Drivers transitioning to IndyCar Series from Cham Car complete two days of testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway in preparation for season opener. HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 25, 2008) - Ernesto Viso thought a phone call from his manager March 19 was...
Drivers transitioning to IndyCar Series from Cham Car complete two days of testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway in preparation for season opener.
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 25, 2008) - Ernesto Viso thought a phone call from his manager March 19 was to extend 23rd birthday greetings. That was an afterthought actually as the call to Barcelona, Spain, was to invite the driver to the IndyCar Series.
"It was a good present," Viso said after completing two days of testing on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval in preparation for the March 29 season opener.
Eleven drivers, including nine who are transitioning to the IndyCar Series from the Champ Car World Series, recorded 1,071 laps during five available hours on the 1.5-mile oval with a persistent and brisk westerly breeze (the two-day total reaching 1,669 laps). KV Racing Technology (Oriol Servia, Will Power), Conquest Racing (Enrique Bernoldi, Franck Perera), Dale Coyne Racing (Bruno Junqueira, Mario Moraes) and Newman/Haas/Laningan Racing (Graham Rahal, Justin Wilson) made use of every minute. Marty Roth and Jay Howard of Roth Racing also were granted track time because they did not participate in the full IndyCar Series oval Open Test in February.
Servia topped the speed chart of the migrating drivers at 25.4360 seconds (210.175 mph). Roth led the field at 25.1200 (212.818 mph). Dan Wheldon's 25.0619 (213.312 mph) was the quickest lap of 17 cars at the Feb. 27-28 Open Test.
The lone on-track incident over the sessions involved Rahal, whose No. 06 car made contact with the Turn 2 SAFER Barrier with two hours left. He was checked in the infield care center and cleared to drive.
"The car felt really good," said Rahal, who had a quick lap of 25.4920 seconds (209.713 mph) among his 35. "I caught Oriol and overtook him in Turn 1 and was almost past him. I was on a higher line than I had been taking and that was a lot bumpier with a little less grip up there. The rear stepped out on me and I caught it and then it did it a second time and I couldn't catch it and crashed it."
The next time out (March 28 practice and qualifying) for all drivers, it will be with considerably more traffic on the high-banked oval, at higher speeds and will determine their starting position for the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300.
Viso, who totaled xxx laps in the No. 33 HVM Racing car over the two days, acknowledged being "a little dizzy" initially on the track, which is analogous to the whirlwind since learning where he would be racing this year.
"Everything was quick," said Viso, who last year competed in the GP2 Series. "The 20th I was in Indy with a lot of jet lag. The 21st we were doing the seat fitting. The 22nd we flew here and rested (March 23). We started testing (March 24).
"At the start I was very tired because I was not breathing in the corners. Everything was like a video game. Once I did more and more laps, I got used to it. I'm still learning and will be learning in the coming races."
Even for a veteran with 27 oval starts, there's a learning curve.
"It would be tough even if we would have made the move in October," KV Racing Technology's Oriol Servia said. "There's nothing really to compare with the old Homestead (6 degrees of banking). In my head, (the 18- to 20-degree variably-banked track) feels more like Fontana and Michigan - high banking, lot of speed, full throttle when you have new tires. We're learning so much with the car, but the race weekend is here soon. We don't have much time."
Time is a luxury since teams committed to the unified series competing under the IndyCar Series banner.
"Time is important; it is more than gold in racing," Viso said. "Time is also what we need outside the car. The guys did a perfect job to prepare the car in four days. They started from scratch."
Some crew members were scratching their heads during the testing days, waiting for delivery of parts and spares. And a 6-foot-3 driver just sought some comfort.
"We just have a few more bits to do inside the cockpit to make me feel more comfortable," Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing's Justin Wilson said. "Fitting in these cars is not a straight-forward thing."