HOMESTEAD, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2004 -- Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice recorded the first official road-course lap in an IRL IndyCarÂ® Series car during a private test Sept. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Rice took to the track at...
HOMESTEAD, Fla., Wednesday, Sept. 22, 2004 -- Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice recorded the first official road-course lap in an IRL IndyCar® Series car during a private test Sept. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Rice took to the track at 9:22 a.m. (EDT) in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Panoz G Force/Honda/Firestone. The start of the day was delayed 22 minutes following morning rains at the 2.21-mile circuit. In all, drivers turned 165 laps before steady rain brought the session to an early end.
"The cars exceeded expectations today out on the racetrack," said IRL Sr. Vice President for Racing Operations Brian Barnhart. "I think the primary effort in coming down here is to test components on the car and its ability to cool on road-course conditions, which we've never had to do, to test the transmissions and to determine a brake package. We got a lot of data. Not only did our cars turn right for the first time, we got an opportunity to run cars in the rain. The guys got a chance to test the Firestone Firehawks in the rain, and they performed very well. Overall, it was a very good day."
Five IndyCar Series teams, representing each chassis-engine combination available, participated in the first day of the two-day test.
"It's a big learning curve to take these cars that have been made to predominantly just go left and try and sort everything out, but I think it's going quite well," Rice said. "The biggest change is the braking. We haven't been using the brakes really. We only use them at a couple of tracks, and we don't use very much brake. The biggest thing is trying to get the thing to brake and understand and get that to work as good as you can. I think I'm like most of the guys. Everyone was looking forward to (running on road courses). Everyone wanted to get back to it. It's been nice to be able to come back and do this. I'm excited about it. It's fun to go back and be turning right."
In addition to Rice, Dario Franchitti (Andretti Green Racing), Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing), Helio Castroneves (Marlboro Team Penske) and Alex Barron (Red Bull Cheever Racing) participated in the test.
"I'm like a kid in a candy store," said Castroneves, who was driving the No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Toyota/Firestone. "I'm extremely happy to be turning right and left again. They did a hell of a job with the braking and the downshifting. Normally, they call me "the termite" because I destroy gearboxes, but so far, I'm doing very good, so that means it's a great package."
Teams also got a chance to test the cars' wet-running capabilities as the track remained open to teams despite a shower just after the lunch break. Barron turned several laps in the wet conditions.
"We got a little bit of a late start because of a Chevrolet test at Texas so the truckers had to drive all night, like 25 to 30 hours straight," said Barron, the driver of the No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone. "Once we got out we ran, and things went really well. I'm pretty pleased with everything that we've done so far for the first test with an oval car. We ran in the rain as much as we could, because we're trying to gather as much information as we can in a two-day test so whatever we learn we can apply it to whatever we're doing in the future."
Testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway continues on Sept. 23. Sam Hornish Jr., Darren Manning and Ed Carpenter are scheduled join to Franchitti, Barron and Rice in testing.
"I think the cars surpassed expectations in their ability to change direction. They looked very nimble on the racetrack," Barnhart said. "The braking was very good, the various packages the guys were testing. We got good input back from everybody. In spite of the weather and the rain we had, it was a very, very successful day. One of the neatest things about it was the five guys who got to drive today all looked like they really enjoyed themselves and had a lot of fun on the racetrack."
POST-TESTING SESSION QUOTES:
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 2005 Andretti Green Racing Dallara/ Honda/Firestone): "It's fun to be back on a road course. We're just ironing out teething problems right now, and trying to get sort of the fundamentals of the car right. It's obviously quite different than anything we've done with this car before so we're kind of one step at a time, but it's definitely fun to be back on a road course. We're just learning our way."
ALEX BARRON (No. 51 Red Bull Cheever Racing Dallara/Chevrolet/ Firestone): (About turning right and left for the first time): "Road course racing is where I've come from. I enjoy it a great deal. I like the ovals, too. I think it will be good to have a good mix for next year. We'll have road courses, a street course, short ovals, long ovals, superspeedways - that's what makes the series so neat to watch. It changes, and I think it will mix the field up more."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/ Toyota/Firestone): (About car's performance): "I was very surprised. The car doesn't seem to have problems. The weather may have something to do with it not getting as (overheated), but that's out of our control."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz G Force/ Toyota/Firestone): "It's good to be out running a road course, but there's still a lot of work to be done. So far, so good. I think there were a lot of people worried about cooling, but there have been no problems with that. We haven't had much time to run because of the weather. There's no use running in the rain because we only have one car in this trim. So hopefully, the weather will improve (Thursday) and we can get some work in then."
The 2004 IRL IndyCar Series season continues with the Toyota Indy 400 at 3 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 3 at California Speedway. The race will be broadcast live on ESPN and the IMS Radio Network. The next Menards Infiniti Pro Series event is the California 100 at 7:30 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 2 at California Speedway. The race will be broadcast by ESPN2 at 3:30 p.m. (EDT) on Oct. 7.