INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, March 13, 2000 - Former Formula One and current CART driver Mark Blundell recently made his first trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and came away in awe. Blundell recently toured the new 2.606-mile Indianapolis Motor...
INDIANAPOLIS, Monday, March 13, 2000 - Former Formula One and current CART driver Mark Blundell recently made his first trip to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and came away in awe.
Blundell recently toured the new 2.606-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, which will play host to the inaugural United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 24, and took a few moments afterward to share his thoughts on the track.
"First of all, it's big," he said jokingly. "It has an aura about it, which is going to be very interesting. Some people are going to come from Formula One, and they're going to get chills down their spine. "It's similar to when you go somewhere like Silverstone or Monza - these tracks which are steeped in history. The way they give you the chills, you get such a big appetite to get on the track and see what you can do with it."
About 40 percent of the course includes the main straightaway, Turn 1 and south short chute of the famous 2.5-mile oval. The remainder of the course lies within the oval's infield. The Formula One cars will run in a clockwise direction - opposite that which the cars run in the Indianapolis 500 and Brickyard 400 events.
Although Blundell has competed in the CART series since 1996, earning three wins, he is anything but a stranger to Formula One and other forms of road course competition.
Blundell has 61 career F1 starts with teams such as McLaren (1995), Ligier-Renault (1993-94) and Brabham-Yamaha (1991). His best results were three third-place finishes, at South Africa and Germany in 1993, and Spain in 1994. He also won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1992 driving a Peugeot. Blundell gave the 13-turn Speedway road course high marks and said the mixture of tight corners and wide straightaways should provide good racing. "I think they have done a very good job, given the confines within which they had to build the track," said Blundell. "The facilities are going to be first-rate. The track has some corners that are going to be very colorful. And coming off the (oval Turn 1) banking onto the main straight is going to be an impressive feature. The track is wide enough so that people will have confidence to make a move.
"The right-hander coming onto the back straight is going to be somewhere where someone might get courageous and make some moves, and the last couple corners before you re-enter the oval and the banking could be entertaining under braking."
The nature of the road course will provide a tremendous challenge for engineers and drivers and they try to set up their cars, Blundell said. "It's going to be an interesting track for people to set their cars up because you have such high speeds on the straightaways and a high-speed corner coming onto the front straight," said Blundell. "And you've got to have the mechanical grip and downforce needed to make a balanced, nimble car in the slower portion in the infield. A compromise will be in order, but there's got to be a certain limit to that compromise that will force you to go one way or another (on setup)."
It's no surprise that the upcoming U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis has received so much attention, Blundell said.
"The place is known throughout the world," said Blundell. "It's Indianapolis. It's the Speedway, and there isn't any more you can say about it. It is what it is, and it's truly an impressive facility.
"Whether it's road course or oval, I would like to be sitting in a car there someday."