A few of us at Monaco Increase Management were rubbing their eyes as Alex Palou’s No.10 car, in a distinctive orange-blue livery, came around the last corner at the end of lap 85 to take second place finish. Palou’s car’s nose cone was cracked, the front wing tilted to the right-hand side, the lower edge of the endplate scraping the tarmac. And it had been like that for nearly half of the race. On top of that, the 26-years-old series leader had had to run more than 40 laps on the last filling of ethanol, taking advantage of a caution period and hoping for it to last long enough so that he could save fuel to the end, the recommended distance for a full load being about 35 laps. And yet, as many cars dived for the pit road for a final splash, Palou soldiered on, allowing only Christian Lundgaard to pass him on his way to his maiden Indycar victory. It’s worth noting, though, that Lundgaard had started the race from pole position, whereas Palou, his qualifying run hampered by sudden rain, was down to P15 on the grid.
This is the story of the Honda Indy Toronto weekend, a weekend which, by the way, saw Monaco Increase Management drivers take three podium finish in two days on the same track (two with USF Pro 2000 racer Lirim Zendeli and one with Palou). But what Alex did on Sunday is worth remembering. Every time his driving and race management skills are praised, he seems to find a way to further raise the stake. Dallara-made Indycars are robust for sure, but having to manage one that has probably lost more than 30 per cent of its vertical load on the front wing, knowing that the push-to-pass is a no-go as fuel has to be saved all the way through, made Palou’s stubborn resistance a new chapter in the history of motor-racing. He and his CGR team had been caught by surprise by weather conditions during Saturday’s qualifying and knew they had to re-build a race around strategies and careful management, which they did by starting to delay the first pit call after running the first stint on hard rubber tires.
“We know it was going to be an eventful race”, Palou said “and had a lot of ups and downs with the accidents, with number 27 (Alex Rossi, ed.) and Helio (Castroneves, whom Palou had to avoid on track swerving to the right and crashing the front of the car against the wall). But even with this wing, the car was still handling OK. Obviously, we had to save tons of fuel and tons of tires, so in the end I am happy with P2, A win would have been possible, but not starting from where we started today…”.
And yet, almost miraculously, Palou’s troublesome race didn’t stop his run for the championship crown. Now he ranks an even more solid first in the points standings with 417, 117 more than second-placed Scott Dixon, as the Indycar circus gears up for the next double-header with the two Hi-Vee 250 on the Iowa oval.