New Cars Getting Good Reviews From Drivers

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, March 14 2012

The new Dallaras are getting good reviews from the drivers and teams. (Photos courtesy of the IZOD IndyCar Series)

Graham Rahal says the IZOD IndyCar Series’ Open Test at Sebring international Raceway has confirmed there are more sweet-than-weak spots in the revolutionary Dallara DW12 chassis.

“It’s a good chassis,” said Rahal, among series regulars who tested on the bumpy 1.67-mile, 11-turn circuit last week. “When the car first came out there was a lot of people thinking, ‘Is it really that good? Is it a lemon?’ People thought that there would be a lot of teams that wouldn’t be able to show up. It’s a really good car. Street-course/road-course performance is very impressive. The oval car, they tested (at Texas Motor Speedway) not too long ago. The speeds were very similar to what we ran before, which says a lot because it’s the first time it’s really been run on a superspeedway.

“We’ve got a long way to go with it but it has a lot of potential. Really, the first teams that got their cars only took delivery on Dec. 15. My car, I finally got a spare like a week ago. We’ve had one car and we’re on track at the end of January, and off we went. Technology-wise it’s a step forward. Braking-wise, the brakes on this car are phenomenal. It’s got a carbon fiber brake system on it, more like a Formula One car. I mean, it’s incredible the way it stops. I think it’s got a lot of potential, a ton.”

Two-time IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon emerged as the overall pacesetter during sessions conducted March 5-6 and 8-9 at the historic Florida layout. Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda, recorded the only sub 52-second laps during the sessions, with a best time of 51.7932-seconds in the morning test on March 8. The Open Test was prelude to the season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 25.

Dixon’s best lap on Friday was 51.7938-seconds. Teammate and four-time series champion Dario Franchitti was 0.2219-seconds back with former Formula One star Rubens Barrichello third in the No. 8 KV Racing Technology Dallara/Chevrolet at 52.2242-seconds. Mike Conway, driving the No. 14 ABC Supply Dallara/Honda for A.J. Foyt Racing, had another strong outing (52.2243-seconds) to place fourth, while Rahal was fifth (52.4692-seconds) in the No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda. Takuma Sato was sixth in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara/Honda (52.4692-seconds).

“We worked through a lot of things, which was the goal,” Rahal said. “We’re really happy with the performance of the car and the team. We’re really bonding. We’re right there. We’re not far off. At the end of the day, the timesheets may not resemble how competitive we are. Certainly we have improvement to do, but we’re creeping up on it and getting closer.

“Remember that last (Dallara) car lasted since 2003, so that thing was so polished. I mean, it was perfect. When you go out there, there was barely an ounce of drag. When we’d go to the wind tunnel, it’d be hard to find a single pound of drag because of how developed it was. This car, there’s a lot to be found. Ten pounds of drag is one mile per hour in our cars, so I’ll bet you there’s a few hundred pounds of drag to be found yet and we’ve got to figure that out.”

The lap times of Dixon and Franchitti with Honda’s new twin-turbocharged V-6 answered Chevrolet’s version from earlier in the week. Chevy Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe dominated the first two days of the four-day test. Castroneves set a lap of 52.1413-seconds in the No. 3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Chevrolet, a shade quicker than Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevy. Briscoe was third-quick at 52.2072-seconds, just 0.0659-of-a second behind Castroneves.

Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay, who topped the time chart on Day 1, was fourth-quick on Day 2 at 52.3466-seconds, while Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt/Hamilton Motorsports was fifth/first among Honda teams (52.4698-seconds).

The accumulation of valuable seat time is continuing during additional private testing through Wednesday on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.

“Any track time that we get is so valuable,” said Briscoe, among 16 drivers booked to test at Barber. “As we get closer to St. Pete, every bit of mileage gets more and more important. From getting used to all the new features on the car like the brakes or the clutch and other things like that, those are things that we will have to have mastered before the first race. I did a fair bit of testing during the winter and I feel quite acclimatized to the car, but you can never have too much running time.”

Drivers admittedly are watching what others are doing and measuring themselves against the competition. “It’s super important to do tests days like these where there are other cars out because you do have to get a feel for how quickly other people are figuring things out,” said Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand. “At the same time, when (Sebring) gets gripped up, it’s like no place else. It’s rough like a street course and super grippy like a road course. We try to take it for what it is, but it’s great to do this much running this close to the season.”

Series drivers turned a combined 4,107 laps during the four days of the Open Test. That equals 6,158 miles, approximately the same distance as driving three round-trips from Indianapolis to Sebring International Raceway.

