Newman/Haas Racing Heads To Edmonton

Edmonton City Centre Airport runways

The 2011 Edmonton Indy will mark the seventh Edmonton event for Newman/Haas Racing (NHR) who has competed here since 2005. NHR won the inaugural race here in 2005 when Sebastien Bourdais drove to victory from a 10th place start. Bourdais won again in 2007 from a second place start and set the fastest race lap. In total, the team has earned TWO wins (Bourdais 2007, 2005), ONE pole (Bourdais 2006) and SIX podium finishes (2nd – Bourdais 2006, Servia 2005; 3rd – Wilson 2008, Rahal 2007).

Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing
Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

Telemundo driver Oriol Servia returns to compete in his fifth Indy car race here. In his four previous races at the track, he has three, top-five finishes with his best of second place coming with NHR in 2005. Sprott driver James Hinchcliffe will make his Indy car debut in Edmonton after having won the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights race here from pole. It will be his sixth year to race in Edmonton and eighth event (two races in 2007 and 2008). He has three poles and four podium finishes here including his 2010 win.

The 2011 event will mark Servia’s fifth Indy car race here and first since 2008. His highest finish here of second place came in 2005 -- his only other race here with NHR. He started fourth, led two laps and finished second. He was also ranked fourth in series points at Edmonton and went on to finish second for the year. In total he has three, top-five finishes in four races and has finished no lower than sixth. In 2006, he started fifth and finished fourth for PKV. In 2007, he started 13th and finished sixth for Forsythe. In 2008, he started third and finished fifth for KV Racing in the first IndyCar Series event here. He did not compete here in 2009 and 2010.

“Edmonton has always been good to me,” said Servia. “I’m not sure why but it did suit me. I hope it is just the Edmonton air so I still feel the magic in this air even if it is a different layout. For some reason I really enjoy race courses that use airport runways like Cleveland and Edmonton. I think it brings an opportunity to create interesting layouts where we have all types of fast and slow corners in a stadium fashion where the fans can see everything from any point. In 2005 I was very close to winning and gave a good challenge to (Sebastien) Bourdais, my teammate, until the last lap. In 2008, I was running in the top three until I got involved in a little accident with other cars coming out of the pits. This year is a new layout but I expect us to be as competitive as we have always been in this city.”

The 2011 event will mark James’ sixth year to compete in Edmonton, eighth race overall and first in the headline Indy car event here. He has three poles and four podium finishes in Edmonton including a win. In 2010, he won the Firestone Indy Lights race from pole and led all 50 laps. In his first Indy Lights race here in 2009, he started and finished fourth. He competed in the Atlantic Series events here from 2006-2008. In the 2008 event, he started from pole and finished third in Race 1 and started fourth and finished third in Race 2. In the 2007 event here he started from pole and finished third in Race 1. In Race 2, he started 15 and finished ninth. In 2006, he started eighth and finished 23rd.

“Edmonton was always one of my favorite venues because the track was so challenging. It was so fast and very physical -- the most physical of the year. I have raced here quite a bit and have a few podiums, a few poles. But the best moment was last year when I managed to win from pole in the Firestone Indy Lights race. It was one of the toughest drives of my entire life. I was under pressure every lap, and it was my first formula car win in Canada. The event was always well attended. Canadian race fans are just amazing and ever since the first race there in 2005 they have been coming out in big numbers. The track was cool; being an airport you could see a lot of the track from the stands so that was good for fans. I liked just everything about it! It's true that I am likely a little biased since I just love racing in my home country!”

Telemundo driver Servia is ranked fourth in IZOD IndyCar Series point standings with 232 while Sprott driver Hinchcliffe is ranked 14th with 158 and is only 35 points behind Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader JR Hildebrand who is ranked 9th with 193. Hinchcliffe missed the season-opener and the opportunity to score points.

The previous Edmonton layout consisted of a 1.96-mile, 14-turn course and has been reconfigured to a much different 2.256-mile, 13-turn course that utilizes one of the longest straightaways of the season. It will be a new challenge for all but will Newman/Haas Racing’s previous experience and success here help expedite the learning curve?

“Absolutely, even if we will be using different runways it still is the same airport with the same asphalt and style of bumps,” said Servia. “It will be a new game for everybody but understanding what made a car work on the old track will definitely help to be competitive on the new one.”

“Knowing the surface is certainly one variable that we don't have to worry as much about,” added Hinchcliffe. “I am sure that there are some new parts, but it will likely be a similar kind of surface to the parts built for the old track. Other than that, it is so fundamentally different that I don't think a lot of the setup information will transfer over. But drivers and engineers love the challenge of figuring out a new track so it will be cool to see who comes out on top.”

