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Notes: Montoya Continues To Shake Down Indy car

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 11 2013

Juan Pablo Montoya tested PIR this week for Team Penske. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)

Juan Pablo Montoya completed the second round of his return to an IndyCar Series car during a one-day test at Phoenix International Raceway on Tuesday.

Last month, the 2000 Indianapolis 500 winner tested on the 1.65-mile Sebring International Raceway short course. Up next is a rescheduled session Dec. 12 at the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway oval and a Dec. 16 date at the 2.385-mile, 12-turn Sonoma Raceway.

Helio Castroneves, the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship runner-up and three-time Indy 500 champion, and four-time 500 Mile Race champion Rick Mears joined Montoya at Phoenix.

Castroneves took some early laps to shake down the car.

“Well, my first impression was when Helio started running. We did some laps in the road car and I said in NASCAR we brake here and here,” Montoya said. “And he was like, ‘No, this is going to be wide open.’ I’m like, ‘What?’ I will tell you, if you are standing in pit road and watch in Turn 1 how the car goes. In the straight it just goes fast, but you don’t really realize how fast he’s going until he turns and the thing just snaps into the corner. And then you like into (Turns) 3 and 4 and you know, ‘Wow.’ Your foot never moved.

“For me, the big difference is the entry to the corner. Once you get to the middle of the corner, whatever speed you have, you are committed to. You can see the exit, too, and you’re like, ‘Ahhh.’

“You just want to build to it and get comfortable with the feel. I’m still understanding what the car wants and what I want out of the car. You forget how fast an open-wheel car is (on the Phoenix oval). Around 6 seconds quicker than a Cup car a lap.”

Following a break for the holidays, Montoya will join Castroneves and Will Power for a manufacturer test in mid-January at Sebring. An Open Test is scheduled for March 16-17 at Barber Motorsports Park, and the season-opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is March 28-30.

“It’s funny because it’s a lighter car, but the wheel is like – everybody complained when I ran NASCAR how heavy my wheel was, everybody that drove my car, and honestly because we have no power steering, that’s how heavy it is,” Montoya continued. “What I remember, road courses, I understand it’s heavy, but I never thought that it would be heavy on an oval, but it’s like, ‘Hold your breath and turn.’ It’s breathtaking. The more laps I do, the easier it becomes, and it’s just that little bit.”

Steve Kinser, the 20-time World of Outlaws Sprint Car Series champion, announced Wednesday that the upcoming 2014 WoO campaign will be his final season chasing the series championship.

The Tony Stewart Racing driver, who won the series’ first championship during the WoO inaugural season in 1978, is looking to join a long list of greats who have closed their career hoisting championship hardware. His final season with the WoO, called “Salute to the King,” kicks off in February with the DIRTcar Nationals in Florida.

Kinser, an icon in short-track racing, has dominated the WoO series during his 35 seasons of competition. The Bloomington, Ind., native has earned 576 career WoO A-Feature triumphs and has filled the record book with accomplishments that likely will not be matched. His goal for this 2014 season is to add to those records while battling for the title.

“We’re really excited to make one more run at a World of Outlaws championship,” said Kinser, who will celebrate his 60th birthday June 2. “Racing with the Outlaws has been my life for almost 40 years. It’s all I’ve known. My family has been around it. I’ve had the pleasure of running up and down the road racing all across this incredible country, and even in Canada, Mexico and Australia with this series. I knew it wasn’t going to last forever. I feel like we have a great team here capable of winning a lot of races and challenging for the championship this year.”

The 100-plus-year-old Indianapolis Motor Speedway will soon be getting a facelift.

The project does not include installing lights on the famed, 2.5-mile IMS oval for night races because, IMS sources said, economic studies showed this $20-million investment did not provide the best return for taxpayers.

The Indiana Motorsports Commission approved preliminary plans by IMS owners Hulman & Company to invest state funds on infrastructure upgrades at IMS

The commission approved a resolution to adopt the IMS improvement plan, including creation of a new Motorsports Investment District for IMS, a step toward issuing bonds to fund improvements at the facility.

