ENGINEERING APPROACH TO A NEW VENUE Competing on a new track for the first time takes equal parts preparation and educated guesswork by a talented group of engineers. The most-talked about element of the 2.6-mile street course in S0x00e3o Paulo,...
ENGINEERING APPROACH TO A NEW VENUE
Competing on a new track for the first time takes equal parts preparation and educated guesswork by a talented group of engineers. The most-talked about element of the 2.6-mile street course in S0x00e3o Paulo, Brazil is the length of the back straightaway which is just short of a mile which makes it the longest straightaway in IZOD IndyCar Series history. Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHLR) Senior Engineer Craig Hampson explains the preparation process: "The S0x00e3o Paulo track is definitely a street circuit. In it you can see elements of the Long Beach track, a bit of Australia, and even some of the Denver track. But the only other places we had such long straightaways were (CART/Champ Car events in) Mexico City and Elkhart Lake. We don't know how bumpythe pavementis going to be so that's an open question going into the event and will determine how stiff we will want to run the springs and dampers.
"As with any new circuit, the most important thing is to run a series of simulations to determine what the cornering speeds and straightaway speeds will be. This then allows us to select the gear pattern and correct gear ratios. We begin by creating a CAD model of the inside and outside walls of the track layout. This is then used to create an assumed driver line which is transformed into a mathematical model of the route the car will take. Our simulated car is driven around this route and the computer iterates to the maximum speed it can attain based on our best assumptions of tire grip level, aerodynamic downforce and drag, and engine power. We're usually pretty close on predicted lap time and speeds though some adjusting of gear ratios is typically still required at the event. So much depends upon your choice for track grip. If you're off by even a small amount, it has a pretty big effect on the resulting speed. The same simulation also helps us to makedecisions about the starting ride heights, the aero setup, and brake cooling."
THE ADDED CHALLENGE OF "FIRSTS"
Not only will the Sao Paulo Indy 300 mark the first race for the IZOD IndyCar Series in Brazil. It will also be the first race of the 2010 season and first event for Hideki Mutoh at NHLR. In addition, it is the first time the series will only run two-days at an inaugural event as well as be the only road/street event on the 2010 schedule that will not have three days of track time. Although this is an added challenge, Hampson notes it is the same for everyone and could be an advantage for a team known for preparation: "To be honest, having only a two day event at a brand new circuit, with a new driver for the team is far from ideal. You can usually make your best improvements overnight after a good study of the data. The driver also does better when he can "sleep on it" after a day of learning the track and how the car is behaving. This time we don't have that overnight opportunity because practice and qualifying are the same day. So we need to "come off the airplane" with a setup that is close otherwise we probably don't have enough time to improve the handling. Also, if we have any sort of wall banging that damages the car, it will be tough to get it fixed in time for qualifying. We need to be sure we keep running and logging laps. If you have a mechanical problem, or even something like a driver fit issuewith the seat or beltsit will really take away from your weekend program. However, the schedule is the same for everyone. So if we have managed to do a better job in our preparations, it could actually prove to be an advantage."
GROUPING OF OVALS AND ROAD/STREET COURSES BENEFICIAL
One change that has received praise from all factions of the IZOD IndyCar Series is the grouping of similar tracks in strategic clusters throughout the season. The first four races of the season will take place on road and street courses while the following four are on ovals, another five events will be held on road and street races and the season will conclude with a stretch of four events on ovals. From a time management standpoint, this has helped the teams immensely. "The way they have arranged the schedule this year is MUCH better," said Hampson. "From oval to road track, the car is totally different. We use different suspension, brakes, wings, dampers and it's also a different mindset for the engineering staff. So a changeover from one type of track to the other is a massive undertaking, and extremely difficult to do if we have only a couple days between events. The way they have arranged the 2010 schedule means we only need to do the road track to oval changeover (or vice versa)three times. This is going to make it much easier on the team and the mechanics."
SIXTH RACE IN BRAZIL FOR NHR/NHLR
Newman/Haas Racing competed in CART-sanctioned events in Rio de Janeiro from 1996-2000 with drivers Michael Andretti and Christian Fittipaldi*. The best start for the team on the 1.86-mile, D-shaped oval in Rio was by Brazilian Fittipaldi who earned his first CART pole in his homeland in 1999. The team's best finish in Brazil is third, also by Fittipaldi in 1999. After winning his first pole, Fittipaldi was hoisted on the shoulders of his fans in what was a spirited Brazilian celebration. He is expected to visit the team at the track this weekend. (*In 1997, Brazilian Roberto Moreno filled in for Fittipaldi in Round 5 in Rio after Fittipaldi was hit by Gil de Ferran in Round 2 in Australia and sustained a broke leg.)
NHR / NHLR ON ROAD AND STREET COURSES
Since being formed by Carl Haas and Paul Newman in the fall of 1982, the team has earned a total of 107 wins and 109 pole positions. Eighty of their 107 wins and 90 of their 109 poles came on road and street courses. The team's previous win on a road/street course was in Detroit by Justin Wilson on 8-31-08. Their previous pole on a road/street course was in the St. Pete season opener last year by Graham Rahal (4-4-09). Nine of the 17 races on the 2010 schedule are on road and street courses.
Hideki Mutoh, driver of the No. 06 Formula Dream/Panasonic Dallara-Honda-Firestone entry:
DEBUT FOR HIDEKI AT NHLR & IN BRAZIL, IDOLS SENNA & MANSELL
Hideki Mutoh, 27, will make his debut for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing this weekend. It will also be his first time for the Japanese driver to race in Brazil. His idol, Ayrton Senna, was Brazilian and he plans to pay his respects to the late racing legend at Morumbi Cemetery on Thursday prior to race weekend. As a child in Japan, Hideki became fascinated with racing at the age of five by watching Formula One on TV and, at 10 years of age, became a fan of Indy car racing when reigning 1992 F1 champion Nigel Mansell joined Newman/Haas Racing and went on to win the 1993 CART title. Hideki now drives for the team that sparked his interest in racing in the US.
HIDEKI ON RACING IN BRAZIL:
"This will be my first time to race in Brazil or travel to the country. To prepare for driving on the new track, I studied the track map the team gave me and also watched the simulation on YouTube every day for a few weeks before the race. Once I get on track it will probably take 10 laps or less to get into a rhythm. It will only be a two day event instead of the usual three day street course event so it is even more important to be as prepared as possible. Because it is also the first race of the year, and my first race with a new team, it will be even more challenging but this team is well-established and we will push as hard as we can. I started my career on road courses but have been racing on street courses the past three years and they have become my favorite because they are more fun. I'm looking forward to starting the season in Brazil."
Hideki spent the past two seasons as one of four drivers at Andretti Green Racing. He believes the added focus to his program at NHLR will benefit his efforts in his third full season in the series.
HIDEKI CONSIDERS STREET COURSES HIS FAVORITE TYPE OF VENUE
His highest IZOD IndyCar Series start on a road/street course is FIFTH at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma in 2009 and best series road/street course finish is FIFTH at Mid-Ohio and Infineon (both 2009)...His highest overall series start is THIRD at Nashville Speedway (oval) and best overall series finish is SECOND (Iowa 2008).