in recent years and a pair of talented Canadian drivers in James Hinchcliffe and Alex Tagliani.
Perhaps the only concern lies with the Edmonton Indy, which has benefitted from a new track layout and management team in Octane Motorsports but hasn’t settled its long-term future yet. It will be back in 2013 – the final year of its current three-year contract with INDYCAR.
We’ll let Randy Bernard and Octane figure out the business of keeping Edmonton on the docket for many more years. As for us INDYCAR Nation writers, we’re left to ponder over where a third race in Canada would be contested.
MoreFrontWing.com’s Stephanie Wallcraft gets the first crack at it:
Here's something I can tell you with 95% certainty despite knowing nothing official: The race will be in Quebec. Canada can essentially be divided into four regions for marketing purposes: the East Coast (too small for INDYCAR to be concerned with), Quebec, Ontario (already served by the Toronto race), and the West, which covers an enormous swath of land from Manitoba all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
Some people will tell you that events could co-exist in Edmonton and Vancouver, and while it's certainly possible, it wouldn't really achieve much from INDYCAR's perspective (though it would put an event in the Pacific Northwest, but honestly, Portland is interested in hosting an event and would be much easier to arrange). Calgary is another market that INDYCAR would be wise to look at, but a race in Calgary would kill the race in Edmonton without question, and that might be a premature move.
So, the bigger question is: Where in Quebec would this theoretical third race be? Circuit Gilles Villeneuve is off the table unless someone has managed to convince Montreal City Hall to change the noise ordinance law that limits the track to two race weekends a year, and the effort required to do that makes it highly unlikely. Though some really old-timey fans daydream about Sanair, my understanding is that the track would need far too many upgrades to make it viable. The iconic street event at Trois-Rivières would be a nice name to have, but the streets there are far too narrow for high-end formula cars.
That leaves: the relatively new Circuit ICAR, an FIA-approved 3.4 km road course that I know very little about; Circuit Mont-Tremblant, which isn't the most fascinating track but would certainly make the corporate hospitality types happy; and a street race in Quebec City. An event championed by Alex Tagliani there has been a rumor for quite some time. None of these options would shock me.
One thing is certain: A third Canadian race, developed and promoted properly, would be an asset to INDYCAR from all sides. It would be great to see the return of the Canadian Triple Crown. Bring it on!

Next up is IndyCarAdvocate.com’s Zachary Houghton, who believes that a revamped version of the Trois-Rivieres street circuit could be the best option:

As the IZOD IndyCar Series looks to add to its schedule in the next few years, it is imperative that the event be given every opportunity of succeeding. That means looking at geographical considerations, potential event fan base, and of course, a willingness with a course or city to work with IndyCar. As with the Milwaukee Mile, there must be a sense that each race will only be given a limited scope of time to be proven to work for both the Series and the promoters.

In this light, Quebec’s Trois-Rivières street circuit might seem on the surface to be a good fit for the IICS, at least one the surface. There is already an established event there, one that includes Firestone Indy Lights, Star Mazda, and other series. Additionally, there’s a crowd that has enjoyed racing here for years. The current 1.5 mile course, however, is perhaps too narrow in parts (especially through Turn 3), and may pose some concerns for IndyCar if not addressed. Still, given the racing history of the area, a race in Quebec as part of a Canadian Triple Crown continues to be quite intriguing. One challenge that would remain is scheduling; Mid-Ohio’s race is scheduled for the same weekend this year, for instance.

ICN contributor Kyle Lavigne isn’t sure which location would be the best, but recognizes some of the obstacles that go with two of the more obvious choices:

Two venues immediately came to mind when rumors of a third Canadian round started circling. However, though both facilities are obvious, each has a number of problems that mean the rumored event will probably be held elsewhere.

First, and probably most obvious, is Vancouver, which hosted IndyCar and Champ Car races from 1990 to 2004. A popular circuit (especially the 1998-2004 layout), it typically produced entertaining races. However, the event was hardly popular locally. There was a long-standing controversy about its place within the city, with locals frequently voicing concerns about noise level and overall disruption (the details are explained in “Indy Dreams and Urban Nightmares: Speed Merchants, Spectacle, and the Struggle over Public Space in the World-Class City” by Mark Douglas Lowes). It’s possible a return to Vancouver is the cards, but a lot of work needs to be done.

Another obvious possibility is a return to the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, which hosted Champ Car events from 2002 to 2006. However, this track has a major hurdle of its own: the facility is only allowed to host one race per year outside of the Formula 1 Canadian Grand Prix. Currently, that additional event is NASCAR’s NAPA Auto Parts 200 for the Nationwide Series. Barring something unforeseen, it seems unlikely INDYCAR’s third Canadian event will run there.

Could a third Canadian race happen? Absolutely, and with the passion Canadian race fans bring to INDYCAR, I think it’s deserved. But, it may not happen at the most obvious venues, making the potential host city/track a total wildcard at the moment.

As for my take on the matter, I can’t help but think I need to learn how to speak some French. Because whenever I read the tea leaves, so to speak, it seems like a street race in Quebec City will be the outcome if INDYCAR chooses to have a third race north of the border.

Everyone would go to Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for an IndyCar race in a heartbeat. But both of its allotted race weekends are filled for the moment, so that’s just a dream for now. Vancouver also could be a “destination race” for the series, but a recent article from Ben Kuzma of British Columbia’s The Province enlightened me of the many current roadblocks that exist there -- from increased housing around the old street circuit to Vancouver’s push to be more environmentally friendly. Getting a race there would be a big job.

Meanwhile, Quebec City has been in the rumor mill for some time now, and considering INDYCAR’s drive to raise live attendance at its events, a street race in “La Vieille Capitale” would seem to fit that the best. Tagliani, a Quebec native, would provide a natural face for the event, and the city is chock full of history as one of the oldest European settlements in North America. Race fans would have plenty of sights to see and the series would have a picturesque location to work with.


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