IPS: IRL: Notebook 2002-08-22

Drivers respect Gateway; G Force growing. INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2002 - At first glance, Richmond International Raceway might appear to be the toughest track on the Indy Racing League schedule. RIR is a tight, ¾-mile "bullring" oval...

Drivers respect Gateway; G Force growing.

INDIANAPOLIS, Thursday, Aug. 22, 2002 - At first glance, Richmond International Raceway might appear to be the toughest track on the Indy Racing League schedule.

RIR is a tight, ¾-mile "bullring" oval in which IRL drivers turn laps in the 16-second range. No picnic.

But many drivers consider Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., home of the Gateway Indy 250 on Aug. 25, to be even tougher than Richmond. Gateway is a 1.25-mile oval with asymmetrical turns, as the track is shaped like a paperclip with long straightaways and tight turns.

Count 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. among those drivers who consider Gateway to be a tough place that tests driver skill. Cheever, driver of the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone, finished fourth last year in the inaugural IRL race at Gateway.

"As I have said in the past, whoever designed Gateway was in a bad mood that day because it is not very driver-friendly," Cheever said. "It is a unique oval, with a speed variation of 35 miles per hour.

"The corners are totally different from each other. Turns 3 and 4 are very fast, whereas Turns 1 and 2 are very slow. It has long straightaways, and there will be a lot of ducking under people turning into corners."

Said Red Bull Cheever Racing rookie Buddy Rice, making his third IRL start: "Gateway will be the hardest race of the year for me. The track is very difficult with the two ends being completely different."

2002 Indianapolis 500 Bank One co-Rookie of the Year Alex Barron also has plenty of respect for Gateway. He is fifth in the series standings in the No. 44 Rayovac Blair Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone.

"Both sides of the track are very different from each other," Barron said. "The wind and the weather can change the car dramatically. It will be one of the more intense races we will run this year. It will require a strong focus.

"The track there demands a high level of mental and physical concentration - more than some of the other tracks."

***

Growth spurt for G Force: Elan Motorsport Technologies (EMT), the manufacturer of the G Force chassis used in the Indy Racing League, is set for a dramatic expansion in 2003 with the establishment of a new chassis design center in the United Kingdom and the key appointment of several new staff.

EMT will open a new chassis design center in Kimbolton, Cambridgeshire, England. This facility will include state-of-the-art design technology and full model-making facilities. EMT will continue to manufacture its race-winning designs from its headquarters in Braselton, Ga.

In addition to the new facilities, EMT also has added key staff, including new chief designer Simon Marshall and new chief executive officer David Bowes.

Marshall was previously at Lola Cars International Ltd., where he was chief designer on the Lola CART program. He is leading the team working on the G Force IRL 2003 chassis program. Several other designers have followed Marshall from Lola and are now established in the design team.

As chief executive officer, Bowes will be responsible for overseeing all of EMT's global motorsports activities. Bowes was previously managing director for Lola, where he was responsible for overseeing a considerable turnaround of that company over the past four years.

***

McLaren to buy Comptech: McLaren Performance Technologies has signed a letter of intent to acquire Comptech Machine, a recognized California-based automotive race engine builder that builds engines for Indy Racing League teams.

It is anticipated that the acquisition will be completed by late 2002.

Bruno Junqueira won the pole for the 2002 Indianapolis 500 with a Chevrolet engine built by Comptech, while Juan Montoya won in 2000 at Indianapolis with a Comptech engine. Arie Luyendyk drove to the pole in 1999 at Indy with a Comptech-built engine.

"The combination of McLaren Performance Technologies and Comptech Machine capabilities, along with the power of our respective brands, will create unparalleled opportunity in the ever-increasing automotive performance aftermarket," said Steven Rossi, president and CEO, McLaren Performance Technologies. "Factoring in the added capability of our recently acquired manufacturing company (what was formerly Dart Machine, Ltd.), we believe we are now incredibly well positioned to pursue new, higher margin markets in the performance and powertrain domain."

Comptech, founded in 1979, serves such racing customers as Toyota and General Motors along with teams like Target Chip Ganassi Racing. The company also offers performance aftermarket parts for Honda, Acura and Mini brands.

McLaren Performance Technologies provides full-service design, development, fabrication, manufacturing, testing, validation and certification of automotive and racing powertrains, and related components. The company, based in Livonia, Mich., and Canada, originally was established in 1969 as the engine development company for Bruce McLaren Motor Racing.

***

Helio hits the courts: Two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves played in a pro-celebrity tennis match Aug. 16 at the RCA Championship in Indianapolis, teamed with former ATP Tour star John Lloyd.

