Firestone Indy Lights driver Gustavo Yacaman found the perfect way to cap his 2011 season – scoring a win in front of the home crowd.
Yacaman, who hopes to move up to the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012, won the overall title at the 26th Six Hours of Bogotá, the biggest racing event in Colombia.
Yacaman teamed with countrymen Javier Castillo and Felipe Traina to win the endurance race in a prototype car dubbed “La Salamandra,” which was designed and built by Castillo, Colombia’s top race car designer.
“I am really happy to have won this race,” Yacaman said. “This is our equivalent of the Indy 500. I am very proud of Javier Castillo, the designer and builder of the car. I am very proud of him because not only was his car 100 percent built from scratch in Colombia, but he also drove the middle stint in the car and did an amazing job.”
La Salamandra was actually the second car Yacaman drove in the six-hour race, which featured 70 different cars. He began the race in a Oldmobile Cutlass Trans Am car, which he moved from fifth to first during his two-hour stint. Though that car had to retire while leading, Yacaman’s teammates in La Salamandra – Traina and Castillo — were running second at the time, so he assumed the lead for the final stint in the car.
“The race was really long, and there were a lot of accidents,” said Yacaman, who said his job in the final stint was to bring the car home. “A lot of people were making mistakes. It was very hard to keep focus after four hours of driving, and passing a lot of cars every lap. The fastest car was running laps at around 1:10.0 and the slowest GT cars where running at around 1:25.0, so you had to be very careful passing them.
“Overall, it’s a very good way to finish off the year, especially because we are still focused on moving up to Indy cars next year, and this will raise the awareness and will hopefully facilitate sponsorship.”
Yacaman, though, wasn’t the only driver with ties to INDYCAR in the event to come away with a win.
IZOD IndyCar Series drivers E.J. Viso and Sebastian Saavedra (right) teamed with Grand Am champion Memo Rojas and Felipe Merjech to win the ST-4 Super Touring class in a Ferrari F430.
The Ferris wheel will be back and so will 2011 Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg winner Dario Franchitti. Tickets to the eighth annual race weekend (March 23-25, 2012) go on sale Dec. 1.
The event will kick off the IZOD IndyCar Series season for the second year in a row and will mark the debut of 2012 IndyCar chassis and the return of competition among engine manufacturers.
“We try our best to entertain and throw the world’s fastest spring break party, and we’re thrilled with what promises to be another historic weekend in auto racing,” said Tim Ramsberger, the vice president and GM of the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. “We are a permanent fixture now, so to speak, on the event calendar for the Tampa Bay region. Everybody looks forward to the IndyCar Series coming to St. Petersburg at the end of March. It’s just a great way to celebrate springtime here.
“Through the years we’ve gotten great support from the local community — businesses and consumers — and we’ve had a strong push on ticket renewals already. With everything that INDYCAR brings and support races, it promises to be a great weekend of entertainment.”
Tickets range in price from $20 to $125. Paddock passes are available starting at $40 for an adult single-day pass. Reduced rate tickets are offered to juniors, ages 12 and under, in certain ticket categories.
Tickets can be purchased at www.gpstpete.com or by phone at 877-283-5385 starting Dec. 1. Three-day reserved tickets purchased before December 31 will receive a free weekend IZOD IndyCar Series paddock pass ($65 value).
The 2012 season will showcase engine manufacturers Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus powering the new chassis on the 1.8-mile street circuit. No alterations to the course are forthcoming, according to Ramsberger, other than tweaking curbing in Turns 4 and 10.
Support series races to round out the weekend schedule will be announced at a later date.
“It could be that we expand our hours of on-track activity,” Ramsberger added.
In addition to the racing, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will keep race fans entertained with interactive activities in the Bright House Speed Zone, live music, exhibits, concessions and more. A special tribute to the late Dan Wheldon, who was St. Petersburg resident and won the event’s inaugural race in 2005, also is being organized.
It might be a cliché, but I firmly believe that sometimes it’s the difficult years that make you stronger, more focused and even more determined to succeed. I can say with confidence that 2011 has been one of those years.
I spent the first couple of months (though it felt like longer) on the sidelines – out of the cockpit and doing everything I could to get a ride lined up for the season. It was tough and not something any driver likes to endure. However, when I really needed that knight in shining armor, there he was. Eric Bachelart gave me my first run in an IndyCar – testing with Conquest Racing at Texas Motor Speedway.
It was from that first outing that I got my chance to compete in the Indianapolis 500.
The month of May was a roller coaster for myself and the team, and the weather certainly didn’t help. As a rookie with a one-off entry into the biggest race on the motorsport calendar, I at least needed some cooperation from Mother Nature; however we had to roll with the punches like everyone else.
My team was fantastic though, and we worked tirelessly to make that 33-car field. When we did, it should have been a moment of great celebration, but instead it was bittersweet. My teammate, Sebastian Saavedra, didn’t make the show, and while Indy was making my dreams come true, it was busy breaking not only his heart but those of several others.
I always said that qualifying for the 500 was our goal, and anything beyond was just a bonus. While that still stands true, all thoughts turned toward the race, and we had our sights set on a new challenge.
The race was a dream come true in so many ways and the first half was a lot of fun. We were able to draft up behind people and pass plenty of cars. As other people’s tires started to go away during their stints, my habit of looking after mine would come to the fore and I would be able to stalk and slip past them.
The second half of the race was tough. My water bottle had failed at the beginning of the race, and by lap 100 I was feeling the effects of severe dehydration. By the time we made it home in 20th place, I had to be helped out of the cockpit and straight into the medical car. I did, however, have time to see the faces of my guys — the ones who had stood behind me all month long, the ones who had worked so hard for me, and I could see that they knew as a team we’d given it everything we had.
I will always be grateful to Conquest Racing for all their hard work and, ultimately, their faith in me. I’m extremely proud of what we achieved at Indy.
One opportunity often leads to another, and within weeks I was jumping around and bouncing off the walls in excitement at the prospect of joining Rahal Letterman Lanigan for a three-race campaign. Our deal would see us take on the Loudon, Kentucky and Las Vegas ovals – and I couldn’t wait to get into the No. 30 car and find out what we had.
We went into the Loudon race weekend full of positive verve and with high expectations. We tested there in the weeks leading up to the race weekend, and that had gone fairly well. Even though I knew the track was a challenge, I liked it. I genuinely thought we were going to go out there and be up front, doing good things and raising a few eyebrows.
I think most of you know by now that life decided to throw a little curveball at me while we were in New Hampshire. Needless to say, our debut was not what I had hoped for. A tough few days of practice, desperately searching for the speed we needed to be competitive, ended with me and the No. 30 making heavy contact with the wall, just prior to qualifying.
In the hospital I was diagnosed with a nice little concussion pretty quickly, and told that I wouldn’t be cleared to drive even if the X-rays and MRI did come back clear. This was the first time in my career I have ever been told I couldn’t race the next day due to a crash in either qualifying or testing. Everyone knows that getting back in with a concussion is not good, but as a racing driver it’s not an easy thing to accept.
The X-rays did come back clear, but the MRI showed bone bruising and a C7 end-plate fracture. No brace or surgery needed, but two weeks of down time and four to six weeks out of the car.
Five weeks later, I tested at Kentucky Speedway with the RLL team and it felt good.
The Kentucky race weekend was another mixture of highs and lows, but as a team we really got to grips with the performance. We had a tough first stint in the race but at the same time the rest of the stints were definitely solid. I learned a huge amount about how the car does feel in traffic when I was behind similar speed cars, and how to deal with a car that already under steers in traffic.
We gained valuable track time and I was able to build on my race experience. The weekend certainly had its difficulties but we overcame them together.
The final event in Las Vegas was a devastating way to end the year. We had some great events leading up to the race and I was really looking forward to getting into the car to go racing. The Rahal Letterman Lanigan team had done a great job from the moment we unloaded the truck on arrival, and all weekend long we knew we had a good race car.
Motor racing always has been and always will be dangerous. As the sport becomes safer, so the tragedies become thankfully sparser, but each one then stands out ever more stridently in front of us.
I’ve undergone reconstructive surgery to my right hand, and they’ve taken skin, tendon, nerve and blood vessel grafts from my ring finger and forearm to repair the damage. I’m expected to be fit enough to drive again by January, and make a full recovery within six months. Despite everything that has happened this year, I will be spending my recovery time fighting to do all I can to ensure that I’ll be back in a car next year.
My thoughts are with the Wheldon family. I still can’t believe Dan’s gone; he was a great guy. He will be missed by everyone and our sport is a poorer place without him still here.
The 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series season was Christopher McFadden’s first with Panther Racing, and as the team’s pit crew coach and trainer it shouldn’t be a surprise that in the course of a single season he went from having never seen a wheel gun to changing the outside-rear tire on JR Hildebrand’s No. 4 National Guard car.
That’s because McFadden’s not just an everyday employee, fresh out of college or hired away from another team. Staff Sergeant Christopher McFadden, an Indiana National Guard soldier, has served his country for more than a decade. He is a veteran of the war in Iraq, and has aided in the relief efforts during Hurricane Katrina and other locations across the world.
“The pressure of having to be accurate and precise was comparable to combat,” said McFadden, who debuted on the team’s crew at Twin Ring Motegi in September. “You have the same adrenaline rush and you have a mission to complete. You cannot make a mistake, your life is literally on the line when you’re in pit lane, and – ultimately – you don’t want to let your teammates down.”
Not surprisingly, SSG McFadden handled his duties flawlessly.
“These days it’s remarkable that somebody who a year ago had never seen a racecar could be changing a tire in a race,” Panther team manager Chris Mower said. “But with the training he’s received in the military; the repetition that they go through, the attention to detail – it’s those things that allow him to perform so naturally under pressure.”
McFadden agrees the transition from battlefield to pit lane was not only natural, but beneficial.
“Personally, the vigilance and hyper-awareness that I’ve been trained to have in the Guard the last 11 years was spot on,” McFadden said. “We’re always taught to know the job ahead of you and it was very rewarding to be able to implement that mind frame in a live situation. Working at Panther has been very therapeutic for me and I don’t think my transition back home would be where it is without Panther Racing.”
Veteran’s Day is a special holiday throughout the country. Panther Racing spends the IZOD IndyCar Series season promoting the efforts of the National Guard, and this season began an initiative with partners ESGR and TriWest to help employers throughout the country understand the importance of employing veterans. The team hosted groups of employers at every domestic INDYCAR event to educate corporations about the benefits of hiring returning soldiers.
With McFadden, the team is putting its money where its mouth is.
“Joining the National Guard was the single most important and rewarding decision I’ve made in my life,” McFadden said. “To be honest, I’ve been able to learn so many life skill and life lessons through my experiences serving in our military I don’t feel I would have learned anywhere else. And all those got me where I am today.”
A recipient of a Bronze Star and dozens of other decorations, McFadden has had a total of five mobilizations and deployments. Among the highlights of his career, McFadden includes his two-year deployment in support of Operation Noble Eagle, and his mobilizations surrounding relief efforts for Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
“We got down there a day before one of the hurricanes hit,” McFadden said. “We finally got a chance to help our own people. It was an amazing experience, and so rewarding to help U.S. citizens in our country’s time of need.”
McFadden was born in Crowne Point, Ind., and joined the National Guard in January 2001, completing his basic training at Fort Sill in Oklahoma and shortly thereafter completed training in field artillery. After coming home from a deployment in Iraq, McFadden joined Panther Racing this year to focus on the performance of its pit crew.
He began by installing a workout program for the team’s crew. He then attended races, where he observed and analyzed video footage of the team’s pit stops – working on the miniscule details of how to improve the team’s performance in pit lane.
“My job is human performance,” McFadden said. “It consists of off-season training — physical training that prepares the team for the physical demand of the jobs they do. Most importantly, I’ll be analyzing and deciphering the pit stop footage. We’ll get all the data we can from that, go over it with the crew and try to correct any problems we find.”
