IRL: IndyCar teams test at MIS, looking for speed

IRL: IndyCar teams test at MIS, looking for speed

BROOKLYN, MI, July 15, 2003 -- Three teams and four drivers tested their IndyCar racing machines at the Michigan International Speedway on this windy and overcast Tuesday, preparing for next week's 400-mile contest. The themes of the test were ...

BROOKLYN, MI, July 15, 2003 -- Three teams and four drivers tested their IndyCar racing machines at the Michigan International Speedway on this windy and overcast Tuesday, preparing for next week's 400-mile contest. The themes of the test were Balance, Envelope and Speed.

Ganassi Racing test pit box.
Photo by NPStudios.
Team Penske's Helio Castroneves, Andretti Green Racing's Bryan Herta and Team Ganassi's Tomas Scheckter and Scott Dixon were on hand to test in somewhat unpredictable contitions.

Strange as it seems, the teams were happy with the conditions of gusting wind, overcast skies and threat of rain. "If you can make your car fast in these conditions, then you have an advantage for the race weekend here at MIS" commented Scott Dixon.

Since the IRL mandates most of the aerodynamic settings, the test team engineers and crews had little in the way of aero tweaks to test. Tomas Scheckter explained, "When we arrived at the track this morning, the team had two pages of things to try during the day for Scott and me."

Most of the focus was on chassis setup, which envelopes chassis setting parameters that can be adjusted, "If you know the top of a range of a particular setting that works here and the low of the range that still works, then you know you have to be somewhere in between to be fast" Herta continued.

Herta commented that he has experience on the Michigan two-mile oval and that could help him. On the new Indy Racing League cars for 2003, behavior and settings are pretty similar between Panoz G Force and Dallara cars for the race, but the chassis differ quite a bit for qualifying. For this reason, teams were experimenting with qualifying settings as well as race day setups.

Some of the teams were experimenting with ride height and rake. (Ride height is the distance from the ground to the bottom of the car while rake is the attitude of the car from the side.)

Nose down-rear up, flat or nose up, rear down, which is the envelop of the car's possible rake settings that work on the MIS high banked turns. The ride height envelope is the distance from the ground. If the car is set lower to the ground, the aero downforce is maximized, but higher drag due to aerdynamic interference from the proximity of the ground can slow the car. With higher settings the car is generally faster but doesn't grip as well in the turns.

The right combination of all these envelope parameters, the stop watch lap time and the driver feedback on comfort driving the car are all factored into the setup equation, which is all about balance.

Bryan Herta listens.
Photo by NPStudios.
A fast car, however, may not be comfortable for the driver to drive, while a comfortable car may be slow. Within the envelope of adjustment, the balance of all these parameter equals the best speed, which is what it is all about.

The last portion of the study during this test day is sensitivity of the envelope of parameters. In other words, what to change by how much is key to adjustments during qualifying, prior to the race and during the race.

Helio Castroneves says, "Nobody is better at this than Team Penske, I tell you, these guys know exactly what to change and by how much and as the driver, I can tell them what I feel. That way when I call in to tell them what the car is doing, they know what to do on the next pit stop. That is what we are learning today."

Penske tested at Indy more days than anyone else, and they finished first and second in this year's race. Tests like this provide the advantage that gets a driver to the winner circle.

If I were a betting person, there are three teams that are better off for the July 27th race at MIS because they tested here and there are four drivers who are the likely best candidates to visit the winner circle: Castroneves, Dixon, Herta and Scheckter.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Helio Castroneves , Scott Dixon , Bryan Herta
Teams Team Penske , Chip Ganassi Racing