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Indy 500 rookie session postponed

8 April 2013

The scheduled April 11th Rookie Orientation Programme at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been called off by the IZOD IndyCar Series organisers, after bad weather forecasts suggested there would be little chance of the four rookies being able to get the track time they need to complete their mandatory pre-event test runs.

"We have been monitoring the weather reports in Indianapolis to make sure the conditions would be suitable for ample on-track activity," explained Brian Barnhart, IndyCar's president of operations and strategy. "With the strong chance for rain and lower ambient temperatures, we felt it was best to postpone our Rookie Orientation Program until a later date."

The decision affects series regular Tristan Vautier (Schmidt-Peterson Motorsport) as well as Penske's AJ Allmendinger and Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz. GP2 and GP3 driver Conor Daly will also need to change his plans for the week, after having previously been confirmed with a shot at the greatest spectacle in motorsport with AJ Foyt Racing.

Rookie orientation is a formal procedure by which any drivers without recent experience of racing on the two-and-a-half mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway in current IndyCar-specification equipment need to demonstrate that they are able to run safely at speeds of over 200mph.

ROP is a three-step process, with the candidate having to run a consistent line within a defined speed range for a set number of laps. The first stage requires ten laps between 200 and 205mph, while the second requires another ten laps this time between 205 and 209mph.

Rookies must complete these first two steps on the special ROP day, which is staged before the official Opening Day that kicks off the month of May's program at Indianapolis, or else they will not be able to participate in any of 2013's track activities and will not be able to attempt to qualify for the race.

However, the third and final stage of ROP - 15 laps at speeds over 210mph - can be completed while more experienced drivers are also on track during the full week of practice that kicks off the Indy 500 build-up.

ROP should present little difficulty for Munoz and Vautier both of whom competed at IMS last year in the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 support race. They finished in second and third place respectively behind 2012 race winner Esteban Guerrieri.

AJ Allmendinger has also competed at IMS before, but in his case it was in a very different form of race car as he has been competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series for the past seven seasons. While that championship includes an annual outing at Indianapolis in the Brickyard 400, driving the superspeedway in a stock car is a completely different experience from driving it in an open wheel car, which Allmendinger never did while competing in the Champ Car World Series.

ROP might be especially difficult for Conor Daly, who grew up in the Indianapolis area with his father, former F1 and Champ Car driver Derek Daly, and who has always dreamed of a chance of starting the Indy 500.

Daly's most recent racing experience has been in the distinctly non-oval GP2 and GP3 Series in Europe, which means he'll face the biggest challenge of the four rookies in order to step-up and prepare himself for the month of May. In addition, the other three Indy rookies have already had a chance to get some early oval practice under their belts with a recent test at Texas Motor Speedway last month.

That leaves Daly hungry for as much oval track time as he can get between now and the 97th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 26. The uncertainly over when ROP will be rescheduled - and what that might mean to Daly's other racing series commitments - will not be ideal for the 21-year-old second generation American race driver.


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