Avid tennis player Castroneves and Lloyd challenged the top team of Mark Knowles and Daniel Nestor. Castroneves also met ATP stars Jim Courier and Tim Henman before playing his match.

"I had a great time at the RCA Championships last week," Castroneves said. "I am a huge tennis fan - it's actually my second sport. It's a great way to train, and I use it for my mental focus.

"Last year, I went to the NASDAQ 100 and the U.S. Open finals where I saw Serena (Williams) play Venus (Williams) and Pete Sampras take on Lleyton Hewitt. I wanted to go to the Cincinnati tournament a few weeks ago, but I couldn't fit it into my schedule. It was really fun coming to Indianapolis to play with these great players, plus the fans there are always so wonderful."

Next up for Castroneves is the Gateway Indy 250 on Aug. 24-25 at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis. He is second in the Indy Racing League standings in the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone, just four points behind leader Sam Hornish Jr.

***

Back to school: Infiniti Pro Series driver Ed Carpenter will return to Butler University in Indianapolis on Aug. 28.

Carpenter, a senior, will take a full course load of 18 credit hours to graduate in May with a degree in marketing.

"Hopefully this year goes by pretty quickly," said Carpenter, 21. "I'm looking forward to graduating and then focusing on my career in racing. It's been good. College has given me a better overall understanding of the business world and will help as I go through my racing career. It's already helped me deal with different situations in racing."

Carpenter is third in the series standings with 135 points, behind A.J. Foyt IV, who has 188, and Cory Witherill, who has 137.

***

Teams show support for Priestley: Infiniti Pro Series drivers and teams competing in the Gateway 100 on Aug. 25 at Gateway International Raceway will show their support for colleague Jason Priestley and his recovery from injuries sustained during a practice accident at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 11 by displaying a specially designed decal on their race cars.

The decal, designed by members of CGF Racing, incorporates the number seven - Priestley's car number - and a red maple leaf within a black circle. Priestley, 32, from Vancouver, British Columbia, selected the final design over two other choices.

"We just want him to know that everyone involved in the Infiniti Pro Series, all the teams, drivers, crews and officials, are pulling for him and hoping for his full and speedy recovery," said Troy Hanson, general manager of CGF Racing. "He is a true competitor, and we all hope to see him around the paddock soon."

***

Fike on fast track: Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series driver Aaron Fike, 19, will pull double duty this weekend.

Fike, from Galesburg, Ill., will practice and qualify for the Gateway 100 at Gateway International Speedway on Aug. 24 before rushing to compete in the USAC National Midget Car Series Bob Wente Classic that evening at Tri-City Speedway in Granite City, Ill. The fifth round of the inaugural Infiniti Pro Series season, the Gateway 100, will take place at 11 a.m. (CDT) on Aug. 25.

2000 USAC Midget Rookie of the Year Fike ranks third in the National Midget standings this season with 676 points, trailing leader Dave Darland by 128 points. Fike, 19, who drives for Hemelgarn 91/Johnson Motorsports in the Infiniti Pro Series, is contending for the championship in that series, too. He is tied for fifth in the point standings with three races remaining.

***

Hot laps: Watchmaker TAG Heuer and Indy Racing League standout Sarah Fisher have entered into a long-term agreement covering product development, advertising, promotions and public relations. Fisher will make her first appearance as a TAG Heuer brand ambassador in September at the SAP United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. Fisher joins a prestigious list of athletes and celebrities who have worked with TAG Heuer, including Juan Manuel Fangio, Steve McQueen, Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Marion Jones, Mika Hakkinen, Jacques Villeneuve and David Coulthard ^Å The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation (SSPF) will entertain approximately 60 people associated with the Rehabilitation Institute of St. Louis on Aug. 24 at Gateway International Raceway as part of its "Disability Day" program in conjunction with the Gateway Indy 250. The effort is part of the Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation's program to provide a behind-the-scenes look at Indy Racing for spinal-cord-injury patients and their families. SSPF guests will enjoy lunch in the infield and one-on-one conversations with IRL team owner Sam Schmidt.

-irl/ips-

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Mika Hakkinen , Jacques Villeneuve , Eddie Cheever , Arie Luyendyk , Cory Witherill , Bruno Junqueira , Alex Barron , Sam Schmidt , Steven Ross , Alain Prost , Ayrton Senna , Juan Manuel Fangio , Buddy Rice , Aaron Fike , Jason Priestley , Troy Hanson , Chip Ganassi , Ed Carpenter , Sam Hornis
Teams Williams , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing