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Newman/Haas Racing's Servia & Hinchcliffe Each Make Their Barber IndyCar Debut

Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing
Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

NHR FAST AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK OPEN TEST

The Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama will be Newman/Haas Racing’s second event at Barber Motorsports Park (BMP). The team competed here last year with Hideki Mutoh. Oriol Servia, driver of the No. 2 Telemundo entry and James Hinchcliffe, driver of the No. 06 Sprott entry set the fifth and seventh fastest times, respectively, over the two-day open test held here March 14-15. “More than finishing the open test at Barber fifth fastest, what was great was to be one-two with James for the last hour of the test,” said Servia. “I think the whole team got invigorated and it reminded all of us that it wasn't too long ago that the Newman/Haas Racing cars were always up there. We liked getting a taste of it and it made the whole team even hungrier for it again.”

“I think we showed a lot of progress at the Barber test,” added Hinchcliffe. “Having both cars end up around the top five says a lot about where the team is in terms of car setup. Barber can be a tough track to pass on so qualifying will be super-critical. The test shows that over a lap we can be pretty quick so hopefully this will translate over to the race weekend.”

HINCHCLIFFE ON HIS INDY CAR RACING DEBUT

James got behind the wheel of an Indy car for the first time at the 1.65-mile Sebring International Raceway road course on December 13, 2010 for the first of a two day test. He returned with the team to test at Sebring for another two days on Jan. 20-21. At the open test at BMP March 14-15, he set the fifth fastest time overall on Monday and the seventh fastest on Tuesday which was also the seventh fastest time over the two days. The rookie even took over P1 on the scoring monitor for a while on the second day. He is excited about making his debut in the IZOD IndyCar Series this weekend after a 15 year journey to get to the top.

“There are so many things I'm feeling that it's tough to single any out. One for sure is relief. Definitely relief! It's been such a long off-season and obviously missing the first race was tough, so when the call came it was like I was floating having that weight lifted off my shoulders. For sure I'm excited and a little nervous too! My approach to the weekend is the same as it has been through testing: just take it slow and learn as much as I can. Going through a race weekend is a lot different than a test. You have to accomplish a lot more in considerably less time. At the end of the day I just want to maximize the time I have in the car, make any rookie mistakes I'm going to make and learn as much as is humanly possible. Debuting at Barber is the silver lining in our late start. I've only driven the Indy car at two tracks before and Barber is one of them so that should for sure help get us up to speed a little quicker. That is huge because of how little track time we really get.”

Having both cars end up around the top five says a lot about where the team is in terms of car setup.

Oriol Servia

ORIOL IS LOOKING FORWARD TO RACING AT A TRACK HE HAS DRIVEN ON RECENTLY

Prior to the 2011 St. Pete season-opener, Servia’s previous race was in Motegi, Japan in 2009 – also with NHR – where he finished fourth. The majority of races this season will see Servia returning to each destination for the first time in at least 1.5 years with the exception of this weekend’s event at BMP. Servia is up to the challenge but is also thankful that it was this track that he’s recently driven on.

“I feel really lucky that spring training was held at Barber as I had never been on track here and I found it to be one of the toughest layouts to learn that I have ever encountered. The St. Pete weekend was a great way to start the season since I knew the track from past years and it became the perfect race to get the brain again on race mode. We got caught on the first lap melee and went to last then I made a mistake in pit lane, the team had a hiccup in another stop and we still managed to finish ninth! Let's say it was a perfect refresher of all kind of race scenarios. Now we arrive to Barber knowing the track and having had, and finished, the first race under our belts. St. Pete was a bit of a cold shower as we expected a much better result but it definitely did the job preparing us for Barber. The Telemundo team is excited about our chance for a good race at Barber this weekend.”

ORIOL ON BARBER AND STEROIDS

“I find it is an amazing and challenging track,” said Servia about Barber Motorsports Park. “It feels like the Mid Ohio track on steroids! The corners are fast, blind and technical all at the same time. If each straight were 50 percent longer, I believe we would have one of the greatest tracks of all time. But drivers always like long straights and the speed you can achieve there. With such fast, long and BLIND corners, you need a (race car) rear end that will give you the security to charge them without have the rear step out but also a front that will help the car turn when you get to the middle of the corner. So, in conclusion you need a car with the perfect balance! The fastest driver in qualifying will probably end up being the one that achieves the best car balance.”

TWO-WIDE RESTARTS – ROUND 2

“I am still thinking the same that I thought after the St. Pete race and that is that I think they are a good improvement for the show,” said Servia of the return to two-wide restarts during the race despite being stuck behind a stopped car on the opening lap at St. Pete. “I don't think they will create as big of a mess as we had in St Pete.”

