CHAMPCAR/CART: Salo swings through Indy

CHAMPCAR/CART: Salo swings through Indy

You never know who you'll see at a race track. Case in point: the NHRA have held closed [to the public] test sessions yesterday and today at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Wandering the paddock, one could find Indy Racing League and CART ...

You never know who you'll see at a race track.

Case in point: the NHRA have held closed [to the public] test sessions yesterday and today at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

Wandering the paddock, one could find Indy Racing League and CART mechanics paying social calls on their buddies from times when they, too, worked straight-line racing. Hot, dusty and humid, IRP was just the place to be for these guys, who had a day off prior to departure for Nazareth, PA (IRL) or the Molson Indy Montreal (CART).

Mika Salo.
Photo by Richard Sloop.
One of the last people anyone would expect to see at this NHRA test day, though, was former Toyota Formula One pilot Mika Salo, visiting a friend who works with Pro Stock racer Steve Schmidt.

Fresh from his single day test at the 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, site of the most recent Champ Car race, Salo explained that he and PK Racing had employed a test day for the Finn to become acclimated to the #27 PK Racing Lola/Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone Champ Car.

"It was a long day," he explained. "We did 200 laps in 10- to 15-lap increments. I was surprised by the power of the Cosworth engine, but these cars are much heavier" than the Toyota F1 car he drove last year or any of the Grand Prix machines he's flogged since entering that series in 1994 with Lotus/Mugen.

Showing off the blisters on his hands, Salo admitted he'd like to be behind the wheel of PK Racing's Champ car this weekend at Montreal but wasn't sure it was possible. "There are licensing problems," he said. If not this week in Montreal, perhaps Mika might drive in Denver for the Labor Day contest? "I like street racing," he grinned.

There aren't sufficient funds for Mika Salo to pilot a second PK entry at this time so, if Salo enters the Champ Car campaign, Max Papis is on the sidelines again.

"I needed the test to get the feel for the car," Salo noted. "I had to get accustomed, once again to right-foot braking and shifting the car," pantomiming the paddle shifting he's used while driving F1.

"I've been on the road for 15 years and have a new baby I'd like to get to know," Salo mused. He's got an offer on the table from Audi, for whom he drove at the Sebring 12 Hour race and at the Le Mans 24-hour classic earlier this year. Those are the decisions we'd all love to have.

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