But, like many who serve the country, standing on the sidelines and watching wasn’t enough. He taught himself how to change a race car tire as well.
“He took it upon himself to practice and came up with a program and ran with it,” Mower said. “It just shows that taking people with experience in the military and into difficult and pressure-packed situations is a natural for them in so many ways.”
After nearly a full season of training, McFadden made his debut on the crew at Twin Ring Motegi – changing the outside-rear tire.
“That gave me a test of what these guys go through,” McFadden said. “Being able to go out there and realize I can play with the big boys has been incredible. It was one of the coolest experiences of my life.”
If someone would’ve told me at the beginning of the 2011 season, as I was fighting for that podium spot with Tony Kanaan on the streets of St. Petersburg, how the rest of this season would unfold, I wouldn’t have believed them.
We really kicked it off in style this year. My Nuclear Clean Air Energy car was new and fast, and I was coming off a great rookie season. We raced strong at St. Pete and I had a career-best, fourth-place finish. I felt great about the direction my sophomore season was headed in.
Top 10s: 3
Top 5s: 1
Run at finish: 11
Best start: 13th (3 times)
Best finish: 4th (St. Pete)
After a second top-10 finish at Barber, we had a somewhat disappointing race at Long Beach, but I remember that it made me even more excited to go to Brazil. The race on the streets of Sao Paulo is one of my favorites. Maybe it’s because I lead laps there during my very first race in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Maybe it’s because I love driving in the rain. Whatever the reason, I couldn’t wait to get out there.
My excitement faded quickly after an early incident put me nine laps down. The rain ended everyone’s day early, but when I got back on track Monday morning, I ran the fastest lap of the race and was proud to take home that trophy. It wasn’t for a podium finish, but something I could take pride in nonetheless.
After Brazil, it was on to Indy! I was the reigning champion of the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year honors and I wanted to make this year even more special. I try not to relive what happened too much in my head, so let’s just say that the massive crash was something I hope never happens to me again. I’ll admit that I considered walking away from racing. The support I got from my family, team and sponsors was incredible – they told me that it was my decision. Ultimately, it came down to the fact that this is what I believe I was born to do. I’m a racecar driver and I don’t want to do anything else. So even though I was terrified, I got into that car and made that qualifying run… three times.
We didn’t have a great race at Indy, but I feel blessed to just be part of the experience. I’m one of only 33 people who can say they raced in the 100th anniversary of the Indy 500. That’s pretty special.
From that point on, it was me and my trusty sidekick, Pork Chop. We didn’t have the best start together – after Texas, the crash in qualifying at Milwaukee lead to a concussion. For the first time in my career, I didn’t feel physically able to drive and as a driver, it’s hard to admit that. I wanted to be tough and push through it, but I knew that wouldn’t be the right decision and could have consequences later on.
Not being medically cleared to drive at Iowa was tough, but I understand. In the long term, it was the best thing for everyone involved that I got back to being 100 percent. The whole experience was trying and I couldn’t wait to return to the road/street courses.
My excitement must’ve shown on the streets of Toronto and we brought home another top-10 finish. The next few races seemed to fly by – Edmonton, Mid-Ohio, New Hampshire – and then I thought I’d take a few days to go home and visit my family in Switzerland.
The plan was to fly back in time for the Sonoma race. Everything worked according to plan until I landed in Washington-Dulles and wasn’t allowed to enter the country! With all the proper paperwork and without being given a reason, I was sent back home to watch my team compete from halfway around the world. I was thankful that Simon Pagenaud was willing to step in and help us out. Although it was tough not being there, he did a great job.
My birthday is September 1st and as luck would have it, that happened to be the day I was granted access back into the U.S. I flew in just in time to enjoy the Baltimore race weekend. It was definitely one of my favorites this year. We had awesome hospitality from our partners (and friends) at the InterContinental Harbor Court Hotel and it felt like my “home” race because all of the folks from Entergy Nuclear and AREVA came out to cheer me on. I was leading for a brief time during that race and I really felt like I was back.
The trip to Japan was fun, as always. It probably won’t surprise anyone that I was glad we were driving the road course. The fans are awesome and I hope we go back there someday.
I went into the Kentucky race weekend with a simple goal of continuing to improve my confidence on the ovals. At the end of the second practice session, I was actually having a great time out there, and managed to put together a solid qualifying run. It made me realize how cool it is to drive for a diverse series. It allows drivers of different backgrounds to showcase the skills they already have and improve on the ones they need to.
Finally, it was off to Vegas for the IZOD IndyCar season finale. What started as a great celebration ended in a tragedy that none of us could’ve ever expected. We got to put on a great event Thursday night on the strip, followed by some fun appearances, all of which lead up to what was supposed to be an exciting finale to the 2011 season. As we got strapped into our cars, we wanted to put on a show for the fans.
In the aftermath of the Lap 11 accident, all of us – drivers, teams, officials and fans – have been looking for answers and mourning in our own separate ways. First and foremost, my thoughts and prayers are with Susie and the boys. Secondly, IndyCar has made it clear that safety is paramount and they’re working to answer our questions. As drivers, we understand that there’s risk involved with our sport. We have to be strong and involved in making it even safer.
As always, I want to say thanks to my team for a great season. I also want to express my sincere appreciation for my fans. During a very tough season, you continued to cheer me on and your support gave me strength. I look forward to a new start in 2012, a leveled playing field with the new car and another chance to connect with all of you. Have a fun and safe off-season. See you in St. Pete.
Clive Wheldon held back tears as he paid tribute to his son, calling him “a gentleman on and off the track” and “a true champion.”
Dan Wheldon, the 2005 IZOD IndyCar Series champion and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner, died Oct. 16 from injuries suffered in a 15-car crash at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. He was 33.
“The family would like to thank everybody for their overwhelming sympathy in such a difficult time,” Clive Wheldon said outside his home in Emberton, England. “Daniel was born to be a racer and yesterday he left us doing what he loved. He was a true gentleman and champion, on and off the track. He was a devoted son to Sue and myself, loving husband to his wife Susie, and a loving father to his children, Oliver and Sebastian.
