IRL: Indianapolis fans treated to IndyCar future

Firestone Tire officials brought their testing gear and truckloads of high- performance racing tires to Indianapolis' world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2nd and 3rd. The annual autumn tire-testing session is a first-chance for...

Firestone Tire officials brought their testing gear and truckloads of high- performance racing tires to Indianapolis' world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2nd and 3rd.

The annual autumn tire-testing session is a first-chance for Indy Racing League teams to evaluate the different combinations of tire and chassis looking forward to the resumption of IndyCar racing in Spring 2007.

Taking part in the four-car, four driver testing session were Andretti/Green Racing's Tony Kanaan, Rahal/Letterman's Jeff Simmons, Target/Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon and Marlboro Team Penske's Helio Castroneves.

"The engineers and drivers are moving very fast in this highly competitive sport. This is Firestone's way to keep up with safety and the development of the race cars," said 2005 Indianapolis 500 winner Wheldon.

Tractor trailer vans with racing tires stacked to the ceiling lined up along sunny Gasoline Alley for the two-day test session conducted at near- race speeds. Firestone technicians monitored each team's practice sessions and offered advice where needed to keep the teams on the track and moving forward.

The test is the second post-season test of the recently concluded 2006 Indy Racing League season. The open-wheeled cars ran a successful "compatibility test" at Daytona International Speedway's unique high-banked oval and road course on September 26th. Another IndyCar tire test will follow, at newly- opened Iowa Speedway, on October 9th.

"The teams get a chance to try different combinations of tire compound and tire construction here. Some will put on a combination they want to try with just the front rubber, or maybe just one tire. Then they'll come back later and try a different construction, or vary the compound, over the whole car until they find the combination they want," said Mark Robertson of Firestone.

The test also offered an opportunity to evaluate the new race-specification Honda 3.5 Liter V-8 engine that will power the IndyCar series in 2007 while running a pure ethanol fuel. In post-testing remarks on Monday, the drivers seemed to be pleased with the performance from the new power-plant combination.

"The power band seems wider," said Ethanol-sponsored driver Jeff Simmons. "Last year the gearing was critical. If you missed, the car wasn't as fast as it should be. But this ethanol engine seems to have more revs at the lower end and it's not a problem even if the gear ratio's not perfect."

The 2007 IndyCar season will be run in its entirety with one hundred percent ethanol as the sole fuel source. Last year's competition featured a blend of ten percent ethanol/ninety percent methanol in the 2006- specification Honda 3.0 Liter V-8 engine.

Sourced in this country primarily from corn, the grain-based ethanol fuel offers a promising bio-renewable alternative energy source to traditional refined oil products.

After a brief run-in on both days the cars were quickly circulating the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at speeds in excess of two hundred twenty miles an hour-impressive for the short timeline and preparation schedule.

Weather conditions closely mimicked the usual late-May warmth and sunshine with temperatures into the eighties on Monday and Tuesday afternoon.

The 2007 Indy Car series will kick off with a night-time debut at Homestead/Miami Speedway's road course on March 24th, 2007.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Tony Kanaan , Dan Wheldon , Jeff Simmons , Chip Ganassi
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing