Aero Test On Target
May 5, 2004 | 12:39 A.M. EST
Twenty-seven driver-car combinations took to the 2.5-mile oval on April 28-29 in preparations for the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” on May 30. Opening day for the Indianapolis 500 is May 9. Despite less than ideal conditions, IRL Senior Vice President for Racing Operations Brian Barnhart was pleased with the results of the test.
“As we were with the April 3 engine test, we were right where we anticipated,” Barnhart said. “We got some good quality track time. We had between 6,000 and 6,500 miles between the two days with our new configuration on the motors and the new specs on the chassis, and we haven’t had a failure with engines and the chassis are running the speeds we anticipated.”
The mid-season changes were made in an effort to reduce speeds and ensure safer and exciting racing in the IRL IndyCar® Series. The new package consists of a quarter-inch center-line vertical wicker, a reverse quarter-inch wicker on the bottom side of the rear wing and curved skid plate. The engine capacity also has been reduced to 3.0 liters beginning at Indianapolis.
The results have been speeds significantly slower than Helio Castroneves’ pole-winning lap of 231.732 mph in 2003, but Barnhart expects speeds will get faster as teams become more acquainted with the package.
“As the teams get more track time and get more familiar with these specs and the track gets more rubber in it, it will be in a position where they can run a little harder,” he said. “We’ve said all along that we anticipate pole speeds in the 224-225 (mph) range. Of course, at Indianapolis, pole speed is dictated by weather and track conditions, but sometime during the month you’ll see someone running a 223 or 224 (mph), which is where we said they’d be running right out of the shoot.”
Barnhart was also pleased with the work each of the five IndyCar Series manufacturers have accomplished in maintaining a competitive balance.
Marlboro Team Penske’s Sam Hornish Jr. and Helio Castroneves were the only drivers to break 220 mph in their Toyota-powered Dallaras, while defending IndyCar Series Champion Scott Dixon was among the four quickest cars on both days of testing in his Target Chip Ganassi Panoz G Force/Toyota/Firestone entry.
Chevrolet’s strong effort was led by Panther Racing’s Tomas Scheckter, who was one of four drivers to record a lap of more than 219 mph during the two-day test in his Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.
“The guys at Chevy and on our team have worked hard,” Scheckter said. “It’s still early days. We’re doing two days here and we still have a whole month to go. As long as we all keep our heads down and carry on working hard, I think that’s the most important thing.
“It’s great to see we can come in the first two days and have a good performance, but it’s still a long way to go.”
Honda’s top speed was recorded IndyCar Series points leader Dan Wheldon, who posted a lap of 218.953 in his No. 26 Klein Tools/Jim Beam Dallara/Honda/Firestone
“I think it was a really good test for Andretti Green Racing,” said Kyle Moyer, team manager for Andretti Green Racing, which fields cars for Wheldon, Tony Kanaan, Dario Franchitti and Bryan Herta.
“We got accomplished what we wanted to in two days and we know what we need. Things will probably change a bunch in the time before we come back. Dan being up near the top is nice to see and the other two guys are up to speed with even better cars, so I think all-in-all it was a really good test for the whole team.”