INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2001 - Indy Racing League officials have chosen veteran driver Robbie Buhl to test the first complete Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series car on April 8, 2002, at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla.
"Robbie is the perfect driver to put in the seat of this car for its first test," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series. "We chose an experienced driver who's had success in similar cars. He will be able to give us good, basic feedback and tell us what kind of package the car is."
The Dallara chassis, fitted with an Infiniti V8 engine, will be delivered first to the Indy Racing League in March for testing purposes before being sold to an Infiniti Pro Series team. Buhl will drive the car in a private test conducted by Indy Racing League officials.
The Infiniti Pro Series will debut on July 8, 2002, at Kansas Speedway. The Kansas race will be the first of seven anticipated Infiniti Pro Series events in 2002. Races will take place at the same track and on the same day as Indy Racing Northern Light Series events, with every Infiniti Pro Series race distance set at 100 miles.
"It's an honor and will be fun to be the first one to drive the car," Buhl said. "I'm excited to see the series take shape. The IRL needs that stepping-stone series. As a team owner, I'm also eager to see it take shape."
The Indy Racing Infiniti Pro Series was created on the same founding principles as the Indy Racing League. Infiniti Q45 engines will power new Dallara Automobili chassis built for the series, with Firestone tires used exclusively on all cars. The V8 engines will produce approximately 450 horsepower for the single-seat winged chassis, providing an ideal training ground for the 650-horsepower, single-seat winged cars of the Northern Light Series.
"I helped develop the current Reynard Barber Dodge series car," Buhl said. "I did a lot of development on it. And, I've spent a lot of time - a lot of seat time - in 425-horsepower cars." The 1-mile oval of Walt Disney World Speedway was chosen upon the suggestion of Indy Racing League Director of Operations John Lewis for its varying corners and unique design. Lewis spent two years operating the Disney circuit as an employee of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Facilities Department.
"The initial thing on the shakedown runs will be to make sure the car isn't doing anything that will bite the driver, making sure it is talking to you and giving you feedback," said Buhl, adding that the Disney track will be a good testing site. "With the Dallara chassis, it shouldn't be an issue. We're not developing this (car) for me to race, but for its drivability."
While Buhl will be the first driver of the car, he said his Team Purex Dreyer and Reinbold Racing team won't field an entry in the series' first season.
"In 2002, we'll be focusing on the Purex Aventis car with its Infiniti power," Buhl said. "We have a lot to prove, things that we didn't get accomplished in 2001. We may look at it (Pro Series) in the future. We want to see the car, touch the car. It sounds like it's going to be an incredibly affordable series. It sounds like a great formula. I'm a great believer in that kind of series.
"I won championships in both Barber Dodge and the old Indy Lights series. When an equal playing ground presents itself, you have to deliver the goods as a driver. I like those kinds of series." Additional details of the Indy Racing Infiniti Pros Series will be released when they become available, including the complete schedule, television package and series logo.