“Words cannot describe how much our family will miss him. He touched so many and the world is a better place for him having been in it. We want to thank everyone for allowing us time to grieve in private.”
The INDYCAR Championship Celebration, scheduled for Oct. 17 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino, was canceled. INDYCAR will pay tribute to Wheldon with a public memorial service in the near future in Indianapolis. Further details about the service and how the public can make memorial contributions will be forthcoming.
Testimonials and condolences continued to pour in from around the world. British Racing Drivers’ Club president Derek Warwick called Wheldon a “great talent of his generation.”
“The BRDC is extremely proud of Dan and all that he achieved and was achieving in the United States,” Warwick said in a statement.
“He was undoubtedly one of the great talents of his generation as his racing results testified. Two victories in the Indy 500 put him in a very select group of drivers and having won the Rookie of the Year honours in 2003 it was no surprise that he should win the IndyCar championship in 2005. Dan followed this in 2006 by winning the BRDC Gold Star, beating the likes of Jenson Button, Mark Webber, David Coulthard and Dario Franchitti to this coveted award.”
Also on Oct. 17, IZOD IndyCar Series drivers JR Hildebrand and Pippa Mann – involved in the 15-car crash — were released from University Medical Center in Las Vegas.
Mann had surgery Oct. 16 to clean and assess a severe burn injury to the little finger of her right hand. She will need a subsequent surgery but is expected to make a full recovery, INDYCAR medical director Dr. Michael Olinger said. Hildebrand suffered a severely bruised sternum was held overnight for observation.
ESPN Classic was to air the 2005 and 2011 Indianapolis 500s that Wheldon on Oct. 17 at 8 and 10 p.m. (ET). GoDaddy.com has created a Wheldon memorial website, which includes a link to a Facebook page to offer condolences and remembrances. It can be accessed HERE.
Tony Kanaan and Will Power have withdrawn from the V-8 Supercar race this weekend in Surfers Paradise, Australia.
MOTEGI, Japan — An earthquake registering magnitude 6.2, centered about 137 miles east of Tokyo, was felt at Twin Ring Motegi and Mito — where many teams are headquartered for the Indy Japan — struck about 5 p.m. local time Sept. 15.
“Just a little shaking to keep us all awake,” Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing driver Graham Rahal said.
“Interesting to sit in your hotel room and see your TV walk across the desk,” added Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay.
No damage to the 2.983-mile race course, on which IZOD IndyCar Series drivers will compete Sept. 18, was reported. Twin Ring Motegi is 86 miles north of Tokyo.
Japan’s Meteorological Agency said such tremors are common following the March 11 earthquake and subsequent tsunami that left almost 20,000 people dead or missing across the northeastern coast.
BALTIMORE — With the 2-mile, 12-turn street circuit that everyone found exceptionally challenging and fun, the three stages of PEAK Performance Pole Award qualifying should produce quite a bit of excitement and surprises.
Qualifying gets underway at 12:10 p.m. (ET) with the first group on the track. Verizon Team Penske’s Will Power was quickest in the morning practice session with a lap of 1 minute, 21.0176 seconds. IZOD IndyCar Series championship points leader Dario Franchitti was second and Graham Rahal was third.
Others who could challenge for a spot in the Firestone Fast Six are Sebastien Bourdais (fifth in the session), Vitor Meira (sixth), rookie James Hinchcliffe (eighth), Giorgio Pantano (ninth).
Keep track of the action with Race Control on www.indycar.com, featuring real-time Timing & Scoring augmented by the IMS Radio Network broadcast, Twitter feeds, photos and videos.
The 75-lap Baltimore Grand Prix gets the green flag at 2:45 p.m. Sept. 4. The Firestone Indy Lights 35-lap race is at 12:15 p.m.
SONOMA, Calif. — IZOD IndyCar Series cars are on the 2.303-mile, 12-turn Infineon Raceway for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at 4:50 p.m. (ET).
Keep track of all the laps via Race Control — real-time Timing & Scoring augmented by the IMS Radio Network broadcast, Twitter, photo and video feeds — on www.indycar.com.
PEAK Performance Pole Award winner Will Power topped the morning warm-up session with a lap of 1 minute, 19.6623 secods. Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe, James Jakes and Sebastien Bourdais also were in the top five.
Of note: Simon Pagenaud is driving the No. 78 Nuclear Clean Air Engery car for HVM Racing. He’s filling in for Simona de Silvestro, who is having issues with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection as she was returning from Switzerland. READ THE FULL STORY
Twenty IZOD IndyCar Series drivers, including Ho-Pin Tung for Dragon Racing and Giorgio Pantano for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, participated in a test Aug. 18 at Infineon Raceway in preparation for the Aug. 28 Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma.
Defending Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma race winner and pole sitter Will Power posted the quickest unofficial lap time of 1 minute, 19.04 seconds on the 12-turn, 2.303-mile course in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car.
Power will look to become the first repeat IZOD IndyCar Series winner in Sonoma. The race has had six different winners (Tony Kanaan, Marco Andretti, Scott Dixon, Helio Castroneves, Dario Franchitti and Power) in as many races.
“We are trying to find our pace,” said Power, who is second in the championship standings to Franchitti. “We’ve been struggling on road courses of late but this track is pretty consistent and that will help us. I always enjoy coming out here.”
Dixon (Target Chip Ganassi Racing, 1:19.49) and teammate Franchitti (1:19.60) were next on the unofficial chart. Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (1:19.77) and E.J. Viso (KV Racing Technology-Lotus, 1:19.79) also were in the top five.
Pantano was named Aug. 16 to drive the No. 22 entry in lieu of the injured Justin Wilson (back) for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma (Aug. 28) and the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix (Sept. 4). He made two IZOD IndyCar Series road course starts with Chip Ganassi Racing in 2005. He had a best unofficial lap time of 1:19.79.
The 28-year-old Tung is on the entry list for the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma in the No. 8 Dragon Racing car. He sought to become the first Chinese driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 in May. But a Pole Day practice crash, in which he suffered a mild concussion, curtailed those plans in a Dragon Racing car. He subsequently has competed in the Assen round of the Superleague Nations Cup for Team China in June.
