CHAMPCAR/CART: Mauricio Gugelmin Not Down on Downforce

CART's fastest driver talks about the speedway wings being used at Nazareth. By John Oreovicz No one has ever gone faster in a Champ Car than PacWest Racing's Mauricio Gugelmin. And few drivers are more highly respected within their peer...

CART's fastest driver talks about the speedway wings being used at Nazareth. By John Oreovicz No one has ever gone faster in a Champ Car than PacWest Racing's Mauricio Gugelmin. And few drivers are more highly respected within their peer group.

So when Gugelmin talks about CART's decision to require low-downforce superspeedway wings for short ovals like Nazareth Speedway -- site of this weekend's 225-lap Bosch Spark Plug Grand Prix -- his words carry weight.

"My first impression was that it was going to be really tough, but I got used to it," said Big Mo. "You really have to drive the car more, and the biggest problem is braking in Turn 3, where it's easy to lock the rear brakes. I did some long runs and was able to do consistent 20.8's on my own, but it gets pretty dramatic in traffic. When you get to within two or three car lengths of the car in front of you, there's just no grip."

For many years, Champ Cars used multi-element road-course wings on short and intermediate ovals. The low-drag super-speedway wings, which cut downforce from approximately 5,000 to 3,000 pounds, have been mandated to reduce speeds. The wings succeeded in that respect: Gugelmin was quickest in recent Nazareth testing with a 20.08-second lap, compared to Patrick Carpentier's 1998 track record of 18.419 seconds/184.896 mph. But they make the cars harder to drive.

"The problem is the short tracks, especially Nazareth, are really tight," said Gugelmin. "Our minimum speed in the corners used to be 170 mph, and now it's closer to 130. Really it's become a fast road course with three turns, and the setup has to be completely different. Having said that, we've never run on a road course with these wings. Then you add in 20 other cars and a concrete wall next to your ear."

Gugelmin, who turned the fastest lap in 1997, is optimistic that CART's Technical Committee will find a way to keep speeds down while restoring some downforce as they finalize the rules for 2000.

"The small wings are one way to slow the cars down, but I think the best way is through a combination of things," he said. "I agree you have to reduce downforce, but you have to look at power and tire grip as well. If you take away horsepower, you're flat out all the way around. If you take away downforce, you're sliding everywhere. You have to find a happy medium. I think we're going on the right track, but until we get it right, there are going to be a few problems."

Source: CART Online

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Mauricio Gugelmin