The kick off to the inaugural race of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series was preceded by a huge level of anticipation

The kick off to the inaugural race of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series was preceded by a huge level of anticipation – and some degree of pressure.  In addition to the teams and drivers, the media, fans, and sponsors were all anxious to get the season started and to get long awaited answers to some pretty pertinent questions. 

How would the new DW12 chassis perform?  Did the teams make the right decision regarding their engine manufacturer partnerships? How would our collective hearts and minds deal with the reminder of our friend Dan Wheldon and his family?

Now, with time to digest the outstanding weekend of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, most of these questions have been answered.  The overall race was a success:  It was competitive and exciting.

Different strategies played out with differing results.  No doubt the teams and manufacturers will use the key information and benchmarks from St. Pete to further refine their efforts for the upcoming races.

Our management team in St. Pete paid tribute to Dan Wheldon with much grace, dignity and respect.  This is indeed a sensitive, delicate and difficult balance and one that was executed with much aplomb.  While never to be forgotten, Dan would certainly encourage us all to continue to move forward.

Personally, from the perspective of the overall event management, I'm challenging our team in Toronto to substantially increase the off track entertainment value for our customers.  The quantity and quality of the vendors, exhibitors and interactive displays provided everyone with a myriad of activities to keep you fully entertained throughout the weekend.

The catering and concessions in St. Pete were also impressive.  The selection options, presentation and overall quality were fabulous.  The bar has certainly been raised in this regard.  I was pleased that a contingent from our caterer in Toronto spent a full day on site and "back of house" to fully appreciate the opportunity for improvement expected from our customers and hospitality clients in Toronto.

In terms of the on track action, in addition to the IZOD IndyCar race, Indy Lights, Star Mazda and the ever-popular Ferrari Challenge all put on a great show.  In talking to them directly they are all extremely excited about racing in the streets of Toronto.  By the time they arrive here the rivalries and championship runs will be taking shape so we can expect much on track excitement when they hit the track at Exhibition Place.

Though we really haven't had much to complain about this winter in terms of the weather, the fact remains that a few days spent in the hot sun can do wonders for the body and soul.  I return from St. Pete refreshed, recharged and excited for the upcoming few months!

Charlie Johnstone
Vice President & General Manager
Honda Indy Toronto