31 August 2012
IndyCar will reinstate Baltimore chicane
Organisers of the IndyCar Grand Prix of Balitmore have said that they will reintroduce a chicane on the frontstretch, after cars were launched into the air over railroad tracks.
The race director of the IZOD IndyCar Series, Beaux Barfield, has confirmed that construction work will take place overnight to address an issue with part of the frontstretch of the track, around an area where railroad tracks started launching cars into the air during Friday morning's initial scheduled one-hour practice session.
The initial plan had been to try grinding down a section of the main straightaway to reduce the bumps, but initial attempts to do this on Friday proved unsatisfactory leading to the decision to reintroduce a chicane forcing the drivers around the problem area.
A chicane was present for last year's inaugural Grand Prix of Baltimore, but the decision had been taken to remove it for this year's staging of the race among a number of other tweaks to the 2.04-mile, 12-turn track that included the widening of the right-hand turn 1, and reshaping the pit entry at turns 5 and 6.
"Last year, I know there were some unofficial tests performed," explained Barfield. "When drivers had some clear laps, they sent them straight through the chicane. The feedback from the few drivers who tried that was we should come back without the chicane.
"That's what happened, and immediately after letting cars on track [on Friday], we saw that it wasn't doable," he conceded. "It's a shame because based on the feedback we got last year, and the effort the promoter has made, it was the right direction to go. Obviously, we proved pretty quickly that it wasn't going to work."
Barfield added that railroad tracks can cause a particular problem and literally change overnight. "But my point is from last year to this year, it could have changed a lot with the way those tracks settle."
The Friday morning practice session was stopped after just half an hour, and ultimately did not resume.
"Based on driver input and looking at the video, I thought it was appropriate to end the session early, talk to some drivers directly, get some input and come up with a plan," said Barfield. "Bottom line is, with that happening, this evening there will be a big project out there to either lay some pavement down or rebuild the chicane."
However there should still be some practice running on Friday afternoon, even ahead of the chicane construction work, with the addition of a temporary chicane using a tyre barrier at the affected area.
"My original plan did include not running for the rest of the day, but I think we have come up with a plan that we can put out cars this afternoon," explained Barfield. "The tyres will mock the chicane that will be built overnight to get drivers some track time."
The series is constrained in what it can organise, as IndyCar is sharing the temporary road course with the American Le Mans Series which is holding qualifying sessions on Friday evening, with the race itself on Saturday afternoon following IndyCar qualifying.
"We're stuck in the schedule that we have with everything else going on," agreed Barfield. "I don't see us getting any more track time."
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