James Hinchcliffe had a unique perspective of the two-wide restarts in St. Pete as he watched from the NHR pits. “Well they were certainly entertaining! I think the restarts had three main problems. First of all it was the first race of the season, so everyone was a little rusty and a little ambitious. Secondly, it was everyone’s first time doing the slower restart procedure so I'm sure that took some getting used to. And finally St. Pete is very unique because the front straight is so wide and the inside line is so dirty and bumpy. I think that by Barber all of those issues will be addressed by default and it will be a lot better. Ultimately it was good for the fans. The two-wide restarts are here to stay so it's up to us to make them work. I think that Barber in particular will have very exciting restarts due to the layout of the first few corners. Obviously the inside line has the advantage in Turn 1, but that becomes the outside in Turn 2 and so the advantage swaps to the other side. That then leads to the best passing zone on the track in Turn 5, so I think we will see a lot of action.”

James is really, really good and putting the two of us together I believe is the best thing that could have happened for the team.

Oriol Servia

ORIOL AND JAMES ON EACH OTHER AS TEAMMATES

“Having James back with team will be great.” said Servia. “It is very difficult as a one-car team to beat Penske and Ganassi when they have three and four cars on track. James is really, really good and putting the two of us together I believe is the best thing that could have happened for the team. I am really excited to be working with him the whole year. Unfortunately he is a very unlikable guy but we will keep it professional and make the best of it. I’m just kidding of course!”

“I honestly couldn't have picked a better guy to have as a teammate,” added Hinchcliffe. “Oriol is incredibly quick, provides amazing feedback and he understands the benefit of working well with your teammate to better the whole program. On top of that he is just such a genuine guy and pretty darned funny! I've already had a few people tell me how lucky I am, and a few drivers tell me how jealous they are, that I have Oriol has a teammate.”

JAMES ON DRIVING AN INDY CAR AT BARBER AND WHAT IT TAKES TO GO FAST HERE

This will not only be James’ first race at Barber in an Indy car, it will be his first race anywhere in an Indy car. He competed here in the Firestone Indy Lights Series in 2010. He set the fastest lap time at the Indy Lights test here on Feb. 26, 2010 and on race weekend, he was second fast in the first two sessions and sixth fast in final practice and qualified fifth. In the race on April 11, 2010 he started and finished fifth. James describes the most challenging part of driving the Indy car at Barber for the first time.

“The toughest part of the Barber test was simply getting up to speed at the track. It's a very fast, very technical track. Having these long, fast corners was different from what I'd driven on before in the Indy car, so exploring and finding the limits in the fast corners was a big task. I definitely think we found gains from day 1 to day 2 in making the car stable and comfortable on older tires. Oriol also found some good changes that we can bolt onto both cars so we will hopefully roll off the trailer with a good base car. Barber requires a very compromising setup, which is what makes it so tricky for the engineers and drivers. You need a car that is very stable in the fast corners but at the same time can rotate in the long duration corners. This can mean opposing philosophies in terms of setup so you really just need to find the right balance. You'll almost never have a 'perfect' car there, so as a driver you will have to deal with a tricky car sometimes!”

JAMES ON INDY CAR PIT STOPS AND PUSH TO PASS

“I have experienced pit stops in A1GP but they were very different because the crew wasn't staged out in pit lane and there was no fueling. The biggest thing is navigating around the crew in the stall behind yours, getting into your box on the marks, and then getting around the guys in the box a head of you. Basically if I make it through the race without making any pit mistakes I'll be pretty pleased!

“I also experienced push to pass in A1GP but this system is much more sophisticated and you have more to use over the race. My biggest goal is to manage them well. I don't want to get trigger happy and use them up early, but at the same time I don’t want to finish the race with 10 left! It's just one more additional thing that I will have to manage behind the wheel, but hey, that's what being in the big league is all about!”

JAMES ON THE POSSIBILITY OF FIGHTING FOR ROOKIE OF THE YEAR

“Rookie of the Year is important to any driver. I think in my first year in the IndyCar Series, it's the only 'set in stone' goal I can realistically make. Missing any races puts a big dent in that, which is tough to take, especially since this year's rookie class is super tough. Having said that, I'm all for a challenge, so we are going to give it everything we have to make a strong case for Rookie of the Year!”

-source: nhr

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Series INDYCAR
Tags birmingham, haas racing, hinchcliffe, izod, newman, servia