2003 IRL testing begins at Kentucky.
Luyendyk, Mauricio & Mazzacana pass IRL rookie tests.
SPARTA, KY. -- The engraver has barely had enough time to put the finishing touches on Sam Hornish Jr.'s Indy Racing League Championship trophy and IRL teams have started their preparation for 2003. Three teams tested a total of a dozen drivers this week at Kentucky Speedway in both IRL and Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series cars.
Arie Luyendyk, Jr., who finished second in the 2002 Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series standings, was one of three drivers to pass their Indy Racing League rookie tests at the 1.5 mile tri-oval. "The car was great," said Luyendyk, who drove the Treadway Racing G Force/Chevrolet/Firestone that his father, Arie Luyendyk, drove in the 86th Indianapolis 500 in May and the Michigan Indy 400 in July."It was really a blast to drive. It felt really comfortable. It was just a great experience. I was driving around and I just kind of had a big smile on my face because it was fun." Luyendyk, 21, completed a total of 100 laps with a top speed of 218.4 mph.
Luyendyk's father, a two time Indianapolis 500 champion, credited his son's rapid development to the experience he received in driving the Infiniti Pro Series in 2002. "He obviously learned a lot about driving an oval, like how to be smooth with the steering and with the gas. He's applied that to the Indy car. He knew when to go to a higher gear because he's got a good feel for the oval kind of racing. Must be in the family!" Despite the ease with which he adapted to the IRL car, young Luyendyk plans to campaign one more season in the Infiniti Pro Series.
Former Formula One driver Gaston Mazzacana, 27, also passed his IRL rookie test. along with Red Bull Racing's Ricardo Mauricio. Mazzacana completed 113 laps on the 1.5-mile oval and reached a top speed of 217.3 mph in the No. 20 Sam Schmidt Motorsports Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. The Argentinean competed for the Minardi and Prost Formula One teams in 2000 and 2001."He had never been on an oval, period," said team owner Sam Schmidt, who was trackside for the test."This was quite an introduction for him. After his first few laps, he came in and was just in awe because of the speeds. We got through the rookie test with flying colors, no problems."
Mauricio, a 23-year old from Sao Paulo, Brazil completed 100 laps with a fastest unofficial speed of 220.6 mph. Mauricio has driven for the Red Bull Junior Team in the FIA International Formula 3000 series since 1999.
In addition to Mazzacana's rookie test, the Schmidt crew also tested several drivers in one of the team's Infiniti Pro Series cars. Toyota Atlantic driver David Weiringa, NAMARS MidgetCar points leader Aaron Pierce, Buddy Davis, John Renda, Jeff Gardner and Stephen Davidson each turned their first laps in an Infiniti Pro Series car.
Hemelgarn Racing also tested their Infiniti Pro Series cars at Kentucky Speedway on Wednesday. Veteran USAC drivers Aaron Fike and Dave Steele were behind the wheel.