IRL: Firestone Test in the West recap

Firehawks provide strong foundation for 2003 Indy Racing League action; Test in the West offers evidence of another impressive season. PHOENIX, Ariz. (Feb. 8, 2003) - The veil of secrecy surrounding this year's Indy Racing League season lifted...

Firehawks provide strong foundation for 2003 Indy Racing League action; Test in the West offers evidence of another impressive season.

PHOENIX, Ariz. (Feb. 8, 2003) - The veil of secrecy surrounding this year's Indy Racing League season lifted this past week as IRL IndyCar and Infiniti Pro Series teams and drivers made their first official public outings during Test In The West sessions at California Speedway and Phoenix International Raceway. As the exclusive tire supplier for the IRL, the Firestone Racing program captured a wealth of performance data on how the new chassis/engine packages worked in the hands of returning and first-time IRL teams and drivers.

"The racecars and their performance characteristics have evolved since last year, which influences the types of compounds and constructions we'll need to produce for 2003 IndyCar competition," said Page Mader, Manager of Race Tire Development for the Firestone program. "The sessions this past week on two-mile and one-mile ovals allowed us to gather valuable information from teams and drivers on how the cars handled in traffic. We're continually looking for ways to improve the Firehawks, and feedback from drivers and race team members following sessions like these is very important. Added to the more technical data we already have, it helps us prepare for the challenges ahead."

Firestone Firehawks have appeared in all IRL IndyCar (71) and Infiniti Pro Series (7) events conducted thus far, providing Firestone engineers a good foundation for race tire development efforts. That history is also valuable to teams as many have an understanding of what to expect from their Firehawk racing radials.

For Test In The West, Infiniti Pro Series teams used a Firehawk racing radial identical to that used in the 2002 season-ending race at Texas. The Firehawks supplied to IndyCars at Fontana and Phoenix were slightly different than those used in last year's competitions at both tracks. Consequently, many of the IndyCar and Pro Series teams had a benchmark for setting up their cars at Fontana and Phoenix.

Driver Quotes:

Scott Sharp, Kelley Racing (Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "We were really pleased with the tires at both Fontana and Phoenix. They wore tremendously, lasted many laps and were very consistent. That's a key for us, consistency. Having a tire that's consistent is very important for us to set up the cars and work on other areas that we need to develop."

Jaques Lazier, Team Menard (Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "We spent the sessions trying to maximize the chassis and it helped us that we could run a new set of tires or a set with many laps on them and they were so consistent. The wear rate has been very good. We put 40 laps on one set at Phoenix and they were good the whole session."

Felipe Giaffone, Mo Nunn Racing (G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We've had no tire issues, not even a puncture. We put 70 laps on one set (at Phoenix) and we were really pleased with the wear. With our set-up, the tires worked really good for us here (at Phoenix) and Fontana."

Tony Kanaan, Andretti Green Racing (Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The tires are a big part of us setting up the car. It's helped that we've had very consistent tires that last all day. We ran a set here (Phoenix) 70 laps and that's pretty amazing when you consider it was a green track and we were working on the set-up. I was impressed."

Tomas Scheckter, Target Chip Ganassi Racing (G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "I've been very pleased with the tires in this test. They wear very well and they're very consistent from start to finish."

Buddy Rice, Red Bull Cheever Racing (Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The tires have held up extremely well at both Fontana and here (Phoenix). We don't have the car exactly where we want it, but the reliability and durability of the tires have helped. The grip is really good."

Roger Yasukawa, Super Aguri Fernandez Racing (Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The tires have been good to us as we worked on our set-up. We're experimenting with some changes and the durability of the tires helped us. It's been new for me to work with Firestone and get feedback, but it's been very good. We're going to be ready when we get to Homestead."

Kenny Brack, Team Rahal (Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Grip and wear have been very good for us. We started with green tracks at Fontana and Phoenix, but had no significant wear issues. It's the usual standard you can expect from Firestone."

Scott Dixon, Target Chip Ganassi Racing (G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "The tires have been very good, very consistent throughout all the sessions. They're actually the least thing we have to think about. The wear has been very good."

Gil de Ferran, Marlboro Team Penske (Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "The specs of the tires for both Fontana and here (Phoenix) have proved to last quite a while, which is exactly what we need. We've had some mechanical problems so we haven't been able to run as much as we would have liked, but we believe the tire wear is good."

Michael Andretti, Andretti Green Racing (Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Based on what we've seen at Fontana and here (Phoenix), it's obvious Firestone has done a great job in giving us what we need. Tires are just not an issue for us; we just need to work on a few other things. With the tire, the performance is there, the wear is there. Firestone just seems to keep improving them."

Dario Franchitti, Andretti Green Racing (Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The tires have worked really well at these tests; we could put as many laps as we wanted on a set without a significant drop in grip or performance. We'll keep working on the car to make it go as well and as fast as we can."

A.J. Foyt IV, A.J. Foyt Enterprises (G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "We had one slight cut from some debris, but other than that, no problems. The tires have been hooking up great and they feel real consistent from set to set. Wear has been real good and we don't expect anything different the rest of the year."

Al Unser Jr., Kelley Racing (Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "Out for the Test In The West, the tires have performed perfectly. They come in quick and they have great life to 'em. We couldn't ask for anything better."

Sam Hornish Jr., Panther Racing (Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "Firestone developed a tire for here (Phoenix) that will allow us to run harder, longer - and we learned a lot about it during the test. We have a different car than last year, so it's taking some time to get the best set-up. We struggled a little, but the wear and consistency have been nothing but good so far."

Helio Castroneves, Marlboro Team Penske (Dallara/Toyota/Firestone): "There's a difference in the downforce between here (Phoenix) and Fontana, so we explored what we needed to do with setting up the car. The wear rate on the tires seemed good, and they were consistent."

Tora Takagi, Mo Nunn Racing (G Force/Toyota/Firestone): "This is my first year here, and I'm getting used to the different downforce. The tires have been really good, really strong. Today (Saturday, Feb. 8), we put 70 laps on a set and the wear was really good."

Sarah Fisher, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The Firestones have been really consistent all through the test; when you go out they're just as predictable as they were last year. They really add a lot of drivability and there are no differences from set to set. This is our first test and they've been very helpful to us in working on the set-up."

Robbie Buhl, Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (Dallara/Chevrolet/Firestone): "The Firestone tires are the least of things we're learning about right now. We're learning about the car, what it likes to do, what it doesn't like to do. The Firestones have been giving us good wear and they're consistent. That helps."


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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Sarah Fisher , Felipe Giaffone , Al Unser Jr. , Robbie Buhl , Scott Sharp , Helio Castroneves , Gil de Ferran , Michael Andretti , A.J. Foyt IV , Jaques Lazier  , Dario Franchitti , Scott Dixon , Tony Kanaan , Tora Takagi , Kenny Brack , Roger Yasukawa , Buddy Rice , Chip Ganassi , A.J. Foyt , Sam Hornish Jr. , Mo Nunn
Teams A.J. Foyt Enterprises , Panther Racing , Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing , Dreyer & Reinbold Racing