Six drivers turned laps at Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the last couple of days as Firestone attempted to evaluate different tyres ahead of next year's 93rd running of the circuit's famous 500.
“Any time that I can be out at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, you're going to see a smile on my face,” admitted Dan Wheldon, who got his first outing since rejoining Panther Racing, running alongside fellow Indianapolis 500 winners Buddy Rice and Scott Dixon, as well as Ryan Briscoe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Tony Kanaan.
Firestone requested the test session to prepare for next year's 500 after being forced to alter the construction of its tyres.
“We're testing at Indy because we've run the same spec tyre here for the last two years,” explained Paige Mader, general manager of race tyre development, “Preparing for '09, there are some tyres we couldn't really make exactly the same as we made them in the past, so we're looking at some changes, trying to get the good balance between grip and a good, safe, fast tyre. We have both construction and compound specs that we're evaluating.”
While all six drivers provided valuable feedback on the performance of the various tyres on offer, Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe enjoyed the opportunity to get a headstart on 2009.
“We need to try and find a tyre that's going to be suitable for next year,” the Aussie, who has two top ten finishes in three starts at Indianapolis, said, "Firestone has a lot of tyres for us to be testing.
"We did a couple of balance changes to get rolling, find a decent balance, then just try to do every run the same and feel the difference with the tyre compounds and constructions and, really, for Firestone, to try and be consistent and give them clear and concise feedback on grip and tyre wear and consistency.
"We split it in half. We do some performance running – four or five timed laps similar to qualifying, then we also do some long runs, 20- or 25-lap runs.”
Firestone also tested tires at Richmond International Raceway on 23 September and has a test scheduled at Homestead-Miami Speedway on 9-10 December.