MoveThatBlock.com is giving away 500 tickets to the Aug. 14 MoveThatBlock.com Indy 225 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway to single men and women in uniform (military, police, firefighters, EMS) and 500 single Americans that want to date them in an attempt to break the world record for the largest group date.
It’s part of the company’s “There’s Something About a Man (or Woman) in Uniform” contest. The record was set two years ago in South Africa.
For those who don’t know what MoveThatBlock.com is (its description):
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Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Dan Wheldon is at Dallara Automobili’s headquarters in Parma, Italy, this week for a seat fitting in preparation for the first round of 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series Safety Cell testing in early August.
The first prototype chassis will arrive in Speedway, Ind., by the end of the month for assembly and mating with the Honda V-6 test engine. Early in 2012, the public will have the opportunity to see the processes – from design to hitting the racetrack – at the Dallara/Indy Racing Experience factory and engineering facility near the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Stefano de Ponti, U.S. director of operations for Dallara, said construction of the 100,000-square-foot, $7 million building is ahead of schedule and should be completed by the end of the year. Dallara Automobili was selected to produce the next generation of IZOD IndyCar Series chassis in July 2010. Ground was broken for the facility on Nov. 16, 2010, in the heart of the town’s redevelopment zone.
“If I go back one year ago we didn’t know what the final results would be,” he said. “Now it’s a dream coming true. This first step is almost done and we’re looking forward to the activities we’ll be running in this building.
“The next step is to allow the racing fans to see what is happening inside. There will be different activities – from the entertainment side and teaching side — showing the racing processes from the design and engineering of the car up to production and when the car hits the racetrack. Mr. (Gian Paolo) Dallara cares about education.”
A replica of the multi-million dollar simulator that Wheldon is trying out in Italy also will be housed in the new facility by 2013. Wheldon and Bryan Herta Autosport were selected to carry through the initial phase of testing of the IndyCar Safety Cell on ovals and road courses through September. Engine manufacturers Honda, Chevrolet and Lotus will have the opportunity to test beginning in mid-October.
“We’ll have two months of testing, and once we receive the feedback from the test we will start the pre-assembly of all the parts in Italy to be delivered here,” de Ponti said.
Soon, there will be a spacious facility for all facets of the project.
Dario Franchitti joked that he’d like to find a two-seater race car at the Goodwood Festival of Speed so he could drive his mother up the hill. Or was he joking?
The reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion, current points leader and two-time Indianapolis 500 champion is joining other series drivers and Indy 500 winners at the annual event in West Sussex, England.
He’ll drive a Lotus 38 that his racing hero, Jim Clark, drove to a runner-up finish in the Indianapolis 500 in 1966 and the 2008 Indy 500-winning car of Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon. Not to worry; Dixon will drive the car, too, on another day of the three-day event.
“I’ve driven on the Revival track, which is the racetrack, and we’re doing the Festival circuit, which is a demonstration up the hill,” Franchitti said. “It’s a special place and I’m really looking forward to it. I’m looking forward to going as a fan. I’m going to take my camera and walk amongst all the cars and meet all the great drivers – rally drivers and motorbike riders – that I admire.”
The Goodwood Festival of Speed – known as FoS in western Europe – is a celebration of vintage motorsports and road cars, airplanes and equal part garden party on the grounds of Goodwood House, the Earl of March’s ancestral home. The theme is 100 years of racing at Indianapolis. Lord March watched the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 in person on May 29.
Fourteen other Indianapolis 500 winners will drive open-wheel racing cars at Goodwood: Parnelli Jones, Bobby Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Arie Luyendyk, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jr., Eddie Cheever Jr., Kenny Brack, Helio Castroneves, Gil de Ferran, Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon, Danny Sullivan and Bobby Rahal.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum, Penske Racing, Parnelli Jones and numerous private collectors have provided cars that will be part of the FoS – either driven or on display, including the 1911 Marmon Wasp, 1949 Blue Crown Special, 1986 Rahal winning car, 1970 Al Unser winning car, 1968 Joe Leonard Pole winning car, 1974 Johnny Rutherford winning car, 1980 Johnny Rutherford winning car, 1983 Al Unser Jr. Indy 500 rookie car, 1981 Bobby Unser winning car, 2008 Scott Dixon winning car.
A replica Yard of Bricks was installed as the starting line for the hill climb, and course marshals will be outfitted as “Yellow Shirts.”
“The Goodwood Festival of Speed is something I look forward to each and every year,” three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser said. “Lord March sure knows how to put on a show and with the Indy 500 being showcased this year this is something I didn’t want to miss. I always enjoy my time here. Driving my 1981 winning car up the hill will be really, really fun and be super special for me and all the fans that come out to this amazing event.”
IZOD IndyCar Series president of competition and operations Brian Barnhart and staff measured various portions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway frontstretch this week, plugged in section speed data and talked with numerous drivers in an effort to determine the best option for two-wide restarts for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500 with respect to safety and competition.
The determination, which was laid out at the drivers’ meeting May 27:
• IZOD IndyCar Series drivers proposed a mid-range RPM, second-gear restart (about 115-120 mph) when they hit the restart line.
• That will be 900 feet before the start/finish line (where the refueling tank for Simona de Silvestro, the first car at pit in, will be on Race Day), which will put the speed at about 150 mph at the start/finish line. Drivers are not allowed to improve their position until they cross the start/finish line.
• It’s 1,800 feet from de Silvestro’s pit box to the turn-in point of Turn 1, which puts the speed at about 183 mph (the start/finish line is not in the middle of the frontstretch).
• Three car lengths are required between rows.
• Drivers are to get in double file coming off Turn 2 (using the paving seams as reference on the backstretch).
“I’ve had several conversations with a lot of the drivers about what the process for restarts is going to be like and there’s a lot of varied opinions on where it should be, how fast it should be, what the spacing should be,” Barnhart said. “Most of the responses to what we’ve proposed has been ‘that all makes sense.’
“The track at 183 is a lot less line-dependent. They then should have the ability to go through Turn 1 two-wide and they’ll start to sort it out in the short chute and Turn 2, and then they have the whole five-eighths-mile backstretch to sort it out even further before they get into Turn 3 at terminal velocity. The later we go at 115 (mph) then the slower you’ll be in Turn 1, and the slower we make Turn 1 the more congestion you’ll have there.
“When you start figuring out how many feet per second you’re traveling from the start/finish line to the turning point of Turn 1, you don’t have time to pass somebody anyway. If a guy waits until the pylon to swing out to pass somebody, he’s not going to get there.”
The speed at the restart line will be close to what start of race is, but considerably slower than restarts of the past between Turns 3 and 4. Drivers have expressed concern about the outside line on two-wide restarts because of tire wear “marbles” and the speed. To address the former, four sweepers will be employed – in tandem at each end of the 2.5-mile racetrack – to collect “marbles” in the turns during each caution.
“(The drivers’) concerns are valid because it’s their butts on the line out there and it’s the Indy 500 and they want to do everything they can to be in position to win,” Barnhart said. “When you are making efforts to do the best you can for everybody, there is going to be a scenario that just didn’t work out well for someone.
“The diversity of the tracks we run adds to the challenge of doing this because of each track’s (road/street courses, superspeedways and short ovals) unique characteristics. It would be easier if we were an all-oval series. While this is a new process and has its challenges, no matter what we do as a series and what we do in terms of laying out the procedure, ultimately it’s in their hands.
“They have the steering wheel, they have the gas pedal, they have the brake pedal and they’re going to make decisions based on proximity of other cars, traffic and other choices. That’s all part of being a race driver.”
INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard got a unique perspective on half the challenge that Bryan Clauson will face on May 27 during the Hoosier Hundred Media Day on May 12 at the Indiana State Fairgrounds.
Clauson, who will compete in both the Firestone Indy Lights Firestone Freedom 100 and the USAC Silver Crown’s Hoosier 100 on the same day, took Bernard around the dirt oval in a two-seat USAC Silver Crown car.
“We were hauling down the straightaway, and when we came around the corner, that’s when it got scary,” Bernard said with a laugh. “The power in this thing is unbelievable. I was shaking. I wouldn’t do this with anybody else, that’s how much trust I have in Bryan.”
The ride with Clauson gave Bernard a new appreciation for the short-track racing. A similar experience attending a race helped spur Bernard into creating the scholarship which is enabling Clauson to race in the seven oval races on the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights schedule.
“Our sport has been so instilled with USAC since the very beginning,” Bernard said. “It has to be our job to make sure we’re doing everything we can to work together. If we say we want the best Americans in the world, we have to prove it. And one of the best ways is to partner with USAC and ask its highest points finisher to compete in INDYCAR.”
Added Clauson: “As long as he enjoyed it, I think I will keep him on my good side as best as I can.
The Itaipava São Paulo Indy 300 presented by Nestle will be the second IZOD IndyCar Series race on the 2.6-mile, 11-turn street course.
A look at the circuit:
The Anhembi Sambadrome straight leads into Turns 1-2 called the S do Samba (Esses of Samba), which will be across from where colorful Carnival floats from last month’s parades were parked for public viewing. Turns 3-4 are the Curva da Base Aérea (Air Base Corner; located across the street from the air base).
Cars then enter a short straight on Olavo Fontoura Avenue – named Reta de Marte after Campo de Marte airport, host of aircraft services of São Paulo’s Civil and Military police (site of São Paulo’s first airport).
Turn 5 is the Curva do Anhembi (in the Pavilion Expo Park), while Turn 6 is the Curva 14 Bis. Turn 7 is the Curva do Pavilhão (Pavilion Corner) and Turn 8 is the Curva Espéria. Turn 9 is called the Curva das docas (Curve of the Docs).
Turn 10 is the Curva Tietê (named for the river a few yards away), which leads onto the long Reta dos Bandeirantes, which pays homage to the explorers who left São Paulo to expand the Brazilian territory in the 16th century. They used the Tietê River as one of their transportation trails.
Turn 11, the big right-hander that leads into the Anhembi Sambadrome, is the Curva da Vitória (Victory Hairpin).
“It’s a special circuit,” course designer Tony Cotman said. “It will provide a great opportunity for the IZOD IndyCar Series and its drivers to put on a good show.”
In constructing the circuit, 27,456 feet of fencing, 41 miles of fence cabling, 5,450 fence poles, 11,000 tires, and about 100 miles of reinforcing steel rod (for building the 5.2 miles of cement barriers) were used. Because of the heavy traffic – there are 7 million vehicles in use in the city — the event will be held on the weekend only.
Pippa Mann, who sat on the pole for the Firestone Freedom 100 last May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will attempt to be among the 33 starters for the 100th anniversary Indianapolis 500.
Mann will drive for Conquest Racing, joining full-time entrant Sebastian Saavedra, in the No. 36 car. Mann is the fourth female and sixth rookie confirmed as one of the 42 entries for next month’s Indy 500, and she will be the first British female to be on the entry list for the 500 Mile Race.
“Having the chance to compete in the Indy 500 is something that we have been working extremely hard to bring to fruition over the winter,” said Mann, who won the Firestone Indy Lights race at Kentucky Speeday from the pole last September. “I tested with Conquest Racing earlier this year, and given how well that test went we have since been working tirelessly to put this deal together.
“The past few months have been a rollercoaster ride for me, and I’m just thrilled that we’re now able to tie things up. There are a lot of entries for the race this year, so it’s a somewhat interesting time to be a rookie, but my qualifying record on superspeedways is good and I’m definitely up for the challenge.
“For obvious reasons, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of my favorite ovals, so I can’t wait to get out there in the No. 36 car and see what we can achieve.”
In 27 Firestone Indy Lights starts over two seasons, Mann earned seven top-10 finishes and three pole starts. She closed 2010 with a flourish — after breaking her hand in July — with four consecutive top-five finishes (including the win on the 1.5-mile Kentucky oval).
