Villeneuve successfully completes first NASCAR `CoT' test, moves on to Talladega Last week Jacques Villeneuve travelled to the Kentucky Speedway, a 1.5 mile tri-oval circuit, to test a Bill Davis Racing prepared Toyota Camry `Car of Tomorrow'...
Villeneuve successfully completes first NASCAR `CoT' test, moves on to Talladega
Last week Jacques Villeneuve travelled to the Kentucky Speedway, a 1.5 mile tri-oval circuit, to test a Bill Davis Racing prepared Toyota Camry `Car of Tomorrow' (CoT) for the first time. The former F1 World Champion ended the day well ahead of expectation, having completed 162 laps in physically challenging circumstances, as his NASCAR development program continues to progress to plan. Villeneuve now moves on to the Talladega Superspeedway, near Birmingham in Alabama, where he will spend today and tomorrow lapping the famous 2.66 mile high-speed tri-oval.
Heading into last week's test, Villeneuve's crew chief, Richard `Slugger' Labbe had expected that it would take the entire morning for his driver to acclimatise to the car, but he was again surprised when the 36-year-old Canadian took just three laps to do so. Taking full use of the opportunity to move onto the car refinement process more quickly than expected, both driver and team were able to maximise the available track time.
With the temperature inside the cockpit nudging 180F/82C, Villeneuve found the conditions challenging, but it was the stability of the car itself that brought the biggest challenge. Commenting from the Bill Davis Racing HQ in North Carolina, the former Indy 500 champion remarked, "The car feels very different to the truck that I tested before. Downforce levels are much lower (than with the truck) and there are fewer options that we can change with the car, but the future is all about the CoT, so it is just a question of getting used to the feeling."
Labbe, a NASCAR veteran commented, "Jacques has again delivered more than we expected, on and off the track. He has real car control, and it just goes to show you, if there's a good racecar driver out there, it won't take him long to adapt."
Looking ahead to today's test, in addition to the unique challenges of the Talladega circuit where `Cup' cars reach top speeds of 215mph, and average lap speeds near 190 mph this will be Villeneuve's first time on-track alongside the entire line-up of premier NEXTEL Cup drivers. Understandably, this is recognised to be a key step in his NASCAR program. When asked for his own expectations before flying to the track from his Montreal home, the pragmatic former World Champion stated, "In one way, it's a very big day, but alongside that, it's just another important test. Either way, I've got to focus on getting the best out of me, the car, and the team. The speeds are high, which I'm used to, but the scale of the track is something very different. I'm really enjoying the whole NASCAR experience, and I'm looking forward to this."