RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING POWERS BOTH HUNTER-REAY AND LLOYD CLEANLY THROUGH INDY ROP INDIANAPOLIS- The Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is designed to let drivers slowly work their way up to the speeds needed to...
RAHAL LETTERMAN RACING POWERS BOTH HUNTER-REAY AND LLOYD CLEANLY THROUGH INDY ROP
INDIANAPOLIS- The Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is designed to let drivers slowly work their way up to the speeds needed to compete in the Indianapolis 500, but Rahal Letterman Racing showed no interest in working slowly as the ROP got underway on a brilliant Sunday afternoon in Indy.
Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) stormed through his four-stage process in just 34 laps today, the fewest laps needed by any rookie to punch his ticket for the remainder of the month. Reigning Firestone Indy Light champ and new RLR/CGR driver Alex Lloyd (#16 Rahal Letterman Chip Ganassi Dallara/Honda/Firestone) easily pounded through his four-step process, hanging up the fourth-fastest time of the day in the process. Lloyd's fastest speed of 219.964 mph (40.9158 seconds) was the quickest of any of the 13 rookies in the field until it was surpassed with 10 minutes left in the day's practice, while Hunter-Reay's best lap stopped the clocks at 219.797 mph (40.9488 seconds).
Hunter-Reay is a rookie in name only as the Floridian had to complete Indy ROP only because he had never competed on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway in his open-wheel career. He showed no trepidation at all however, hitting the track early and getting through the speed benchmarks without incident.
"I've been waiting my entire life for this," Hunter-Reay grinned as he recalled his first laps at the Brickyard. "The straight are just long enough to where you can start thinking about what you can do to the car to make it better, but you can't think too much because the turns come up quick. And you have some business to do once you get there."
Lloyd has had much more track time here at IMS, having won on the both the Indy oval and road courses during his Indy Lights career. But none of those truly prepared him for the blinding speed afforded by 700 hp Indy Cars on one of the world's fastest tracks.
"It was great fun out there," Lloyd said. "Obviously the speed is the biggest difference but once you get a few laps in and get used to it, everything seems to slow down for you and things felt very comfortable. That's the nice thing about ROP is that it kind of forces you to take your time and find your way up to speed safely. Now we just have to settle in, learn the subtle nuances of the track and try and gain more speed."
Among the myriad of things that drivers have to learn during the month of practice and qualifying at Indy is the benefits of patience and taking things slow, something that Hunter-Reay says is a change unto itself.
"It's weird because I am used to getting to the track on the first day and trying to wring every drop of speed out of the car, and that's not what it is about here," he said. "You really need to take your time, develop the car over the month and you'll have something you can race with. That's what we are here for."
Having complete their ROP stages, Hunter-Reay and Lloyd will have a free practice day tomorrow with just the rookies on the track, leading up to Tuesday's first day of practice with the full field checking in. The pole for the 92nd Indianapolis 500 will be determined during Saturday's qualifying, along with the first eleven spots on the grid. Positions 12-22 will be locked in on Sunday, with the rest of the field to be determined next weekend.