(This is the sixth in a series of daily reports on Indy Racing League testing at the new Walt Disney World Speedway. The reports will continue through Friday.)
HEARN UNIQUE IN PRESEASON TESTING: UNDER 20 SECONDS ON 2 MILE TRACKS
ORLANDO, Dec. 6, 1995 -- Richie Hearn is just a rookie preparing for his Indy Racing League debut, scheduled for the Jan. 27 Indy 200 at Walt Disney World.
But Hearn has been unique. He has posted times under 20 seconds on both the Desert Mile at Phoenix and Walt Disney World Speedway's one-mile oval here. He was the fastest in IRL testing Wednesday in Orlando, posting a lap at 19.788 seconds, 181.928 miles an hour.
"It was 19.9s at Phoenix," the 24-year-old Hearn said today on pit road between sessions. "It sounds neat. I'm more concerned about the results of racing than testing. It's nice to do those laps, but when we get here for the race -- and Phoenix as well -- so many things can change. But it's a confidence booster."
It also puts him in an impressive group.
Last spring at Phoenix, only Jacques Villeneuve reached the 19-second bracket in practice. Bryan Herta was on the PPG Cup pole at 19.785 seconds and Emerson Fittipaldi and Villeneuve were the only other 19-second-bracket qualifiers.
At Disney World, Buddy Lazier has been the only other driver to reach the 19-second bracket with a lap at 19.713 seconds on Saturday. Hearn said the tracks are similar.
"Turn 1 here is very close to Turns 1 and 2 at Phoenix," he said. "It's banked more here, and Phoenix might be tighter on the exit. We're creating some of the same problems here as we did at Phoenix. We came here with the car set up exactly like when we left Phoenix and it was pretty good right out of the box."
Hearn comes from the SCCA's Atlantic ranks, where he captured the season title last year with victories at Toronto, Trois Rivieres and Mid-Ohio. Ironically, he finds the Indianapolis cars easier to drive than the Atlantic machines.
"An Atlantic car is a bit touchier because it has bigger tunnels," Hearn said. "Here, the faster you go, the more downforce you create. We run a stiffer setup in an Atlantic car, it's a lot lighter and it's a little more twitchy.
"I'm really enjoying driving these...the speed," he added.
Four members of his championship DellaPenna Motorsports team have moved with Hearn and owner John DellaPenna to the IRL. Other new crew members come from IMSA and Indianapolis car backgrounds.
"We were planning to move up," Hearn said. "This (the IRL) has made our team transition more smoothly. For the team, it'll help get us in a nice groove come May. The organization is learning with us, and we're growing with it, too."
Roberto Guerrero, the Indianapolis 500 track record holder, quickly got up to 176.091 miles an hour today.
"It's a very challenging place," Guerrero said of the new speedway. "It takes awhile to learn it. It's very physical...we're pulling over 4 Gs. It's really nice.
"It really has its own personality. Of the other ovals we run on, it's not even close."
Guerrero said the five-race IRL schedule fits the Pagan Racing team. "For a team like ours, it's basically very, very hard to do a full season," he said. "It's a great opportunity. I get to work a little more than once a year. I'm really impressed with the stuff the IRL is doing. They're going about it the right way."
He added that the 19-second-bracket laps turned by Buddy Lazier, Richie Hearn, Eliseo Salazar and Buzz Calkins in initial testing would change for Race Day. Salazar and Calkins had laps under 20 seconds for the first time today.
"We'll really find out on Race Day," Guerrero said. "The corners are peculiar enough and fast enough that, at the moment, to run 19 seconds, you can only use one line. But in the race, the pace won't be like that, so you'll be able to run side-by-side."
WEDNESDAY'S TOP UNOFFICIAL SPEEDS FROM USAC TIMING AND SCORING:
NUM BEST BEST DRIVER TEAM LAPS TIME SPEED Richie Hearn DellaPenna Motorsports 92 19.788 181.928 Eliseo Salazar Scandia/Simon Racing 203 19.862 181.251 Buzz Calkins Bradley Motorsports 129 19.976 180.216 Scott Brayton Team Menard 142 20.058 179.480 Roberto Guerrero Pagan Racing 59 20.444 176.091 Stan Wattles Leigh Miller Racing 80 20.457 175.979 John Paul Jr. Brickell Racing 13 25.554 140.878 --IRL--