Scheduled to participate Wednesday at Barber Motorsports Park:

Chevrolet teams

No. 2 Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske)

No. 3 Helio Castroneves (Team Penske)

No. 4 JR Hildebrand (Panther Racing)

No. 5 E.J. Viso (KV Racing Technology)

No. 8 Rubens Barrichello (KV Racing Technology)

No. 11 Tony Kanaan (KV Racing Technology)

No. 12 Will Power (Team Penske)

No. 20 Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing)

No. 26 Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport)

No. 27 James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport)

No. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport)

Honda teams

No. 18 Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing)

No. 19 James Jakes (Dale Coyne Racing)

No. 67 Josef Newgarden (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing)

Additionally, Franchitti and Dixon will be testing their Dallara/Hondas on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road-course on Wednesday.

A draft of INDYCAR’s 2013 aero kit regulations is expected to be delivered “very soon,” according to Will Phillips, vice president of technology.

Bodywork open to development and for sale by any approved manufacturer will be introduced for the 2013 season. Phillips said the three engine manufacturers _ Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus _ in addition to “a few other companies we’re talking to” have shown interest in designing, manufacturing and supplying the aero kits that will sell for $75,000 each.

For 2012, all IndyCar Series teams will utilize the oval and road/street course bodywork that is part of the Dallara DW12 package. The sidepods and engine cover will be universal for the diverse set of racetracks, while Dallara-designed and produced front and rear wings will be different for the ovals and road/street circuits.

“The base principles are still in place,” Phillips said. “One would have to understand though that in 2013 the Dallara kit will have been around for a year _ a year’s development. A delay in the aero kit has changed some of the philosophy of what you are and aren’t allowed to do. Those are the issues that remain to be sorted. In terms of what parts were and were not on an aero kit, there’s no intention to change what was there.”

Dallara, however, will not be one of the companies entering the 2013 aero kit market, according to head of research and development Andrea Toso.

“It’s difficult to commit to an aero kit because we’ve been so busy with our parts production and Indy aero,” Toso said. “It’s a large investment and Dallara would not be profitable. You have to be humble enough to provide the platform – and let them play.”

Three IZOD IndyCar Series drivers are entered in the 60th 12 Hours of Sebring set for on Saturday. Simon Pagenaud (Schmidt/Hamilton Racing) will drive a P1 entry for Muscle Milk Pickett Racing; Ryan Hunter-Reay will compete in P2 for Level 5 Motorsports and E.J. Viso will compete in PC with CORE Autosport.

Other drivers with IndyCar Series ties in the field are Bertrand Baguette (Oak Racing P1); Martin Plowman and Francesco Draccone (Conquest Endurance P2); Raphael Matos (Performance Tech Motorsports PC); Bruno Junqueira (RSR Racing PC) and Townsend Bell (Alex Job Racing GTC).

A record field will contest the opening rounds of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, first step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, this week. Thirty-five entries are scheduled to take the green flag in the opening rounds of the 14-race championship, held in support of the 60th 12 Hours of Sebring on Thursday and Friday.

A total of 22 Championship Class cars are on the entry list, along with 13 National Class cars, which include 10 of the newly eligible SCCA Formula Enterprises Van Diemen-Mazdas. Previously, the largest field since USF2000 was re-introduced in 2010 after a three-year hiatus comprised 19 cars at the 2011 season-finale on the streets of Baltimore.

“When I look at the entry list, I am not only excited about the number of entries but the talent that is on board for this season,” said Dan Andersen, owner/CEO of Andersen Promotions, the series promoter. “There are numerous drivers who I believe are truly future stars. In the relatively short time the Mazda Road to Indy ladder has been in place, it has proven to be a system that works. We have tremendous partners who are committed to paving the way for drivers to make it in this sport and continually strive to make this program better. It’s an exciting time for our series.”

Canadian businessman Ike Janacek has been named general manager of the Edmonton Indy. The Edmonton resident, who served as general manager of Edmonton’s Sutton Place Hotel and co-chair of DMF Downtown Cluster, began his position with Octane Motorsports Events, promoter of the July IZOD IndyCar Series event, on Monday.

“I am extremely proud to welcome Ike Janacek as our new Edmonton Indy general manager,” said Octane CEO François Dumontier. “He brings to our team a significant knowledge of Edmonton and its travel business community, having served for the last decade as an executive at one of the city’s major hotels. His experience in management, sales, marketing and especially in customer services is unique. Satisfying customers is part of Octane’s DNA. I am confident that with Ike at the helm of the Edmonton Indy, we are more than ever in a position to deliver an outstanding event to our fans.”

Janacek, 56, studied hotel management at LaSalle College in Montreal. He served as an executive at hotels in Montreal, Vancouver and Chicago, before making his home in Alberta, first in Calgary for five years and then in Edmonton in 2003 when he joined the Sutton Place Hotel.

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, March 14 2012
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