IndyCar drivers, officials enthusiastic after IMS road course test

IndyCar News/Releases, INDYCAR PR — By on September 5, 2013 12:11 pm
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[Source: INDYCAR press release]

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INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2013 – IZOD IndyCar Series drivers Graham Rahal and Ryan Briscoe participated in a test organized by Indianapolis Motor Speedway and INDYCAR to gather information about the current road course layouts as IMS considers changes and upgrades.

Speedway officials plan to invest nearly $100 million in the facility as part of a long-term master plan that could include modifications to the road course to allow it to accommodate INDYCAR testing or racing in the future.

MotoGP and GRAND-AM Road Racing use sections of the infield course for their races at IMS, with MotoGP competing at the track since 2008 on a counter-clockwise (MotoGP) version of the circuit and GRAND-AM since 2012 on a clockwise (Grand Prix) layout. Formula One raced on the IMS road course from 2000-07.

“We wanted to evaluate the racetrack as it is,” said Derrick Walker, president of competition and operations, INDYCAR. “There are a number of ideas to improve overtaking and making the racing more interesting perhaps than it was during the Formula One days. I’m not sure the Speedway needs to make monster changes. There could be some alterations that would improve the racing short term, and then if the fans come, you keep doing more and keep doing more. I think you could develop a really unique racetrack out of the infield.”

Rahal and Briscoe quickly warmed to the concepts as they logged laps clockwise and counterclockwise, utilizing Turn 1 of the oval and the existing Turn 1 of the Grand Prix road course.

“It’s a little different going the opposite way around, but it’s actually not a bad track,” said Rahal, who competed on the Grand Prix layout in Formula BMW in 2004 and Firestone Indy Lights in 2006. “Everybody knocks it, but I’ve had some fun. You’re sliding around; there’s not a lot of grip. The track layout as it is, would it be great for passing? There are really only two spots. But that’s why we’re trying a lot of different configurations to analyze and potentially help.

“I suggested a few things already, and IMS and INDYCAR want input. When I showed up, I thought we shouldn’t use Turn 1 at Indy. We shouldn’t run on the oval at all. But I think that’s what is going to make the racing so good. If you’re leading on the last lap you’re bound to get passed by anyone within eight carlengths. The tow someone would get down the frontstraight would be massive.

“How do you put a quick lap in? Do you set up the car to go for the frontstraight or the infield? That could be an intriguing mix race day. Having a straightaway this long, with the top speed of about 190 (mph), it’s quite a mix. I think that would make the racing extremely exciting here.”

Added 2012 Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Briscoe: “The track as currently set up has a lot of high-speed corners, and going clockwise gives you a different feel. There are a couple of areas that could be addressed to increase passing zones, which would make the racing great.”

A potential IZOD IndyCar Series race on the road course as early as 2014 has been discussed among INDYCAR and IMS officials, which Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing co-owner and 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal endorses.

“I feel privileged to be a part of (the test day) and excited about the idea,” Bobby Rahal said. “Just as Daytona has a number of events leading up to the ’500,’ why not Indianapolis with a road course race in early May? I was very much a traditionalist until the stock cars came here. They’ve had Grand Prix races, GRAND-AM races, bike races and even the mini-marathon, and I understand why it’s become a multi-event facility. I’m all for it.”

Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said he’s heard from ticket-holders who have lobbied for a third race using the road course featuring the IZOD IndyCar Series.

“We have a great facility right in the middle of Indianapolis, where many teams are based, so even if you were to use it for testing throughout the season it would be nice to have,” he said.

“We think we have a big fan base in Indianapolis that loves to see the Indy cars run. Yes, it’s a break from tradition, not running on the oval, but that’s why we’re here to test. We’ve already heard great things from the drivers, and that’s part of the next step in deciding how we use the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.”

The only other time an Indy car was tested on the IMS road course was in fall 2011 when two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Dan Wheldon tested the current IZOD IndyCar Series Dallara chassis that debuted in 2012. Wheldon ran the 13-turn layout in clockwise direction only during the session, which was used to develop the car, not for track information purposes.

