FIRST 2012 OVAL TEST FOR RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway tomorrow with Takuma Sato. It will be the first test for the team on an oval for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season. Initially the test was open to one car from each of the three manufacturers – Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus but the series invited more cars to participate. New aerodynamic components have been released since an initial test at IMS by each of the engine manufacturers and data will be collected to evaluate those components.
One car/driver combination from each team was invited with the exception of teams that have rookie drivers. RLL’s Takuma Sato will be joined at the test by fellow Honda-powered drivers Scott Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing), Mike Conway (A.J. Foyt Racing) and Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing). Chevy drivers that are testing include Helio Castroneves (Team Penske), Tony Kanaan (KV Racing Technology), Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing), Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport) and JR Hildebrand (Panther Racing).
RLL’s Technical Director Jay O’Connell provided a brief overview of the test and the type of knowledge the team hopes to gain at the test.
AN OVERVIEW BY O’CONNELL ON THE TEST AT INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY “We found out we were testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last Friday night so we started preparing for it on Saturday while at Barber so it’s really been a short amount of time to get ready. The first step was figuring out some gears and then working on the aerodynamic and mechanical setup based on the manufacturer test result last fall and our previous experience in the Indianapolis 500.
“Our goal at Indy tomorrow is to build a foundation to use for the month of May. We want to get a good understanding of the basic aerodynamic characteristics of the new car, especially with all of the updates that have been coming in the last couple of months. And we are going to get a chance to understand the difference between the 2011 and 2012 Indy 500 tires because I understand that they are going to give us two sets of each of those types. With a new car we have to figure out how much of our traditional Indy 500 setups, combined with our understanding of the new car, will work at Indy.”
O’CONNELL ON HAVING A STRONG RACE SETUP AND LEADING WITH A FEW LAPS TO GO IN 2011 “The last few years we have had solid efforts at Indy whether it was with Oriol (Servia; 2009) or Graham (Rahal, 2010) or with Bertrand Baguette and Jay Howard last year. Each year we have tried to start from solid ground and have a good qualifying setup. We qualified in the top-15 the last few years and made it into the Firestone Fast 9 with Graham two years ago. Qualifying is one aspect and its fun for the engineers but the key is having a good car in the race. We have had really strong cars in the race, especially with Bertrand last year. He moved his way up from starting 14th and was a contender at the end of the race where he had to pit from the lead with three laps to go.”
O’CONNELL ON RACE ENGINEER GERRY HUGHES AND HIS OVAL DEBUT “Certainly Gerry (Hughes) is new to the ovals and we are going through the different parts of the setup and the history behind them. The test is really a good opportunity for him to get up to speed on the ovals in an environment with less pressure than the race event. This will be a good opportunity for him, and well as the rest of us, to really learn the characteristics of the new car on the ovals.”
O’CONNELL ON INPUT FROM COUPRIE WHO ENGINEERED A FRONT ROW CAR IN ‘11 Bruno Couprie was the race engineer for Indy 500 front row starter Oriol Servia who qualified third in 2011. Couprie left Newman/Haas Racing at the conclusion of the 2011 season to join RLL’s ALMS program as a race engineer. He is also assisting with the IndyCar program.
“Bruno is certainly involved and will be at the test. He is bringing his experience to the table and helping as we prepare for Indy. We are going through our experience the last few years along with his experience from last year to start from a good base. We are going to try to take advantage of his experience as much as possible and combine it with our own.”