10 May 2014
Pole aquaplanes out of Hunter-Reay's grasp
Ryan Hunter-Reay gave it everything he had in qualifying for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis road course - and ended up in the speedway wall as a result.
For a brief moment on Friday afternoon, Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay was on the top of the timesheets and on provisional pole. And then the #28 hit standing water in turn 14 and aquaplaned off into the wall, crunching the right rear in the process.
"We definitely gave that one away," he admitted afterwards. "Was told what P1 pace was at the time, so that lap we did it good enough to put us P1 at the time.
"Every time through there I almost lost it," he revealed. "In the wet you're always going for it. There's a very fine line between stepping over getting that good lap in the wet and throwing it off. Just part of it ... But definitely the standing water was a big issue in the corners.
"Unfortunately dinged up the right rear there. Hopefully we'll get that fixed up and be ready to go for tomorrow," he said, adding that the car was definitely salvageable despite the big hit it took, at a part of the speedway complex where there is no SAFER barrier.
"The most work is going to be done with putting the smaller details back together, some of the exhaust on the right rear and things like that," he said. "It was mainly contained to the right rear. I haven't had a chance to look at it, but it was just one whack at the right rear.
"I had some time to head backwards for a while," he said when asked what he recalled of the accident. "Almost had it going in a straight line backwards, then it kind of just dove in there. It wasn't a hard hit or anything."
Even though Hunter-Reay lost his two fastest laps as a result of causing a red flag stoppage, his other times were still good enough to put him on the grid in third place behind the surprise front row of Sebastian Saavedra and Jack Hawksworth, giving Andretti Autosport the best-placed starter of any of the big teams: Penske's Will Power starts from fifth place and Ganassi's Scott Dixon from sixth.
However, Hunter-Reay has to look someway down the running order before he finds any team support on offer: James Hinchcliffe will start from 11th place with Marco Andretti immediately behind him on the grid in 13th, while Carlos Munoz and Franck Montagny had to settle for 19th and 21st places after all five Andretti cars had been drawn in the same round 1 group from which only a total of six cars could progress.
"Obviously I'm not very happy," said Marco of his grid position. "I think [the rain] threw off our strategy a bit as we rushed and went out a bit early. When the track was at its best, we had already plateaued so it's a bummer."
"I don't really know what happened during qualifying," admitted Munoz. "I was feeling more or less good with the car, just the time game came into play. It was my worst qualifying of the year."
French sports car star Franck Montagny - making only his second start in the Verizon IndyCar Series after one former outing with AFS-Andretti Autosport in 2009 - had gambled on the hope that the rain that started to fall at the beginning of round 1 would be heavier than it turned out to be.
"I was out at the beginning, but I saw the rain coming and I said, 'OK I'll keep my eyes on my back tires'. I come in, put the reds on and got out on the straightaway," he said. "I thought there was a chance for me after that, but there wasn't once the rain stopped.
"I'm not too disappointed about my pace," he insisted. "I'm like two tenths off Marco, which is a good reference here with this championship. But to tell you the truth, it has been six years since I've been in single-seater car. It's not a baby championship; it's the big guys out there. I'll do the best I can [on Saturday] - I've got a very good team behind me so the race will be better."
Despite the rain throwing a comprehensive spanner in the works in qualifying, the drivers were still very upbeat about the newly reconfigured 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course built within the infield of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway complex. Hunter-Reay said that the drivers weren't having any trouble adjusting to the circuit, the first time that IndyCars have run clockwise at Indianapolis Motor Speedway
"No concern," Hunter-Reay said. "It's awkward on pit lane looking down to the left when you're sitting there looking at cars coming by. That's the weirdest part, is looking to the left at cars coming by when you're a spectator, I guess.
"Nothing strange on track," he added. "It feels like a different track. You almost forget you're inside IMS when you're out there. You're kind of entrenched in the whole thing."
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