HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Jan. 10, 2003)--Off-season IRL IndyCar Series testing resembled a race weekend practice session Jan. 9 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with 10 drivers turning more than 700 laps without any major problems under clear, sunny skies and...
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (Jan. 10, 2003)--Off-season IRL IndyCar Series testing resembled a race weekend practice session Jan. 9 at Homestead-Miami Speedway with 10 drivers turning more than 700 laps without any major problems under clear, sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-70's. The 10 drivers who tested have combined for five Indianapolis 500 wins, three IndyCar Series championships and 20 IndyCar Series victories, or 28 percent of the 71 races conducted since the series' inception in 1996.
Brian Barnhart, Indy Racing League senior vice president of racing operations, and members of his technical staff were in Miami Jan. 8-9 to observe the test. "I'm very pleased with the progress of the Dallara and Panoz G Force chassis, and we are excited about the performance of the Toyota, Chevrolet and Honda engines," Barnhart said. "All of the engine manufacturers and chassis manufacturers have created extremely competitive packages. XTRAC also has produced a solid new gearbox as evidenced by no mechanical failures or reliability issues. The new chassis-engine package will ensure a competitive environment for the 2003 and future IRL Indy Car Series seasons."
The season-opening Toyota Indy 300 will take place March 2 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ABC and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Radio Network. For Toyota Indy 300 ticket information, call (305) 230-RACE or log onto www.homesteadmiamispeedway.com.
SCOTT SHARP (Delphi Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "It's great to be back in the car. It took a little while to get used to. There's so much different. It's the first time I've driven the Toyota engine, which was awesome. It was so smooth. From a smoothness standpoint, it was incredible. There was a lot of good response, and I was really impressed. It took a little getting used to that. The new car from Dallara is significantly different. The Kelley team had a great plan to run me at the end for just a little bit time just to get somewhat acclimated so that we can have as much productivity as possible tomorrow." (About running a 2003 chassis and engine combination): "For us significant, because we've got a new car that Dallara has been pretty radical about. We've got a new engine, and we've got basically a lot of new people with a new set up on the car. So, it's like a whole new deal. So you really can't compare. We're running different shock absorbers and a lot of different things on the car, but it's good. For the first time out of the box, we're happy. It's so early at this stage; I'm quite pleased with our plan, which is information gathering. We're tying things that even if they don't work, you learn. And when we come back here, toward the end of the Open Test, we'll start worry about where our speed is."
AL UNSER JR. (Corteco/Bryant Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "So far, the main difference is the engine -- going from the Chevy to the Toyota. The Toyota has great power, and the electronics on it are super. I'm really impressed with the way the Toyota is running. We are looking at the competition for sure. That is what we are racing against. The level has gone up again this year, with the Andretti team coming in, Target running a full season again, Honda and Toyota. The big manufacturers have made it more competitive than it ever has been. So this season, by far, is going to be the closest and most competitive of all."
STEVE NEWEY (Vice president of racing operations, Kelley Racing): "I think everything is going very well so far. We had a couple of teething problems yesterday, but the afternoon and really all day today we had a good day. We had a couple hundred miles today, and Scott (Sharp) got in the car at the end of the day and is really excited about the car, and the car felt very good to him. The Toyota engine is very, very smooth. He's very impressed with the engine. So, all in all it's a very positive day for Kelley Racing. The competition is going to be amazing. I think the level of competition is such that there is any one of a dozen drivers or more that can win the race every weekend. It's makes our job difficult because the competition is so deep, but that's what the show is all about, and that's what this series is all about. I think each team has their work cut out for them to put the best car out on the racetrack every Sunday. Whoever wins this championship at the end of the year will really deserve it because it's going to be a hard championship to win."