1996 PPG INDY CAR WORLD SERIES Race No. 4 TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH Long Beach, California, April 12-14, 1996 THURSDAY: They're Here! by Robert Heathcote On Thursday the IndyCar transporters came in droves and completely filled their...
1996 PPG INDY CAR WORLD SERIES Race No. 4 TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH Long Beach, California, April 12-14, 1996
THURSDAY: They're Here! by Robert Heathcote
On Thursday the IndyCar transporters came in droves and completely filled their reserved paddock space and by the end of the day most the teams had completed preliminary car setups.
One of the last still working at 6:00pm was Dan Gurney's AAR Toyota Team, who were busy affixing a rain light to the back of the car. Now, either Gurney knows something about the weather I don't, or IndyCar has kindly suggested the Eagle where a light to warn drivers of a slow car ahead!
First impressions of the new cars brings one thing to mind: IndyCar chassis are really big again. It seems around 1990, the cars really began shrinking, in all dimensions. Last year my first impression was that I couldn't believe how sleek the cars were compared to the previous year. This time, the exact opposite is true. The new 1996 sidepods are huge, in height and width, Indeed, you could probably seat a family of five for dinner atop each sidepod.
Also, the cross-section height just before the dash is also greatly enlarged. Compare this area with that of a Formula One car and it appears the Indy car could fit two drivers, if one sat on the others lap! Inside, of course, there is not much room. The bulkheads of the nose still make it a tight fit.
Another noticeable difference is at the rear of the car and the so-called diffuser, or tunnel exits. This area has been reduced per IndyCar regulations so that the maximum height of the tunnel exits are no more than six inches. Due to this reduction, some exhaust pipes are located on each side of the exits and are square in shape, instead of the normal flat-oval. On first look, I thought these square pipes were some sort of support braces to hold - Lord knows what. But after heat retardant wrappings were spied it was apparent these were in fact exhaust pipes. I had a pretty good look at both Reynard and Lola cars and both were similar. One appeared to have both square and oval shape, though I'm not sure if it was the Lola or Reynard.
At about 6:00pm I left the IndyCar paddock and headed over to the Auto Expo in the convention center. Admission was free but not too many people attended. On sale at one booth were two audio CD's of racers music: F1 and Indycar soundtracks. One was called Mechanics Symphony and was imported from France and ran only about 25 minutes, or roughly one dollar a minute.<g> The name escapes me for the other one, but it was the same price and offered about 45 minutes of F1 cars thrashing about and one track of Indycars and one track of NASCAR sounds. Each track is several minutes long. I will be buying the latter CD tomorrow! I can't recall the name of the vendor, but it is the only one with mural-sized photographs for sale, so you can't miss it. My birthday is coming up, so maybe one of you can buy me the 8' x 4' picture of Ayrton Senna. :)
The other "highlight" of the convention floor was the much-publicized appearance of "Mach V," the racers rock and roll band. Jeff Krosnoff did really well on the drum kit, while Robbie Groff (bass) and David Kudrave (guitar) backed up the two non-racers (on lead guitar and vocals). The band opened with a familiar surf-rock number, next was a Tom Petty cover, and then I departed after "My Girl," which really wasn't such a good choice, IMO, seeing how the group definitely was lacking in the background vocal department. To be fair, it really wasn't the best time for the band to perform. They should have done this for a post-race show, or maybe Saturday night at one of the local digs.
When I stopped by the media center I was surprised to see someone had actually left some press kits on Thursday. Toyota wanted to make sure we all knew how happy Dan Gurney was to be here, and likewise, Chip Ganassi Racing. The only interesting bit was one from Goodyear tires, and I'll post it here to wrap up tonight's notes.
GOODYEAR TIRE NOTES FOR TOYOTA GRAND PRIX OF LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA Temporary Street Circuit Fast Facts for April 14, 1996
NUMBER OF TIRES BROUGHT: Primary: 600 Front: 300 Rear: 300 Backup: 500 Front: 250 Rear: 250 Rain: 200 Front: 100 Rear: 100
RECOMMENDED HOT PRESSURE: L. Front: 26 R. Front: 26 L. Rear: 21 R. Rear: 21
DESCRIPTION: Front: 26.0 x 10.0 - 15" Rear: 28.0 x 14.5 - 15"
NOTES AND QUOTES: "We've got two new sets of front and rear tires ready for Long Beach," explained Rob Boehlefeld,m Goodyear's chief engineer of race tire development. "Both sets are new constructions and consist of new compounds that offer better grip. The primary tires are similar to those used in Australia. The optional (backup) tires are an entirely new construction.
"Being a temporary street circuit, Long Beach is a bumpier track than most and puts more demand on the tires," Boehlefeld added. "These new fronts and rears are more compliant and will handle the rougher conditions."
Stu Grant, head of Goodyear race worldwide, said the company's engineers have been putting in long hours on the new tires. "We enjoy having competition from another tire company; it elevates the level of racing for all the teams, all across the board. We've got two good sets of tires ready for Long Beach, and I think the race will be very competitive."
ESTIMATED PIT STOPS FOR SUNDAY'S RACE: Two, based on fuel consumption.
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