Gateway will create great IndyCar racing, says Rahal
Graham Rahal says that testing at Gateway Motorsports Park has convinced him that IndyCar’s 2017 race there should be a huge success, both as a competition and an event.
Rahal, who yesterday was one of seven drivers testing on the 1.25-mile oval near Madison, Illinois, said that he’s expecting the event to not only be well promoted but also produce a great race.
He said: “I think it’s going to promote great racing, I really do. It’s tough to judge completely because we were doing so much testing for Firestone. I pounded a lot of laps and did a couple of long runs for them and tried a handful of different compounds.
“But there’s a heck of a lot of potential. Pitlane is nice and long and wide, which you don’t always get at short ovals. And it’s a very unique racetrack.
“It reminds me of [Twin-Ring] Motegi speedway, but flipped around. Motegi’s obviously one-and-a-half mile, and Gateway is one-and-a-quarter, but it’s the same principle. Motegi’s Turn 1 through 2 was big and open, and then Turns 3-4 tightened up and was slower so you got more actual accelerating going on down the front straight.
“Gateway is the opposite, where you’re tighter and slower going into Turn 1, but then you carry more speed into 3 and out of 4 along the front straight.
“Turns 3 and 4 are wide enough that perhaps a second full lane could come in, and because the straightaways are longer than, say, Iowa Speedway, you have plenty of time to draft up and get by someone.”
In further reference to IndyCar’s only shorter oval on the 2017 schedule, the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway, Rahal added: “Gateway is bumpy but they’re smaller bumps. It’s not like Iowa a couple of years ago… or even how Iowa Turns 3 and 4 are now. You don’t have that severity. Gateway has a pretty high frequency of smaller bumps, but no big bumps that would make you avoid using a lane through one of the turns.
Power/grip ratio in IndyCar’s hands
Rahal says that in balancing power outputs with grip levels, he’s expecting IndyCar to stipulate for Gateway a ratio that favors close racing – something he believes track owner and promoter Curtis Francois deserves.
“Curtis is still working hard on the track, improving facilities and so on,” he said. “He’s a good guy who will impress everybody. He gets what it’s all about and how important it is to have successful oval events on the IndyCar schedule.
“So I think it will be very interesting to see what IndyCar does with the downforce levels and also the boost. They tried 1.3-bar boost [on which settings Marco Andretti’s Andretti Autosport-Honda was fastest] and I’m not a big fan of that. I think 1.4-bar [on which Josef Newgarden’s Penske-Chevrolet was fastest] is the way to go.
"But IndyCar is trying a lot of stuff and I’ve got to give it to Jay [Frye, IndyCar’s president of competition, operations] and Bill [Pappas, VP of competition and engineering] and the tech guys. They’re definitely listening and trying to get the best package for racing. Things are headed in the right direction, for Gateway and all the ovals, I think.
“I didn’t get to try many aero changes because we were focusing on the tires. But we did a couple of trim-outs at the end of the day and our pace was right there with Newgarden’s. I don’t have lap times, but mid- to high 25sec [176mph] was about the mark So we’re going quick around there.”
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