While this race has only operated under the current sanctioning body since 2009, its history dates all the way back to 1986, making it one of the longest-running street course races in the world. As a race weekend event and as a city, Toronto has a great deal to offer!
There are a few options for ticket purchases, and they each offer different experiences. Your first choice (if it’s available – it frequently sells out early) should without question be a grandstand seat in turn 3, one of the most action-packed corners on any track that IndyCar visits. The only downside of sitting in this location is that it’s quite distant from the rest of the facilities at the track, so you’ll need to be able-bodied and ready to do lots of walking.
If turn 3 isn't for you, your decision hinges on whether paying the premium for being on the pit lane straight matters to you. If you care more about seeing the action on pit lane than watching cars in action on the track, it will be worthwhile to shell out. If you prefer to see IndyCars winding through corners, you’ll pay less and be happier if you sit in one of the grandstands in the turns 10 and 11 complex (turn 10 would be my first choice).
For any race fan serious enough to travel a long distance to get to Toronto, general admission tickets shouldn't even enter the discussion. There are no longer any GA grandstands at this event, and non-grandstand areas with good vantage points are hard to come by.
Paddock / Pit Access:
Both paddock passes and pit passes are easy to pick up – they can be added to your order when you buy your tickets. Paddock passes are also included with premium ticket purchases, which should impact your seat selection if you’re considering buying both. (Pit passes are available only separately and in limited quantities, though, so securing them early is recommended.) You can see the cars and the people of IndyCar up close for free if you just hang around near the laneway between the paddock and the pit lane entrance, but if you want a chance at getting autographs and seeing the teams at work then you’ll find these add-ons to be worth the extra cost.
At The Track:
The Honda Indy Toronto race weekend has non-stop action on-track. On top of two full IndyCar races as part of this year’s inaugural double-header, the full Road to Indy will race as well as the Acura Sports Car Challenge – making five motorsport categories keeping the track busy from sunrise to sundown on all three days. You’ll also find the Motorfest Fan Expo and the support series paddocks in the Direct Energy Centre on the outside of the front stretch (which is air-conditioned, a boon on hot summer days!). There’s also plenty to see in the infield with lots of displays and vendors selling merchandise, a variety of food options, and Ontario craft beers.
Away From the Track:
One of the greatest appeals of the Honda Indy Toronto is the opportunity to spend time in Canada’s largest city. Our downtown is always bustling with world-class theatre, restaurants, bars and night clubs, shopping, and much more. Our easy-to-navigate public transit system will connect you between the track, your hotel, and tourism options such as the iconic CN Tower and the city’s waterfront. Our baseball team is not in town on race weekend this year, sadly, but if you arrive early enough you could catch the reigning Canadian Football League champions, the Toronto Argonauts, in action at the Rogers Centre on Thursday night!
Hotels / Travel:
There are a few different ways to arrange your accommodations and travel, but here’s my suggestion: pay a little more for a downtown hotel, take a cab there from the airport, and save money by ditching the rental car. You won’t miss it. Between our very walkable streets, the aforementioned transit system, and plenty of taxis, you’ll find having a car of your own (and getting it through traffic, and parking it) to be a major liability.
Flying in: 95% of travelers to Toronto will arrive at Toronto Pearson, which is located about 30-45 minutes north west of the city. There is no train service directly from the airport to downtown, unfortunately – the best ways into the city are either to get the Airport Express shuttle bus or to take one of the very plentiful taxis. Since cab fares into downtown have mandated flat rates (roughly $40 CDN each way) and will drop you at your hotel’s doorstep, most people select that option, especially when travelling in groups.
Where to stay. There’s a handful of quality hotels within a half-hour or so walk to the track within a wide range of prices, though none of them are for the deeply budget-conscious – the Thompson is the closest (and likely the most expensive), followed by the Radisson Queens Quay and the Renaissance in the Rogers Centre (which may allow you to take in that Argos game for free, by the way – many rooms look out into the stadium!). A longer but still achievable walk would put the Hotel Le Germain, Westin Harbour Castle, Hyatt Regency, and Inter Continental within reach. But truly, if you can acquaint yourself with the transit system, you won’t have much trouble staying at any hotel close to the downtown loop of the subway line (the U-shaped portion on a Toronto subway map) anywhere south of Bloor Street. If I were booking a hotel for the Toronto race weekend, I’d just hit up Hotwire a few weeks out and book the cheapest option without much worry. (Though with that being said, the streetcar lines that go directly into Exhibition Place are under construction through 2014. Be sure to ask at your hotel or with the TTC what the best route to the track from your location is at the moment.)
There is also a Global Village Backpackers at King and Spadina, which would be a workable option for more adventuresome travellers. And don’t hesitate to look around for weekend condo rentals if you know how to do your homework -- there are plenty of them located a very short distance from the track, and it could be a good way to score a bargain.
Summary. For on-track and off-track entertainment and atmosphere, the Honda Indy Toronto simply can’t be beat – and since Canada is a Commonwealth nation, IndyCar fans from the UK will likely feel more at home here than anywhere else on the schedule. Head on over to the Great White North -- we’ll save a double-double and some Timbits for you. Hope to see you soon, eh!