With the patience of... well, a race car driver, Paul Tracy broke free from a pack of media and maneuvered around a jam of cars and trucks on Lake Shore Boulevard West.
The Thrill from West Hill led the group on a bike ride around the 1.75-mile Exhibition Place street course on July 14. But, since the Lake Shore wasn't yet closed to traffic for race weekend (July 16 to 18) the pack of bikers didn't quite get the brisk trip around the track they had expected.
"It would have been nice not to have had to stop on the Lake Shore," Tracy said. "It would have been nice to get a couple laps in and keep riding and not have to have it be so stop and go."
The 42-year-old Scarborough native has been racing since the age of six when he said he used to run go-carts in Whitby. He has competed at every Toronto Indy event since 1987.
Since arriving in Toronto on Sunday, July 11, Tracy, ever the racing ambassador, has made a number of appearances, signed autographs and posed for photographs. This particular event was held to give people a view of the track they might not otherwise see.
"Every one of these little cracks is like a bump that you can feel in the car... all these manhole covers and bumps that you feel on the set of the bike are magnified 100 times in the race car," Tracy explained.
"You are basically sitting right on the floor of the car, which is hard carbon fibre and the car is a couple millimetres off the ground so every time it hits the ground it hits you in the rear end. It is definitely a bumpy track, it is a slippery track, it is one of the toughest tracks in terms of a street track to get a handle on and figure it out - that is what makes it challenging."
This event was also an opportunity for Tracy to talk about the cardiovascular benefits of cycling. Tracy recently lost nearly 40 pounds in preparation for Honda Indy Toronto weekend, he said, by cycling.
He said he feels better, has more energy and looks forward to waking up early at his home in Las Vegas and heading out for a bike ride.
Physical training is crucial to a driver's success. Less weight means more speed and a high level of fitness helps the driver withstand the punishing stress on the body over the course of a race weekend. Tracy's weight loss has not yet translated to the track; he didn't qualify for the Indianapolis 500.
But, one thing is for certain - Toronto's is a track Tracy knows inside out. He will be contesting his 18th race in Toronto this Sunday, and in 17 previous starts on the Exhibition Place circuit he has finished in the top-10 a total of 11 times with eight top-five showings, five podium performances, two wins (1993 and 2003) and one pole.
He is optimistic about is year's Toronto Indy.
"I know the track; it has been the same for years," Tracy said, adding that doesn't necessarily give him an edge. "There are a lot of new guys in the series, but some of the old veterans know the track really well."
For a second year in a row Honda Canada will sponsor his KV Racing Technology car in the Toronto Indy, in support of Make-A-Wish Canada, and Honda has confirmed it will match donations to the Make-A-Wish charity this season once again.
"Last year we ran well, but got into a smash up in the end, but the desired result of showing I could be competitive and could run with top guys was there so from that stand point I feel this year we have a good shot at doing well," Tracy said.