By Wendy-Ann Francis - Motorsport.com Corby, England -The sun was trying to break through as Motorsport.com staff arrived at Rockingham Motor speedway on Thursday morning for the first practice session for the Champ Car Rockingham 500. This was...
By Wendy-Ann Francis - Motorsport.com
Corby, England -The sun was trying to break through as Motorsport.com staff arrived at Rockingham Motor speedway on Thursday morning for the first practice session for the Champ Car Rockingham 500. This was a sharp contrast to the situation on Monday when we showed up to pick up our credentials. The wind was blowing hard and if it wasn't raining that minute it would be the next.
As this was a new track we took the chance that was offered to take a look around. First, second and third impressions were of a good-looking racetrack with good viewing areas and facilities. There was still some work to be done, the scoring pylon for example had no electronics installed, but work was progressing and looked as though it would be completed on time.
On Thursday, although the rain of the previous week seemed to have left and the sun was trying to shine, the track was still wet. The morning was therefore spent trying to dry it so that the cars could go out. The organizers sent out pace cars and breakdown vehicles as well as the jet dryer in an attempt to get the track ready. By midday it looked as though their efforts were paying off and a murmur started go around that the cars would be out soon.
Work had been done on the scoring pylon since Monday and places 1 through 10 were showing. After some work to cover the mud around the pylon the work continued, hopefully it will be fully functional by Saturday.
The spectators who had been wandering around the hospitality and paddock area were now filtering into the stands hoping to see some action on the track. At 1:30pm the competitors in the ASCAR support race took the track for their first practice. The race organizers were looking to this group to test out the track and see if it was ready for the Champ cars. There were a couple of places on the track where water was seeping through and these received some attention after the ASCAR practice.
The drivers meanwhile were hanging around pitlane chatting to each other and reporters. Max Papis, looking for something to keep him occupied, convinced a cameraman to let him get behind the camera instead of in front of it.
At 2:30pm we were still waiting for the Champ cars to take the circuit but at 3pm the cars came out onto the track behind the pace car for five installation laps. When the cars came back into the pits the track condition was assessed by the teams and officials. After 10 minutes the cars again came out for another five laps behind the pace car but were pushed into the garages when they came off the track.
Work will continue over night on the track drainage.