07/19/2014 11:42 EDT | Updated 09/18/2014 05:59 EDT

Rain, rain go away: Opening Honda Indy Toronto race delayed by wet conditions

TORONTO - When the pace car began sliding around the Toronto track, IndyCar knew it was in trouble.

The Honda Indy Toronto was postponed Saturday after steady rain throughout the afternoon made for hazardous conditions on the 11-turn, 2.81-kilometre track at Exhibition Place.

"I'm gutted. I just feel so bad for all the fans here in Toronto," said driver James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ont. "It's the worst case scenario — the rain started right as the race was supposed to start, the conditions were just so bad.

"Just gutted for these guys. I really hope we can get back tomorrow and mother nature co-operates a bit more and we can put on a show. These fans have been great all week and they definitely deserve it."

The race was moved to Sunday morning, with the second half of a planned doubleheader still scheduled for the afternoon. Both races were also shortened from 85 laps to 65.

The morning race will feature a rolling start, while the second will be a standing start. Qualifying for the second race will also be determined by current points standings, which puts Helio Castroneves on pole.

Driver visibility and a slick street course led to a pair of accidents before Saturday's race ever got started when Ryan Briscoe and Will Power each hit the wall. Even the pace car nearly slid into a corner.

"The conditions were tough for sure," said Ryan Hunter-Reay. "I can't speak for the drivers in the back on how visibility was but it was borderline — marginal even — for us."

Sebastien Bourdais was set to start on pole after qualifying first in the morning session. Bourdais waited under an umbrella through two red flags that twice pulled the cars off the track as IndyCar officials hoped for the weather to clear.

It never did. Bourdais, who was to start a race from the pole for the first time since 2007, looked steamed as he left the pits for good. He'll start again in first place Sunday morning.

IndyCar president Derrick Walker said race officials waited as long as they could for conditions to improve.

"I think it would have been crazy to have started the race today," said Walker. "I mean it doesn't look like a lot of water but when you get out there and look at it, it's enough to make a difference. ...

"I don't think we did the wrong thing. We waited and waited and part of the indecision ... was really us just going as late as we could before we called it."

The race, which was initially shortened from 85 laps to 65 and two hours to 90 minutes to compensate for the delay, was finally called after well over two hours of waiting.

The first casualty of the weather was a planned standing start that had to be scrapped in favour of a safer, single-file rolling start.

Briscoe then collided with the same turn where he broke his wrist last year. Power, who was supposed to start second, slid into a 180 and damaged his car to trigger another delay.

Power's Penke crew hustled to get his car fixed and back on the grid, but the effort was futile in the end when the race was cancelled and soggy fans left the track.

IndyCar races can be run in the rain, the last one as recently as June 28 at the doubleheader in Houston. But Walker said sweepers couldn't keep water from collecting on the track at Exhibition Place. Driver and fan safety, in the end, trumped the race.

"Racing in the rain's great but you can't go and throw everybody in the fence just because the conditions are archaic and I think they were that today," said Walker.

Both races Sunday could be just as wet. More rain is in the forecast, but Walker was adamant IndyCar would run at least one race in Toronto.

"I think we'd probably stay here as long as we possible could to get a race in, for sure," said Walker who added there was a chance it might also happen Monday if necessary.

"But I think we're going to get it in tomorrow. At least one race tomorrow."


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