IRL: Panther Racing, Cheever Indy Racing continue preseason testing

Hornish finding speed at California; Son of F1 legend tests for Cheever at Vegas INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2002 - Pennzoil Panther Racing and Red Bull Cheever Indy Racing continued preseason testing Jan. 21-22 at different tracks and...

Hornish finding speed at California; Son of F1 legend tests for Cheever at Vegas

INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2002 - Pennzoil Panther Racing and Red Bull Cheever Indy Racing continued preseason testing Jan. 21-22 at different tracks and with different objectives.

Panther and defending Indy Racing League champion Sam Hornish Jr. tested at California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., while 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr. and Tomas Scheckter handled the testing duties for Cheever's team at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Hornish and Panther concentrated on finding more speed and engine reliability on the fast 2-mile oval at Fontana, site of an inaugural Indy Racing event March 24. Hornish drove the team's 2002-spec Pennzoil Panther Dallara chassis for the first time, powered by a Chevrolet engine and on Firestone tires.

"We are trying to figure out how fast we can go around here," Hornish said Jan. 22. "For the last day and a half, we've been going the same speed. We are just working on trying to go faster. The track is fun to drive, and the car is handling good. I can't wait to get more people on the track instead of one car going around, but this track should provide for good racing."

Hornish will get that wish for more traffic when he returns to California for the first leg of the annual Indy Racing League Test in the West on Feb. 6.

While Hornish focused on speed, team engineer Andy Brown also was carefully analyzing the differences in the aerodynamics of the 2002-spec Dallara chassis. California is an ideal track for aero work, as speeds are high, putting a premium on wing tuning. Brown estimated Hornish's top speed was 224 mph.

One change in the new Dallara chassis is the effectiveness of the rear-wing endplates in controlling speeds, Brown said.

At Las Vegas, Cheever had a two-fold purpose in his team's test: He wanted to continue development of his Dallara/Infiniti/Firestone package and also zero in on selecting a teammate for the 2002 Indy Racing League season.

South African Tomas Scheckter, the 21-year-old son of 1979 Formula One World Champion Jody Scheckter, tested in Cheever's car on the 1.5-mile oval at Las Vegas. He turned 85 laps with a top speed of 210.7 mph in his first experience on an oval.

Scheckter was the runner-up in the European Formula Nissan championship last year and also spent part of the season as a test driver for the Jaguar Racing Formula One team. He finished second in the British Formula 3 series in 2000, with two victories, and is a past champion in the European Opel Lotus series.

"The first few sessions were unbelievable with the g-forces I felt," Scheckter said. "Driving an average speed of over 200 miles per hour was a great feeling, similar to a roller coaster. I got used to the feeling pretty quickly, and with guidance from Eddie, was able to do some good lap times. The team was very professional.

"Hopefully they feel as good about the test as I do."

Scheckter joins Jeff Ward, Buddy Rice and Dan Wheldon as drivers that have tested for the second seat at Cheever Indy Racing. Cheever plans to announce his teammate and driver of the No. 52 Red Bull Cheever Indy Racing entry Feb. 1 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

"The proverb, 'the apple does not fall far from the tree,' is very much the case with the Scheckter family," Cheever said. "Jody was a phenomenal driver, and Tomas is following in his footsteps. He didn't miss a beat and was very methodical in his approach."

Cheever also turned 35 laps during the two-day test, focusing on development of the Infiniti Indy 35A engine.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Tomas Scheckter , Eddie Cheever , Jeff Ward , Dan Wheldon , Buddy Rice , Jody Scheckter , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams Panther Racing , Jaguar Racing