The plan submitted to the IMC used these criteria to broadly identify the types of improvements to fund with bond proceeds over the next several years:

Targeted for the facelift are:

– The addition of an apron in the four turns of the IMS oval to be used in NASCAR events, enhancing competition

– Repaving and reconfiguration of the IMS road course, a project completed in November 2013

– Refurbishing of catch fencing

– Seating improvements to improve comfort, better grandstand access with more elevators and suite renovations

– New video screens and Scoring Pylon

– Modernized restroom facilities

– Increasing concession choices, expanding fan zones and providing more entertainment

– Need for improved access, traffic flow and parking

– Availability of wireless access throughout the facility

– State-of-the-art data, video and audio availability

Some components of the plan already have been implemented. Improvements to the IMS road course were pivotal to the creation of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis IndyCar Series race on May 8-10, 2014 and the retention of the Red Bull Indianapolis GP MotoGP World Championship race Aug. 8-10, 2014 – two events with significant economic impact for Indiana.

Additional plans for IMS development and enhancement beyond the funding managed by the Indiana Motorsports Commission also will be included in the master plan to be released in spring 2014.

“We started with ideas for improvements that totaled hundreds of millions of dollars, and we’ve reduced our list to a list of potential projects with total spending of about $140 million,” Jeff Belskus of IMS said. “Now we have some difficult decisions ahead to pare the list further before we ask the commission for its approval.”

Sebring International Raceway and International Motor Sports Association (IMSA) officials today confirmed dates for open testing for the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship and other IMSA-sanctioned series.

In preparation for the first TUDOR Championship and Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge races on the grueling, 3.74-mile Sebring circuit, two days of IMSA-sanctioned testing have been scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 20 and Friday, Feb. 21, 2014. The TUDOR Championship and Continental Tire Challenge will have a morning and afternoon session each on both days.

The Continental Tire Challenge sessions will represent the series’ first official on-track appearance at Sebring. The inaugural Continental Tire Challenge race at Sebring is scheduled for Friday, March 14, one day before the 62nd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida, Round 2 of the 2014 TUDOR Championship.

Sebring also will host open testing for four IMSA-sanctioned development and single-make series on Monday, Feb. 24 and Tuesday, Feb. 25. The Cooper Tires Prototype Lites powered by Mazda, Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge USA by Yokohama, Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin and Lamborghini Super Trofeo series will all be in action on both days.

Next up for the TUDOR Championship is the Roar Before the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 3-5, 2014. The 52nd Rolex 24 At Daytona opens the inaugural TUDOR Championship season on Jan. 25-26.

Porsche concluded its 2013 test program with the new LMP1 race car with driver Mark Webber at the wheel.

The Porsche LMP1 completed its final test laps of the year on the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve near Portimão, Portugal. Testing will resume in early 2014. Porsche AG will field two LMP1 race cars in the sports car World Endurance Championship (WEC) which starts in April 2014, with the Le Mans 24 Hours as the highlight of the season.

The WEC regulations stipulate that manufacturers run hybrid vehicles in the highest class for Le Mans Prototypes. The race car features a hybrid system that consists of a four-cylinder petrol engine with direct injection and two energy recuperation systems. The recovered energy is stored in a battery until retrieved by the driver. A powerful electric motor then provides additional drive to the front axle. However, the WEC rules limit the amount of fuel as well as the electrical energy, or so-called boost, available to the driver per lap. The development of such a highly efficient drive will have positive influences on production development at Porsche.

On the Autódromo Internacional do Algarve, Webber (37) got his first chance to climb aboard the Porsche LMP1 racer. The Red Bull Racing Formula 1 team gave the Australian the green light to conduct these initial tests, despite Webber still being under contract. Beginning January 1, 2014, Mark Webber officially joins the Porsche factory team as a works driver and reinforces the already-signed driver line-up of Timo Bernhard (32), Romain Dumas (35) and Neel Jani (30).

“My first day in this fascinating project was an intense experience for me,” Webber said. “I would like to thank Red Bull Racing for giving me the chance to join the project so early. This is a major and important step for us all. It allows me to integrate with the team quicker and to contribute to further developing the LMP1 race car. We have a long way to go and it involves a lot of hard work. I have no misconceptions about this.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Wednesday, December 11 2013
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