“I believe it will be quite different,” said Servia. “There are going to be less fast corners and a lot more hard braking hairpins which will provide a lot more passing and entertainment for the fans. On top of that, having the double file restarts will bring even more action than ever. We are all coming from a race in Toronto where we had way more crashed cars than we wanted and everybody will be a bit more cautious but I still think that given the layout with all those passing zones there will be more bumping than a "bumperless" car can handle!”

“I think it will be as difficult but for different reasons,” said Hinchcliffe. “The new layout has one of the longest straightaways on the circuit so trimming the downforce will be very important. This means that the car will feel light through the rest of the track! This will make it tough to go fast, tough to save tires and tough to brake, but there are some really big brake zones. It is definitely a big compromise type track. The straight into a hairpin is very Sao Paulo-esque so we might be able to make some aero decisions based on that. Other than that, you can say that it sort of looks like a temporary track so little tricks from the other street courses, from the old Edmonton, and from other airport tracks like Cleveland all might make their way into the setup. I think the fast flowing tracks suit my style, so I am a little sad to see the old layout go! Having said that, I think that the new layout will present its own set of challenges and I always enjoy a challenge.”

In two different mid-season reports on how each IZOD IndyCar Series team has fared to date, Newman/Haas Racing received high marks. The team was the only full-season entry that received an “A” from Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star. Robin Miller gave the team a “B” in his midseason report for which was his highest grade for a full-season team. What grade do we give ourselves?

“I am really proud of the latest mid season reviews the whole team has gotten by some of the most knowledgeable media,” said Servia. “It has been a lot of hard work from a lot of people in the team. It is never easy to turn things around after a bad year and it takes a lot of commitment, hard work and will, and it is always nice when it is appreciated and noticed by the fans and media. We haven't reached the level of performance that we want yet but we are inching at it every race. It is hard to set a value on oneself but I believe I have performed right there with the rest of the team. I’m very happy with the work and progress made but will not be satisfied until we at least win one race.”

“I think the team should get an A,” added Hinchcliffe. “One of the big hurdles this season was the fact that both Oriol and my programs came together so late that there was very little time for preparation. But these guys are just awesome and gave us competitive cars from Day 1. There is no doubt that there are areas we want and need to improve on, but when you look at all the elements involved and compare them to the guys we are racing against, the team is doing an outstanding job.”

“It is always hard to know how competitive we will be at a new place as you do not really know what sort of challenges the new layout will provide or how good our cars will adapt to the new layout,” said Servia. “I know though how good we have prepared for it; the cars themselves have been completely reviewed since Toronto and the engineers have spent a lot time coming up with the setup of the car. Every team will start from scratch. I have full confidence we will unload from the track as well prepared -- or better -- than anybody else. The key will be to make the right changes in between sessions and adapt better than the others.”

“There is absolutely no way to tell,” added Hinchcliffe. “We thought we would be quick at Texas and we were slow. We thought we'd be slow at Iowa and we ended up being pretty quick! The series is so competitive this year that just missing the mark by a little means you are way back. I would say that we have done well on the temporary circuits, with low grip, bumpy, surface changes so I think we can be cautiously optimistic.”

“I think many of us left Toronto with a couple of new names on the "black list" and revenge will definitely come to mind during the weekend. I believe though that by trying to get back at somebody, chances are that you will end up involved again in another crash. The best revenge is simply to beat everybody else and win the race. That is our plan!”

“It can lead to an expensive race in Edmonton!” added Hinchcliffe. “At the end of the day we are all professionals and this type of thing happens. Most people will brush it off and not think twice about it heading into the next race. There were a few in Toronto though that maybe hit home a little harder for some guys, so it wouldn't surprise me to hear some smack talk and see a little extra aggression this weekend.”

“As I said when the raced finished, I have raced Marco (Andretti) for many years and had many close calls before. He is a clean driver and I know he didn't punt me out of the race intentionally; it was an over optimistic move on his end where he tried to fit three cars where there was hardly space for two. One hour after the race he sent me a text apologizing for the accident. As far as I am concerned it was very unfortunate and I hope he would have used better judgment but I will not treat him any different to any other driver out there. My focus is to be ahead of all of them and as I said that will be the best revenge.”

“Paul (Tracy) and I texted after the race. We agreed to disagree and move on. I like Paul and have for years, so I am not going to let a little wheel banging get to me. I hope he feels the same. As far as Marco goes, that wasn't really a deal I was involved in until it was over. Oriol and Justin were the ones that were fired up about that one, and rightly so. From what I hear Marco has since taken the blame and apologized, which is a tough thing to do, so I think he deserves some credit for that. Do I think it's going to make him think twice before trying a pass this weekend? Not a chance. He is a racer. We all are.”

By: newman/haas racing

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Oriol Servia , Sébastien Bourdais , Eric Gilbert , James Hinchcliffe , Robin Miller
Tags alberta, canada, edmonton, haas, indycar, jakes, newman, servia