TEAM ETHANOL PREPARES FOR 2006 INDYCAR OPENER WITH TEST ON THE HOMESTEAD OVAL, ROAD COURSES PAUL DANA POSTS THREE DAYS OF GOOD RUNS IN ...
TEAM ETHANOL PREPARES FOR 2006 INDYCAR OPENER WITH TEST ON THE HOMESTEAD OVAL, ROAD COURSES
PAUL DANA POSTS THREE DAYS OF GOOD RUNS IN #17 ETHANOL HONDA/PANOZ
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (March 7, 2006) -- The Rahal Letterman Racing crew walked away from three days of on-track testing Sunday with smiles on their faces.
The three-driver team, including rookie Paul Dana in the No. 17 Team Ethanol Honda Panoz Firestone machine in his first full test in 2006, completed successful runs on the Homestead Miami Speedway road circuit as well as the popular 1.5-mile oval track that will host the IRL IndyCar® Series season opener on March 26.
Working with RLR drivers Buddy Rice and Danica Patrick on setups, Dana also established a good relationship with his new engineer Al Bodey and three-time IndyCar mechanic of the year Jim Prescott, his crew chief, as the first two days of testing were on the 2.21-mile road course inside the oval track. Dana, returning from a back injury in 2005, made his first road racing runs ever in an Indy car and his first open-wheel road competition since 2001.
The opening day was a strong learning curve for Dana as the Indianapolis driver gained more knowledge of the "left-foot braking" technique, the six-speed shifting rhythm and the g-force load on his body in 80-plus degree weather. By the second day on the road course, Dana and his crew were more comfortable with the car and Paul set a good pace with a clocking of 1 minute, 13.001 seconds for a speed of 108.984 miles per hour.
"I have to admit that I had a little rust to work off in the opening day on the road circuit," said Dana about his first runs making left and right turns. "But we were able to learn a lot about the car and working with Buddy on certain chassis setups. He has a lot more experience in these cars on the road circuits and it is great to have someone like Buddy giving me advice. On the second day, everything just seemed much more in order and it was easier to pick up the pace. I held up better physically than I expected, so I owe a big thanks to my trainer Jim Leo at PitFit. The biggest surprise for me was how well the cars stop. I have a bit to learn about getting the most out of the brakes."
A busy day (Saturday) of media interviews, press conferences and photo opportunities kept Dana on his toes with his new team. In the meantime, the Rahal Letterman team worked on converting their Indy cars from road to oval engine and chassis setups.
The highlight of the "Media Day" was an IRL-Team Ethanol conference with Dana, Tom Slunecka of Ethanol Promotion and Information Council and IRL officials John Lewis and Jeff Horton. Local, national and international media attended the press conference including five major newspapers from the state of Florida. The media was definitely interested in the IndyCar Series' switch to ethanol fuel (10 percent in 2006 and 100 percent in 2007).
The final day of IndyCar Series testing returned to the cars to the 1.5-mile oval and it didn't take long from the drivers to get up to lightning speed. The veteran of Rahal Letterman Racing, Rice, the 2004 Indy 500 champion, jumped to the top of the speed charts early in the day and assisted his less-experienced teammates Patrick, 2005 IRL and Indy 500 Rookie of the Year, and Dana.
"We use Buddy's knowledge and experience to work on new components on the car as well as helping Danica and Paul," said Steve Dickson, Rahal Letterman Racing's team manager. "He is giving Paul a few tips that a rookie driver needs entering the racing season. Paul looks to be more comfortable with every practice session. Paul knows he is learning too and he is like a sponge with drivers like Buddy. He really picks up things quickly. We have given Paul a solid team but he is new to the team and everyone is learning each other right now. But overall Paul is doing a good job in testing of the Ethanol car."
Dana put in 192 laps on Sunday in oval testing and posted a best of 212.600 miles per hour.
"The conditions were much different than when we tested for a day a few weeks ago," said Dana. "Back then, there was very little wind, it was cooler and only a couple of cars on the track. This time, the wind was stronger and the heat was up in the 80s. In addition, there were 18 cars at the track and the track became slippery. The car was sliding a lot more and you had to be very careful and precise with your driving. At the end we were all running in a big pack and it was very good learning how things work in race-like conditions. It is a pleasure to be a part of a world-class team like Rahal Letterman. This team works so well together and everything is mapped out properly."
With 192 laps on the oval and 187 circuits on the road course (379), Dana was one of the busiest drivers in the three-day testing session.
Dana, Rice and Patrick will be back at the Homestead Miami Speedway on March 24-26 for the 2006 IRL IndyCar Series opener on the oval. The following week, the trail moves to the streets of St. Petersburg for the Honda Grand Prix on the road course.