IndyCar » 29 April 2012
Power keeps to the plan for a hat-trick
Will Power claimed this third race win in a row with victory in an eventful Sao Paulo Indy 300, which managed to stay drive but still proved stormy for many - including Dario Franchitti.
Last year, Will Power surprisingly lost his cool on a number of occasions. It's certainly very hard to imagine that happening at all in 2012, with the Aussie never looking cooler, more focused and under control than he does right now. That's shown through in the results he's getting - three wins now in the first four races of the year - and also in the way that he's going about it.
On the streets of Sao Paulo, he more or less followed the same game plan as Long Beach: go for the two-stopper, hit the fuel number, don't get distracted. This time round - unlike the grid penalty blizzard of Long Beach - he had the added advantage of starting from pole position, which meant that all he had to do was ease out to the safety of the open track to stay out of the inevitable incidents that always affect the IZOD IndyCar Series events in Brazil. If he could do that - and if the forecast rain stayed away - then it would be plain sailing.
And he did. Exactly that. He genuinely couldn't have played the opening laps any better than he did, leading the field to a cautious start to proceedings as drivers kept well away form the still-damp portions of the track off the racing line, and then methodically building up a 3s lead over Dario Franchitti, who in turn pulled out some 10s ahead of his Ganassi team mate Scott Dixon in third.
The surprise of the opening laps was the slow pace of James Hinchcliffe, who was immediately struggling with severe understeer and lost places early on to Graham Rahal, Josef Newgarden and Mike Conway.
With the weather still in doubt, Roger Penske appeared to have split the various possible strategies among his three cars, with Will Power handed the challenge of making a two-stop race plan work out - right on the limit of fuel conservation, even with the seeming advantage the Chevrolet currently enjoys over Honda in terms of fuel mileage. Helio Castroneves was handed the plan at the other extreme, which saw him come in on lap 10, the earliest possible three-stop window.
Most of the other cars stretched their fuel until around lap 19. A fast Justin Wilson had been making his way up through the positions following being sent to the back for a technical infringement during qualifying and had made up 11 spots before he came in for fuel, but then appeared to stall when trying to leave his pit box. It proved to be a portent of more serious gear selection problems, which saw him crawl back into the pits a few laps later for repairs that put him well off the lead lap.
Dixon came in for his first fuel stop on lap 20, Franchitti and Rahal pitted on lap 21, but Power was able to take his first run all the way up to lap 23. There had been no cautions by this point, and although the occasional report of sprinkles of rain were reported from pit lane they never amounted to anything and there was no need for anyone to dive in for wet tyres.
There had been some minor racing incidents during the opening stint, including Charlie Kimball getting his front wing trodden on as he, EJ Viso and JR Hildebrand tried going through turn 1 three wide early on with Viso followed through the middle by Simon Pagenaud, but the first significant bit of race damage to be seen was on lap 22 when Katherine Legge lost the back end of her Lotus Dragon Racing car through turn 10 and whacked her left rear wheel hard on the wall, leaving her limping back to pit lane.
Whatever plan had been handed to the third Penske car became academic the following lap while Power was on pit road, when Ryan Briscoe locked up over the bumps into turn 10 while sweeping out wide to fend off an attacking Graham Rahal hoping to make a move through the corner. The #2 couldn't cope with being unsettled to that degree, lost traction and crunched into the wall on the turn exit, bringing out the first full course caution of the afternoon.
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