United States GP: Heinz-Harald Frentzen impressed with Indy circuit during visit

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, June 13, 2000 -- German Heinz-Harald Frentzen became the first Formula One driver to tour the new 2.606-mile road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday. He immediately proclaimed that it will be the...

INDIANAPOLIS, Tuesday, June 13, 2000 -- German Heinz-Harald Frentzen became the first Formula One driver to tour the new 2.606-mile road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Tuesday. He immediately proclaimed that it will be the “fastest track we’ve ever raced on” when the SAP United States Grand Prix makes its debut there on Sept. 24. Frentzen came to Indianapolis before this weekend’s Canadian Grand Prix. He accompanied Speedway President Tony George around the 13-turn track in a passenger car. Later Frentzen participated in a news conference with nearly 50 Formula One media representatives from around the world invited for a look at the Speedway facility. “The challenge here for a Formula One driver is basically finding the right setup for qualifying,” said Frentzen, driver of the Benson & Hedges Jordan-Mugen-Honda car. “I think for us Formula One drivers, it’s not difficult to adapt to a new racetrack. I think generally it would take us the first session on Friday morning to get to know the track like the other ones. We need to do most of the homework mostly on Friday evening, preparing the car for qualifying.” Frentzen thinks he and his colleagues are facing a type of racetrack they’ ve never encountered before since part of the circuit includes Turn 1 and the main straightaway of the 2½-mile oval that the Indianapolis 500 is conducted on. The wall along the outside of this section is new to the overseas participants. “The fact we’re running half of an oval track makes this situation completely different for us,” he said. “It is a racetrack that you can divide in two parts. The infield, which is sophisticated. It’s like a proper Formula One racetrack. They have the other side of the racetrack, which is half of the oval. That means we’ll be able to reach incredible high top speeds, if we want to. “The challenge here will be finding a common right compromise of being fast on the straight and being fast enough as well in the infield. But I think it is going to be a high-speed track for us.” F1 drivers are expected to negotiate the circuit in approximately 72 seconds for an average speed of 130 mph. However, Frentzen predicted speeds of greater than 200 mph as they race clockwise and north up the main straightaway. The top speed the cars will attain depends on the amount of downforce built into them, Frentzen said. “We like the challenge very much, and we like the opportunity to race in Indianapolis for such a traditional racetrack,” he said. “The way people react here, the atmosphere is pretty good here.” Frentzen said the Indianapolis circuit includes places to pass, particularly at the end of each long straight. Also, he noted teams can run high-downforce or low-downforce setups or full or lower fuels levels depending on whether they want to make one or two pit stops. This will have a bearing on passing potential, he said. “There could be overtaking out of Turn 1, up to 2, and at 3 there are some overtaking possibilities,” he said. “I think the racetrack will give us some opportunities there.” Frentzen said he did not calculate the number of gearshifts necessary during his drive-around but added it will be quickly figured out during a computer simulation run. “For me, this racetrack has a very famous history,” he said. “For me, it’s a great pleasure to race here in Indianapolis for, first of all, my first time in America. So that’s going to be my first taste in America here in racing. “It’s very different from the racetracks in Formula One that I’ve seen before. For me, I’m impressed with the way they race. I’ve never raced on oval so it’s a different world. But I find it a perfect compromise racing on ovals combined with the Formula One standards as well.” George was pleased that the Speedway has taken another step toward the inaugural SAP United States Grand Prix that he has been dreaming about adding to the Speedway’s schedule since he assumed the presidency on Jan. 8, 1990. “It’s nice to finally have a current Formula One driver look at the track,” George said. Frentzen, born May 18, 1967, in Moenchengladbach, Germany, has started 104 grand prix since joining Formula One in 1994. He has won three races, been on the podium 16 times, won two poles and started on the front row 12 times. He ranks seventh in the standings this season with five points coming on a third at Brazil and a sixth at Spain. Indy Racing Northern Light Series drivers Scott Sharp, winner of last Sunday’s thrilling Casino Magic 500 at Texas Motor Speedway, Mark Dismore, Scott Goodyear and Sam Hornish Jr. took journalists on similar drive-arounds. Frentzen then spoke to them at the press conference. Asked what he will tell fellow F1 drivers about the track when he arrives in Montreal, Frentzen responded with a smile: “Nothing! I’ll keep it for me.”

-Paul Kelly-

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Series Formula 1
Drivers Heinz-Harald Frentzen , Scott Sharp , Mark Dismore , Scott Goodyear , Tony George , Paul Kelly
Teams Jordan