IRL INDYCARÂ® SERIES PARTICIPANTS TAKE ON TRICKY CIRCUIT AT TWIN RING MOTEGI INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 20, 2005 -- The IRL IndyCarÂ® Series continues its 10th season of competition with the Indy Japan 300 on Saturday, April 30 at Twin Ring...
IRL INDYCAR® SERIES PARTICIPANTS TAKE ON TRICKY CIRCUIT AT TWIN RING MOTEGI
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 20, 2005 -- The IRL IndyCar® Series continues its 10th season of competition with the Indy Japan 300 on Saturday, April 30 at Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.
This will be the IndyCar Series' third visit to the facility, which was built by Honda in Tochigi Prefecture, about 60 miles northeast of Tokyo. The Twin Ring Motegi facility contains two major racing facilities, a 1.5-mile oval and a 3-mile, 14-turn road course that winds underneath and east of the oval.
The tricky oval's unique egg shape makes racing and setting up a car a challenge to the 23 drivers, team engineers and Firestone engineers as described in the following first-person narratives:
Dan Wheldon enters the Indy Japan 300 with good memories from each of his two races at Twin Ring Motegi. In 2003, Wheldon, the current IndyCar Series points leader, finished seventh while subbing for the injured Dario Franchitti, and last season, he won the pole and dominated the race to score his first career victory. In the process, he became the first Honda-powered driver to win at Honda's home track.
"Like every year at Motegi, you are always going to get a very exciting and competitive race. This year, in comparison to most, you are going to see the cars running much, much closer, just because of the fact that we seem to be able to extract more downforce from the cars with the new underwing and the fact that the competition level is so close.
"This is my second full season and in that short period of time I've noticed the competition get tougher and tougher. So, I think you're going to see an exciting race and a somewhat closer race than you have in the past.
"To win, you have to have a combination of everything. Obviously, you've got to drive well. You've got to have a very consistent race car, but Motegi is one of those tracks where you've got to have a pretty fast car as well. When I say 'fast,' I mean it's got to be raceable fast. It's got to be a car that you can overtake with without losing too much time.
"I am certainly very confident with Honda going into the race. It's a slightly new package for us this year. We're coming back with some different downforce numbers than we've had before, and obviously, we're going back with the 3.0-liter engine. As crazy as it sounds, Honda is so determined in their development of the engine that I don't think we have any less power than we had last year. A combination of all of those things is going to be the key factor in trying to take a consecutive victory in Motegi."
Veteran race engineer Eddie Jones has used his experience in developing young drivers to forge a successful partnership with Dan Wheldon in the IndyCar Series. Jones, who served as engineer for the Team Green Academy program in Indy Lights, worked with team co-owner Michael Andretti from 2001 until his retirement midway through 2003. Jones then helped Wheldon earn Bombardier Rookie of the Year honors and achieve second place in the series points standings in 2004. He and Wheldon have combined for five wins and 19 top-five since joining forces.
"Motegi is a mixture of requiring low drag because it's a fairly fast circuit with Turn 1 and 2 being flat out, and your speed down the back straight is especially important. But, at the same time, Turns 3 and 4 present quite a challenge in that the cars have to be slowed down and the drivers would usually like more downforce for that part of the track. So, it's an interesting trade-off between little downforce and no drag for the speed on the straights, but requiring more downforce for the Turn 3-4 section.
"Obviously, the driver and team have great enthusiasm because it was a great win last year. Having said that, this series is so competitive that we can't really rest on our laurels. If we think for one moment that we have an advantage over the others, we're going to go backwards quickly. Quite honestly, we still see it as the same challenge as we see going to all the other events. There is a lot of very good competition out there, not least our own teammates. So, we have our work cut out for sure.
"We've certainly gotten off to a great start this season. But, in this series, it's so important to do well at every race. It's so competitive that you can't afford to give up results. We go into each event with the intent of doing the best we can. To win in Motegi again would be great for the team's spirits heading into Indy and that's what we're intending to do."
WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD:
Firestone's race tire development team considers the configuration of each track as it chooses the tire compound to be used at each track. According to Firestone engineers, the high-banked superspeedway at Twin Ring Motegi requires the company's most durable construction and compounds with high-heat durability.
Indy Japan 300, fourth race in 17-race 2005 season
Twin Ring Motegi, 1.5-mile egg-shaped oval
Midnight (EDT), Saturday, April 30
200 laps/300 miles
PAST RACE WINNERS:
2003 -- Scott Sharp; 2004 -- Dan Wheldon
ESPN (taped), Noon (EDT), April 30
Race: IMS Radio Network, 11:30 p.m. (EDT), April 29
The 10th season of IndyCar Series competition continues with the Indy Japan 300 on April 30 at Twin Ring Motegi. The race will be telecast by ESPN at Noon (EDT) on April 30 and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network at 11:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 29. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also will be available on XM Satellite Radio channel 152 "XM Extreme" and webcast on indycar.com. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series race is the Futaba Freedom 100 on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be telecast on ESPN2 at 2 p.m. (EDT) on May 27.