Lucky Strike BAR Honda will be at the famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway next weekend for the penultimate race of the 16 round 2003 FIA Formula One World Championship, the United States Grand Prix.

'The Brickyard', as it is known, is one of the oldest purpose-built circuits in the world and is home to the legendary Indy 500 oval race. The last turn on the circuit runs through Turn one on the oval track, which is the only banked corner on the F1 calendar.

The track also features the longest flat-out section of all the F1 circuits, with drivers running full throttle for around 22 seconds from Turn 11 to Turn one at speeds in excess of 210mph.

In contrast to this, the specially designed infield, which was built for the inaugural race held here in 2000, is a tight and relatively slow section. This part of the track is rarely used throughout the year and as a result, offers little grip in comparison to the outer oval section.

Since returning from the Italian GP last Sunday, BAR has been testing in Spain, using three cars and its full line-up of race and test drivers. Anthony Davidson undertook two days of general set-up review testing at the Idiada circuit. Jacques Villeneuve completed two days at Jerez, with Jenson Button and Takuma Sato joining him for one day each.

BAR suffered mixed fortunes in the race last year. Villeneuve had a strong weekend, qualifying seventh and finishing in sixth place, but it was less positive for Olivier Panis who lost his position after a bad start and struggled behind slower cars for much of the race, eventually finishing 12th.

JV was on form last weekend at the Italian Grand Prix though, and despite starting tenth, stormed through the field to finish a highly competitive sixth and net three points for BAR. This result promoted the team to fifth place in the Constructors' - in front of Jaguar and Toyota.

"I was very pleased to come away from Monza with some points for the team. All year we have concentrated on race set-up, but were not able to show our hard work because the car often had mechanical failures and did not finish races. In Monza all the hard work finally paid off," said the Canadian, "It will be more difficult to achieve points at the remaining two tracks than it was in Monza. A lot will depend on the tyre war. Indy is very twisty on the infield and there is a lot of braking during directional change. On these parts of the circuit, heavier engines will be penalised more than in Monza. This is also the case for Suzuka, so they will be two difficult races for us.

"Having said that we will continue to work hard and hope to be in a position to fight for some points. The F1 circuit in Indianapolis isn't a bad track, although I feel it's not as good as it could be. There is heavy braking at the end of the main straight, which offers a good overtaking opportunity. It's nice to go to Indy after Europe and this season it will be even more exciting because of the close race for the Championship."

Jenson Button meanwhile failed to finish at Monza, after mechanical problems put him out on lap 29. Last year though he finished eighth at Indianapolis, and despite crashing heavily in testing last week, is expected to be fit and revved up for the penultimate round of the Championship.

"I like the track, although it's quite tight and twisty on the infield section and I prefer high-speed circuits. Having said that, the banking section is fun to drive and the straight is very quick. We spend a long time, more than 20 seconds, absolutely flat-out. I have enjoyed driving at Indianapolis in the past and am looking forward to returning this year, especially as we are more competitive, and I hope to add further Championship points to our total," said the Brit. "I like visiting America and we always get a great reception at Indy - the atmosphere in the town is great and the city seems to be really hooked on racing.

"It's a great place for Formula One to visit and certainly one of the most famous venues. In terms of my hopes for this year's US Grand Prix, I am completely focused on repeating the strong qualifying performance which saw me line up seventh in Italy, and I hope to translate it into a really positive race result. The team has worked so hard this year and I am determined to push as hard as possible for good results in America and Japan to round off the season."

David Richards, BAR's team boss, added: "The team was very encouraged with Jacques' sixth place at Monza, which gave us the lead in the fight for fifth in the Constructors' Championship. Our top ten qualifying positions for both cars were more representative of our true potential, and Jacques was able to turn that into a very positive race result. I'm sure this would also have been the case for Jenson had he not suffered his gearbox failure.

"We expect Indianapolis to be tough for us, but we have been testing since Italy and working hard to maximize our performance. We are determined to get a good result and consolidate our Championship position."

Geoffrey Willis, BAR's technical director, continued: "The Indianapolis F1 circuit is a circuit of two halves. Part of the circuit consists of the famous Indy 500 oval speedway incorporating Turn one and the pit straight, but run in the reverse direction, the other part of the circuit is a series of tight infield loops with similar characteristics to Hungary, in that it is slow and difficult to overtake, but with even less grip. The last turn is flat-out, so exiting the previous corner well is important to avoid being caught on the long oval section, which allows a good opportunity for slipstreaming and the possibility for passing under braking at Turn one.

"The set-up of the cars has to be a compromise between the requirements of the two sections with a level of downforce on the low end of intermediate. This and the low-grip infield mean that the teams will have to find the right compound between high-grip soft compounds and tyre wear and blistering. The Indy track is reasonably easy on the chassis, suspension and brakes, with its smooth surface and shallow kerbs. However, the long straight at this track can cause particular problems for the engine, which stays on full power for a longer single period than any other track in the calendar. This, followed by the sudden heavy braking to an extended period of slow-speed running, can lead to reliability problems."

Shuhei Nakamoto, engineering director, Honda Racing Development, concluded: "Overall the test at Jerez went well and we got lots of feedback and data that we can use in development for the final two races. It was a shame that Jenson's time in the car was cut short but we were glad to hear that he didn't have any major injuries. I'm sure he'll be back fighting fit at Indianapolis. Jacques had a solid race in Italy and we're all determined to carry the momentum forward and rack up some more points in the US."



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