IRL: Team Penske "Pit Notes" 2002-12-11

Christmas comes early for Marlboro Team Penske. Marlboro Team Penske took delivery of its new 2003 Dallara chassis this week in preparation for the upcoming Indy Racing League (IRL) season. However, before the car turns a wheel, there is a...

Christmas comes early for Marlboro Team Penske.

Marlboro Team Penske took delivery of its new 2003 Dallara chassis this week in preparation for the upcoming Indy Racing League (IRL) season. However, before the car turns a wheel, there is a lot of work to be done to prepare it for its maiden run.

The car is flown from the Dallara factory in Parma, Italy. It is sent in separate parts including the tub, the front and rear suspension, the front and rear wings, the gearbox and the wheels. Once the car arrives at the race shop in Reading, PA the first step is for the Team to reassemble it so that the painters can create the 2003 paint scheme and the mechanics can run a series of checks to be sure the body fits together properly. In addition, the Team's electronic engineers take this time to plan their instrumentation layout for all the electrical components including the telemetry. Once this is complete, the Team then disassembles the chassis and conducts a thorough examination and cleaning of each and every piece. Upon completion, the chassis is then reassembled so the painters can paint it and the electronic engineers can install the electronics. After just a couple of days, the new 2003 Dallara chassis is almost ready to be tested out on the track. The only thing remaining is for the drivers to be fitted for their seats.

"At first glance, Dallara has changed the car dramatically from the 2002 chassis," said Tim Cindric, President of Penske Racing, Inc. "Although it is always a challenge to come to grips with new equipment, we are looking forward to the opportunity to compete under the new IRL technical specifications. It seems that the Series will be more competitive than ever, and I feel we will be ready to contend for the Championship once again."


Before the car is tested, both Marlboro Team Penske drivers Gil de Ferran and Helio Castroneves must go to Reading to get fitted for their 2003 seats. The fitting process for Indy car seats stems from technology borrowed from the NASA space program. The seat is constructed by having the driver sit in a bag of soft plastic beads, which are mixed with a resin. The air is withdrawn from the bag and the beads weld together in the form of the driver in the seated position. The driver's comfort in the car is paramount so it may take several sittings before the right design/mold is constructed into the actual seat. The entire process takes about a day and a half and once completed, the Team will prepare three seats for each driver.


Marlboro Team Penske was at Homestead-Miami Speedway last week to complete a Toyota engine test session in preparation for the season-opening race there on March 2, 2003. The Team had the opportunity to put more miles on the 2003 Toyota engine and gearbox through a combination of long runs and qualifying runs under unseasonably warm track conditions.

"I think right now we're quite pleased with the development of the 2003 Toyota engine," said Tom Wurtz, Team Manager, Marlboro Team Penske. "It's been great working with the Toyota team - we're really excited about this year's package. We've had the opportunity to put more miles on the engine and to test out the new gearbox. We're right on schedule with our testing program and look forward to getting the new car out on the track to see where we stand."


Two-time CART Champion Gil de Ferran and Marlboro Team Penske teammate and 2001 & 2002 Indianapolis 500 mile race winner Helio Castroneves both received nominations for the 2002 Auto Racing All-America team selected by the members of the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association. De Ferran, Castroneves and two-time IRL Champion Sam Hornish Jr. are among the six nominees for first-team honors in the Open Wheel Racing category. The trio of IRL drivers is joined by CART Champion Cristiano da Matta, Bruno Junqueira and Patrick Carpentier who make up the other three Open Wheel nominees. Winners will be named at the annual AAWRBA banquet in January.


Look for Helio Castroneves in this month's issue of Movieline Magazine (currently available on newsstands). Castroneves is featured in the "Visions of Luxury" section where five people currently in the spotlight give their idea of luxury. The two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, who chose a night on the town as his luxury, was photographed at Tao Restaurant in New York City in early October.


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