5 September 2013
Rahal and Briscoe positive after Indy road course test
"That's the biggest thing: 'Wait a minute, I think we're supposed to be going that way!'" laughed Bobby Rahal, Graham's father and team boss of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, and himself a former Indy 500 winner. He too was pleased with the day's testing, and excited about the proposition of building up the Month of May into an even bigger event on the motorsports calendar.
"I feel privileged to be a part of [today] and excited about the idea," he said. "Just as Daytona has a number of events leading up to the 500, why not Indianapolis with a road course race in early May? I was very much a traditionalist until the stock cars came here. They've had Grand Prix races, GRAND-AM races, bike races and even the mini-marathon, and I understand why it's become a multi-event facility. I'm all for it."
While simply seeing whether or not the existing options are feasible to stage an exciting, competitive IndyCar race here - maybe even as soon as 2014 - the longer-term purpose behind Wednesday's test was to gather data to inform any future infrastructure changes to the venue. Speedway officials plan to invest nearly $100 million as part of a long-term masterplan of improvements at IMS that could include modifications to the road course.
"We wanted to evaluate the racetrack as it is," said Derrick Walker, IndyCar's president of competition and operations. "There are a number of ideas to improve overtaking and making the racing more interesting perhaps than it was during the F1 days.
"I'm not sure the Speedway needs to make monster changes," he added after seeing that day's testing and hearing the feedback from the drivers. "There could be some alterations that would improve the racing short term, and then I think if the fans come, you keep doing more and keep doing more. I think you could develop a really unique racetrack out of the infield."
So what changes would Rahal and Briscoe suggest to the road course options at this point after their day of testing?
"You're sliding around; there's not a lot of grip: the track layout as it is, would it be great for passing?" asked Rahal. "There are really only two spots. But that's why we're trying a lot of different configurations to analyse and potentially help."
"As you come down the middle stretch it's a very fast corner, and it would make passing difficult," agreed Briscoe. "If you came down that straight into a tighter corner, it would help the racing a little bit."
Briscoe added that he wasn't so keen running the track in the 'oval' direction: "Right now, as it is, I'd prefer the other directions. But with changes, I think it could be a good course in that direction," he said. "The layout is really nice. It's fast and it's pretty physical as well."
MotoGP and GRAND-AM Road Racing currently use sections of the infield course for their races at IMS, with MotoGP competing at the track since 2008 on a counter-clockwise version of the circuit and GRAND-AM since 2012 on a clockwise layout. F1 raced on the IMS road course from 2000 until 2007, and Rahal himself competed on the Grand Prix course twice, the first time in Formula BMW in 2004 and then subsequently while racing in Firestone Indy Lights in 2006.
The only other time an IndyCar has ever tested on the IMS road course was in the autumn of 2011 when the DW12 was still being developed. Two-time Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon ran the 13-turn layout in clockwise direction only, but that was for car development purposes not for evaluating the track for possible race use by the series.
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