IRL: Indy 500 Rookie orientation program Easter weekend

NINE DRIVERS EXPECTED FOR INDY ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 11, 2001 - Nine rookie drivers are expected to take an important step toward the 85th Indianapolis 500 by participating in the Rookie Orientation Program...

NINE DRIVERS EXPECTED FOR INDY ROOKIE ORIENTATION PROGRAM

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, April 11, 2001 - Nine rookie drivers are expected to take an important step toward the 85th Indianapolis 500 by participating in the Rookie Orientation Program on April 13-14 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Testing starts at 9 a.m. and ends at 5 p.m. each day, with a break from noon-1 p.m. Drivers expected to participate are: Didier Andre (Galles Racing), Helio Castroneves (Penske Racing), Brandon Erwin (McCormack Motorsports), Felipe Giaffone (Treadway-Hubbard Racing), Shigeaki Hattori (Vertex/Cunningham Racing), Jon Herb (Tri Star Motorsports), Bruno Junqueira (Target Chip Ganassi Racing), Nicolas Minassian (Target Chip Ganassi Racing) and Cory Witherill (Indy Regency Racing).

ROP provides newcomers a chance to pass their rookie test before May, when the 2.5-mile oval becomes crowded with veterans trying to find the necessary speed to qualify for the race.

"Because of the unique features of this racetrack, it's a 225-mph flat racetrack with an incredibly narrow margin for error, and with the sheer number of cars on the track during May, the rookies need this time by themselves to get acclimated to the track," said Brian Barnhart, vice president of operations for the Indy Racing League.

"From a safety standpoint, when the rookies are doing phase one and only going 195-200 mph, we don't want a veteran coming up behind them going 35 mph faster."

Rookie tests have been mandatory for new drivers since 1936. Drivers are required to complete the first three of four phases of the Rookie Orientation Program before they are cleared to begin practice during the month of May. They can complete the final phase of the test during official Indianapolis 500 practice.

Drivers must complete 10 laps at each of these speed phases while showing control of the car under the eye of veteran observers Al Unser, a four-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and Johnny Rutherford, a three-time Indianapolis 500 winner, and other Indy Racing veterans: <pre> *Phase 1: 195-200 mph *Phase 2: 200-205 mph *Phase 3: 205-210 mph *Phase 4: More than 210 mph </pre> In addition to the rookie test, new drivers can consult with Rutherford, Unser and veteran Indy Racing drivers in order to become better educated about the track. Passenger cars will be available April 12 for drivers to tour the oval, with the coaches and veterans or by themselves. A drivers' meeting also will be conducted for the rookies.

Castroneves is not required to participate in ROP due to his veteran status in CART, but he will turn laps to gain experience due the team's limited private testing schedule with Indy Racing League equipment.

Junqueira and Minassian of Target Chip Ganassi Racing, winners of the 2000 Indianapolis 500 with Juan Montoya, only need to complete the last two phases of ROP due to extensive previous testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"Because they are considered rookies in CART, they are also considered rookies in the Indy Racing League," said Barnhart. "They have done some private testing, however, and they will only be required to do the last two phases because they have each done over 400 miles here."

Hattori also only needs to complete the final two phases, Barnhart said. Hattori completed the Rookie Orientation Program last year with Treadway Racing but did not participate in the event in May.

OPEN TEST NOTEBOOK

*Anniversary: Although passing a rookie test has been mandatory since 1936, this year is the 20th anniversary of the first Rookie Orientation Program at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

David Psachie, who co-owned cars for 1981 rookies Josele Garza and Geoff Brabham, talked with then-IMS President John Cooper about forming a testing program to give rookies a chance to complete their rookie test before the veterans took to the track for practice. Cooper agreed, and since then, ROP has taken place before the first official day of practice at IMS.

*Fans welcome: Spectators are welcome to watch the Rookie Orientation Program from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., free of charge. Seating will be available in the South Terrace bleachers on the inside of the track adjacent to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

-IRNLS/IMS-

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Felipe Giaffone , Jon Herb , Shigeaki Hattori , Didier André , Cory Witherill , Helio Castroneves , Brandon Erwin , Bruno Junqueira , Nicolas Minassian , Chip Ganassi , John Cooper , Josele Garza , Brian Barnhart , Johnny Rutherford , Al Unser
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing , Team Penske