“Pippa is a natural on ovals and we could judge how good she is when we tested her about six weeks ago in Texas,” Conquest Racing owner Eric Bachelart said. “She has been part of the team since then and we are all looking forward to working with her at the Speedway this year.”
(LONG BEACH, Calif) – Pointing out the closeness of lap times throughout the field isn’t news to Ryan Hunter-Reay. ‘The competition is so tight right now that if you sneeze the wrong way you’re going to be at the back of the pack,” said Hunter-Reay, who’s at the front of the 27-car pack after two rounds of practice for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. “Every hundredth of a second helps, and if you have a little trick in one corner that might get you half a tenth of a second it’s worth its weight in gold.”
It helped the driver of the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda car, who recorded a best lap of 1 minute, 10.9984 seconds to place third on the combined practice chart (two sessions). Team Penske teammates Ryan Briscoe (1:10.7403) and Will Power (1:10.8885) were 1-2.
After 1,141 laps, the top 13 cars were separated by a second on the Practice 2 time sheet. As the quickest overall, Briscoe chose to have cars that placed 1, 3, 5, etc., on the time sheet be in Group 2 for the 15-minute Segment 1 of qualifications April 16 under the INDYCAR procedure instituted this weekend.
Hunter-Reay won the 2010 race on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street course from the front row – his second IZOD IndyCar Series victory – which set the table for him to complete the season with primary sponsorship from IZOD.
“It was pivotal for us to get the rest of the season locked up,” said Hunter-Reay, a former Dana Point, Calif., resident who this week was named a LIVESTRONG Global Envoy. “It’s never in black and white that if you win you’re going to get more races and more support. We knew we had to get something done. Coming off of Brazil with a second and winning here certainly got everything set in the right motion and set certain events into place where we could lock up the rest of the season.
“On the other side of it, it was great getting a win for IZOD and Andretti Autosport with Michael as sole owner was important to me personally.”
Seventh place in the championship standings (three podiums, six top-five finishes) led to a commitment by the team that has provided stability to the driver.
“Ryan was so impressive with everything he did for us in 2010 that it became a high priority for us to secure him for two more years,” said Andretti, who won his first and final Indy car races on the Long Beach circuit. “He was everything we hoped he’d be in the car and he is a great representative for our team. Long Beach was great, but it was more a function of what he did throughout the entire season.”
So far this season, Hunter-Reay has a best finish of 14th at Barber Motorsports Park on April 10. He’s 17th in the standings, but long term he can concentrate on racing the car instead of racing around attempting to build a sponsorship base.
“Long Beach is coming at the right time,” he said. “It is definitely one of our strong suits and hopefully we can put that to use here, qualify up front and stay out of trouble. The double-file restarts are going to be pretty interesting, so it will be key to qualify up front. We just need the points and get our season started this weekend.
“The DHL/Sun Drop team certainly deserves it. We’ve had great race cars; we were running the in the top five in both races this year, so it’s not like we’ve been out of the hunt. We’ve been in it; we just haven’t been able to bring it home.”
Briscoe, driving the No. 6 Penske Truck Rental car, also looks at Long Beach as a starting point. Contact in the first two races negated top-five starts, which has dug Briscoe a points ditch.
“Certainly, the big goal is to start at the front and it’s going to help a lot,” Briscoe said. “From the third, fourth row back it’s going to be such a big bottleneck, and there’s going to be some impatient guys out there. We’re certainly working hard at getting some speed out of the Penske Truck rental car.”
Scott Dixon, the runner-up at Barber Motorsports Park earlier in the week, was fourth quick in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car and Alex Tagliani was fifth in the No. 77 Bowers & Wikins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports car. Paul Tracy of Dragon Racing, both making their season debut, was 22nd (1.5 seconds off Briscoe’s pace).
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Another strategy component comes into play this weekend for IZOD IndyCar Series qualifications.
INDYCAR has modified the assignment of IZOD IndyCar Series road course qualifying groups for the first of the three segments, beginning with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (5:30 p.m. ET IMS Radio Network broadcast on www.indycar.com; 6 p.m. taped on VERSUS).
Lap times from the initial day of on-track activity will be used to determine the two qualifying groups, with the driver posting the quickest time from the combined or single practice session(s) having the option of selecting which qualifying group he/she will participate.
Odd-numbered positions will comprise one group for the 15-minute session and even-number positions will make up the other group. The top six cars, based on lap time, from each group will advance to the 10-minute Segment 2. Then the six cars with the quickest lap times advance to the Firestone Fast Six shootout to determine the PEAK Performance Pole Award and set the first three rows for the April 17 race.
Previously, a random draw for Segment 1 groups was conducted at the drivers’ meeting preceding practice.
“This change was made at the request of the IZOD IndyCar Series drivers, who were looking for a system that enhanced the competition,” said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for INDYCAR, sanctioning body for the IZOD IndyCar Series. “It puts a premium on Friday practice sessions and helps even out the groups, which couldn’t be achieved through a random draw.”
There are two practice sessions on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn Long Beach street circuit April 15. There also are two sessions April 30 on the Sao Paulo circuit – the same day as qualifications.
So, does the driver P1 in practice choose Group 1 – which goes out first for Segment 1 but has about 20 minutes to prepare for Segment 2 if they advance – or Group 2 – which has about 5 minutes to prepare for Segment 2 if they advance but could have better track conditions to record a quicker lap?
The quickest driver will have 30 minutes following the end of practice to make their decision known to Barnhart.
Newman/Haas Racing will return to car No. 2, which has brought the team much success in the past.
NHR earned its second of eight series championships to date in 1991 when Michael Andretti matched a CART-record eight wins and poles competing in the No. 2, and was rewarded with the honorary No. 1 to use the next season. Following that, Mario Andretti (1992), Sebastien Bourdais (2003, 2004), Bruno Junqueira (2005, 2006), Oriol Servia (2005) and Graham Rahal (2007) competed in a No. 2 car.
In total, the team has earned 20 of its 107 wins and 24 of its 109 poles running the No. 2. Oriol Servia, driver of the Telemundo entry for NHR, will run the No. 2 beginning with the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park.
