[Source: INDYCAR press release]
INDYCAR, the sanctioning body for the IZOD IndyCar Series, announced today that it will condense its Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) into three speed phases from its traditional four, while still maintaining a total of 40 laps for the program.
Phase I will consist of 10 laps at speeds ranging from 200 to 205 mph. Phase II will consist of 15 laps at speeds ranging from 205 to 210 mph, and Phase III will focus on 15 laps at 210 mph and over. Data and car settings will be monitored by officials as drivers progress through the phases.
Driver coach and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk will oversee ROP on behalf of IZOD IndyCar Series officials along with Race Director Beaux Barfield. Tony Kanaan, the 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion and driver for KV Racing Technology, will serve as a driver advisor.
“As we head into preparations for the Indianapolis 500, we felt it was important to have ROP pace our rookie drivers through more quality laps at relevant speeds,” said Barfield, INDYCAR President of Competition. “Our emphasis will focus on car control, car placement and a consistent driving pattern in addition to the speed benchmarks.
“We have a great wealth of experience in the paddock that we can utilize to prepare these drivers for their first run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Arie will be a great resource — from a general racing line to reading the wind to prepare for entry into Turn 1. Additionally, it is beneficial to have a current driver such as Tony on hand to speak specifically on driving the new car at Indianapolis.”
Luyendyk, who made 17 consecutive starts in the “500″ and was the 1985 Rookie of the Year, also holds the track four-lap (236.986 mph in 1996) and one-lap (237.498 mph) qualifying records.
“It’s really good for the rookies to have the opportunity to have guys like us to talk to them and give them insight,” Luyendyk said. “I’ll share a lot of my experiences – stuff that catches you and before you know it you’re out. No matter how many times you drive on this racetrack, there’s always something to learn.”
ROP will take place from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on May 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Phases I and II must be completed during this time, or during other rookie-only sessions to be scheduled by INDYCAR on May 12 and May 13. Phase III may be completed at any time the track is open to all cars.
Drivers scheduled to participate include: Jean Alesi, Rubens Barrichello, Bryan Clauson, Wade Cunningham, Katherine Legge, James Jakes, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud. All Indianapolis 500 rookies, along with returning driver Michel Jourdain Jr., must pass the program before they are permitted to participate in the event.
Indianapolis 500 veteran Sebastien Bourdais will participate in an Indianapolis 500 refresher program on May 10.