IMS announces details of 2014 road race

Next year's 'Month of May' IndyCar racing programme will start with a new event on a revamped road course ahead of the official 'Opening Day' for the 98th Indianapolis 500.
IMS announces details of 2014 road race

Officials of the IndyCar Series and of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have unveiled details of the new Grand Prix of Indianapolis road course event that will take place on May 10, 2014.

IndyCar had already confirmed last week that IMS would hold its very first road course event for the IndyCar Series next year, and on Tuesday held a major press event to reveal the details of the new race.

The famous 'Month of May' will now begin with IndyCar Series practice for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis Thursday, May 8 on the new-look, 14-turn, 2.434-mile IMS road course. Practice and qualifying are scheduled for Friday, May 9 and the race itself will take place on Saturday, May 10.

That would normally be the 'Opening Day' for first practice on the primary circuit at IMS, the 2.5-mile superspeedway, but in 2014 the first day of oval activity will now be on Sunday, May 11 the day after the road race and which will build to Pole Day and Bump Day the following weekend.

"The Grand Prix of Indianapolis is all about elevating the Month of May, the Indianapolis 500 and the IndyCar Series with more thrilling content for our loyal supporters and new fans," explained Mark Miles, the CEO of IndyCar's parent organisation Hulman & Co. "This will be a very different event than the '500' and will be one of three major weekends of excitement at IMS in May, all leading into the 98th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 25."

"Our approach is to create an affordable, fun, family-friendly opening event to kick off the excitement for the entire Month of May," Miles added. It was also confirmed that live TV coverage would be provided by ABC which also airs the Indy 500 in the US.

The press event also gave more details of the $5-million reconfiguration project already underway on the existing IMS road course intended to transform the current layout into one with even more speed and hard braking zones designed to promote more passing and competitive racing.

Among the highlights of the new road course are a hard braking area and 90-degree right into turn 1 exiting the historic front straightaway of the oval, and a fast, new infield chicane that will comprise turns 5 and 6 and lead to the back straightaway.

A change to the turn 7-8-9 complex should provide more overtaking opportunities, as should a new hard-braking area into the new 90-degree right turn 12, which enters the infield adjacent to turn 1 of the oval and rejoins the main straightaway at turn 14. New spectator mounds are also being added at turn 1 and new grandstands adjacent to turns 5 and 6, with an expansion to the turn 7 grandstand at the end of the back straightaway on the road course.

"The focus is to get all the asphalt down by December 1 and then we spend all winter building the mounds, putting in the curbs, striping and timelines," explained the speedway's director of engineering and construction Kevin Forbes, who also oversaw construction of the original road course in 1999 ahead of the first F1 United States Grand Prix at IMS.

"This 2.434-mile road course, 14 turns, is a little bit different from where we were with F1," explained IMS president Doug Boles. "What we have here are three fantastic passing zones on our racetrack and an outstanding chicane that we believe will be absolutely wonderful for our fans to watch.

"The drivers in the IndyCar Series spent an awful lot of time with Derrick Walker [IndyCar president of operations and competition]," he continued. " We're excited about what we think we've delivered. One of the questions that we heard earlier today is how is this different from F1. [The F1 layout] didn't encourage passing. F1, when the track was here had one passing zone, and that was the Turn 1 that you see behind me. We've actually made it a little bit better. We think it's going to be stronger.

"Turn 7 is going to be much better than where we were with F1 because the run up as you go through the 5-6 chicane is an awful lot longer, it's about 2,500 feet from the moment you come out on Hulman, until you make that corner at Turn 7, and then the corner at Turn 12 is going to offer another unique opportunity to pass," he elaborated. "What it's going to do for the Indianapolis 500 fan who loves to sit in Turn 1 for the first time ever, they're going to get to experience what it looks like for a car to run on a road course here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway."

"It's going to make this probably one of the most exciting races that we can go to," said Graham Rahal, who along with Ryan Briscoe had been one of the drivers working with officials in September to try out the various available track configurations and make suggestions for what they would like to see in 2014. "I think with long straightaways you're going to get a huge variance, and do you want to run a high downforce package, do you want to run a low, and I think that's really going to add to the excitement of racing."

Boles had earlier opened the press conference with a respectful mention of the late two-time Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon, who holds a particular place of distinction in the project that will come to fruition on May 10.

"I think I'd be remiss if I didn't say in fall of 2011 our two time Indy 500 champion Dan Wheldon had an opportunity to be the first IndyCar to run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway," Boles revealed. "In between one of those runs I had an opportunity to talk to him in pit area, and he kind of grabbed me by the collar, and he said, 'Doug, we've got to run here.'

"We are doing this not only for fans, but we're doing this - I think it'll be great for Dan Wheldon, and he's excited about this day, as well," he said.

Pocono confirmed for return engagement

It was also confirmed this week that the IZOD IndyCar Series will return to the Pocono Raceway 'Tricky Triangle' in 2014 after a successful event in 2013. The venue confirmed that IndyCar will return to Pocono for the weekend of July 5-6. The series itself has yet to unveil a formal full-season calendar for 2014.

"The past year was incredible," Pocono Raceway president Brandon Igdalsky said. "Local favorite Marco Andretti set a new track record as he earned the pole for the IndyCar race in July, but during the race Scott Dixon came out of nowhere to capture the first open-wheel victory at Pocono since 1989. We are so excited about how our 2014 schedule is shaping up."

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