Servia first came to the team in 2005 as the replacement for Bruno Junqueira, who had just claimed the Champ Car points lead but suffered a season-ending injury in the Indy 500 on May 29. Servia competed in 11 of the 13 races for the team that season, which included earning his first Indy car win (Montreal) and pole (Surfers Paradise, Australia) as well as a total of 11 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes – all while competing in the No. 2 car.
“I am very happy about driving with the No. 2 again,” Servia said. “Not only does the number represent a lot of history for the team, I had the most successful Indy car season of my career while driving the No. 2 car for the team in 2005. In addition, our new sponsor Telemundo has a television channel, Mun2, and we can do some creative promotions together.”
Life takes some funny turns which is probably why I am still talking to you today. I took my wife Lucy in for a checkup (she had a triple bypass in February) on March 16th, a week earlier than scheduled, because her medications were bothering her. The doctors had wanted to check me out because it’d been over 10 years since my stents were put in. Hey, I’ve been busy. Since they had me there, they ran some tests.
The Foyt Files
With A.J. Foyt missing in action, son Larry Foyt, left, and chief engineer Jeff Britton monitor the action at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first IndyCar race of 2011.
With A.J. Foyt missing in action, son Larry Foyt, left, and chief engineer Jeff Britton monitor the action at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the first IndyCar race of 2011.
But the big test was the angiogram which was put off until Monday. So knowing racing season was about to get started, I went to my ranch in Del Rio that weekend to finish up a couple trackhoe projects.
DIARY 1: After 55 seasons, Foyt still has the drive
After the angiogram on the following Monday (March 21), my cardiologist told me I was lucky to be alive!
Hell, I didn’t know it was going to be THAT bad or I might have hung out with Lucy that weekend. They found the main artery had over a 95% blockage below the two or three stents (I’ve lost count) already in there.
I didn’t want to have open heart surgery and lucky for me, I live in Houston which has some of the best heart doctors in the world. Dr. Civitello is a top interventional cardiologist and he said it was a 50-50 shot as to whether or not he could succeed with just a stent but they had Dr. O.H. Frazier’s open heart surgical team standing by.
Like me, Dr. Civitello likes challenges, but I was really nervous— apparently with good reason. When he got in there, he found the artery was blocked more like 99% and the blood was just trickling through. He was able to open it enough with angioplasty (a balloon job) so that the stent could fit in. He stepped back from the cameras and said, “We got it in A.J.!”
I was watching it all on cameras, but to be truthful, I didn’t really know what I was looking at. So when he told me he did it, I was really happy. I mean really happy… and relieved. I think he was too. So was Lucy. I mean she was just starting to feel better and then to have me as a patient for the next month or so? Whew! The more I think about it, Lucy might have been the happiest one of all of us and I can’t blame her. She knows from way too many past experiences what I’m like when I’m laid up. Let me put it this way: If A.J. ain’t happy, nobody’s happy.
So that’s why I wasn’t at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg last weekend. My son Larry was in charge and he and my ABC Supply team did a good job without me (although I did make a few phone calls).
Vitor Meira qualified 13th and was up as high as fifth in the race because he was good at avoiding other people’s mistakes (and a little lucky). But around 16-17 laps into the race, he cut a tire racing against Will Power and had to pit under green. We don’t know if Will cut it with his front wing end fence or if Vitor picked up some debris but he lost a lot of track position getting back to the pits because he had to slow up so much. When he came back out, he was 15th and pretty far behind the leaders.
Lucky for us there was another yellow on lap 39 so that allowed him to pit and be on the same strategy as the leaders. He moved up to 13th and then he was able to move up even more as people took themselves out. Our ABC Supply team gave Vitor good stops so he gained a couple spots with his final stop on lap 68. He came back to finish eighth! If we didn’t get that flat tire though I think he would have finished fifth! Still eighth is our best finish ever at St. Pete.
How about those double file restarts? I like them and the drivers better get used to them because I bet they are here to stay. The biggest accident happened at the start but starts are always double file so there was no excuse for that deal. Drivers made mistakes or thought they could sneak by—it’s happened before.
I think having double file restarts will make the show better. After all, if the drivers do them enough, they will get better at it, right? For the fans I think it’s great because it mixes it up more, especially on the street and road circuits where it is so hard to pass. If a team has trouble in the beginning at least they have a fair shot at making it up during the race like we did.
I know that double-file is a double-edged sword because there will be times my team may suffer because of them. But anyone can restart in a single file. That doesn’t take too much skill or brains. These drivers need to use their heads. When I started racing, if you didn’t use your head or respect the other guy, you ended up in the hospital. Today, guys just brush themselves off and walk away.
I don’t know if you would have had that great battle between Simona DeSilvestro and Tony Kanaan without those double file restarts. She drove a helluva race. I was very impressed — she was running second up till the first round of pit stops! What impressed me more was that she drove her hardest at the end of the race against one of the toughest guys on the track! And she almost got him.
I can tell you one thing—I miss having Jack Arute as a pit reporter! The TV announcers never said why my car made an early pit stop. My PR person took the blame for that one (and I let her). Still, if Jackie had been in the pits, he would have noticed and tried to find out why my car went from fifth battling Will Power to the pits.
I think ABC or ESPN needs to get him back on their team—especially with the 100th Anniversary of the Indy 500 coming up. He probably has more pit reporting experience than everyone else combined who was there. I’m not saying they aren’t good at what they do, but if there’s a way to make the broadcast better, they should do it. I bet ABC-TV is glad that I’ll be going to the races instead of watching them on TV.
All in all it was a good weekend for me and our team considering everything. Vitor, Larry and our chief engineer Jeff Britton did a good job coming up with a good package and Vitor did a great job missing all the wrecks. Coming out of St. Pete with the ABC Supply car in one piece was an achievement in itself, and to get a top 10 after falling so far back was really good.
We’re looking forward to racing at Barber where those double file restarts should make it pretty interesting because that track is so narrow. To see if the drivers learned anything from this weekend, tune in to the Versus channel on Sunday, April 10 at 3 p.m. ET. It should be very entertaining!