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WHAT THEY SAID ABOUT THE TEST:

GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 15 blu ECigs Honda): “It’s a little different going the opposite way around, but it’s actually not a bad track. You’re sliding around; there’s not a lot of grip. The track layout as it is, would it be great for passing? There are really only two spots. But that’s why we’re trying a lot of different configurations to analyze and potentially help.” (About what he’d do to change the track): “I suggested a few things already and IMS and INDYCAR want input. When I showed up, I thought we shouldn’t use Turn 1 at Indy. We shouldn’t run on the oval at all. But I think that’s what is going to make the racing so good. If you’re leading on the last lap, you’re bound to get passed by anyone within eight carlengths. The tow someone would get down the frontstraight would be massive. How do you put a quick lap in? Do you set up the car to go for the frontstraight or the infield? That could be an intriguing mix race day. Having a straightaway this long, with the top speed of about 190 (mph), it’s quite a mix. I think that would make the racing extremely exciting here.” (When would you like to see a race?): “We’re all here for the Month of May anyways, so let’s put on another good show and give the fans something else to see. It’s a totally different form of racing. The only oval race that should be here in my eyes is the Indy 500, but there’s no reason not to do a road race. I think it would be awesome.”

BOBBY RAHAL (1986 Indianapolis 500 winner/Co-owner Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing): “That’s the biggest thing. Wait a minute, I think we’re supposed to be going that way (pointing in oval direction). I feel privileged to be a part of (the test day) and excited about the idea. Just as Daytona has a number of events leading up to the ’500,’ why not Indianapolis with a road course race in early May? I was very much a traditionalist until the stock cars came here. They’ve had Grand Prix races, GRAND-AM races, bike races and even the mini-marathon, and I understand why it’s become a multi-event facility. I’m all for it.”

DERRICK WALKER (President of Competition and Operations, INDYCAR): “We wanted to evaluate the racetrack as it is. There are a number of ideas to improve overtaking and making the racing more interesting perhaps than it was during the Formula One days. I’m not sure the Speedway needs to make monster changes. There could be some alterations that would improve the racing short term, and then I think if the fans come, you keep doing more and keep doing more. I think you could develop a really unique racetrack out of the infield.”

RYAN BRISCOE: “It was definitely strange to be coming off the wrong way on the frontstretch. It’s a pretty good track, actually. It’s got a lot of high-speed corners. Turn 13 (oval Turn 1) is really fast. A lot of high load in the steering wheel and very different to what we do here on the 2.5-mile oval. It’s a really different feeling going the other way. It’s a good track. It’s great to be back in the Panther car. I didn’t think I’d be driving an Indy car for a while. It’s a little bonus mid-week fun for me.” (What would you change): “It’s a good road course. As you come down the middle stretch (Hulman Boulevard), it’s a very fast corner, and it would make passing difficult. If you came down that straight into a tighter corner, it would help the racing a little bit. The layout is really nice. It’s fast and it’s pretty physical, as well.” (When would you like to see a race here?): “When they tell me to get in the car. I heard rumors of the beginning of May to kick the month off, and that would be fine. December. I’d be good with that. It might be a bit cold, but any time we’re here at Indy would be great.” (About running the oval direction): “It’s good. Right now, as it is, I’d prefer the other directions, but with changes, I think it could be a good course in that direction.”

 

J. DOUGLAS BOLES (President, Indianapolis Motor Speedway): “It’s great to have Indy cars back out here. Obviously the first time we had somebody here was with Dan Wheldon in the fall of 2011. Being able to see guys come out here with cars that are ready to run and ready to go is fantastic.” (About the prospect of having a race): “I think everybody at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the whole organization is excited about the prospects. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this test. We have a great facility right here in the middle of Indianapolis, and many of the teams are based here. Even if we were using it for testing throughout the season, it would be nice to have, but we certainly think we have a big fan base here in Indianapolis and people love to see these cars run. Yes, it’s a break from tradition, not running in the oval direction, but that’s why we’re here. We’re excited and we’re hearing great things from the drivers, which is even better, and that’s the next step in deciding how we use the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.”

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