Rather than provide an opportunity for those teams making the switch from Champ Car to close the gap on their IndyCar rivals, Conquest Racing's Eric Zeto reckons that the month of May could actually underline the differences between them.

While the opening rounds of the unified series were expected to be tough on the former CCWS regulars because of the lack of time and equipment that they had to work with, many believed that the Indianapolis 500, with its weeks of practice, would give the converts a chance to get valuable mileage under their belts and narrow the gap. Experienced engineer Zeto, however, reckons the opposite could be true.

"The Indy 500 is a whole different animal - it really is like a separate championship," he insists, "The track is so unique that no other circuit on the schedule can prepare you for it or serve as a point of reference.

"I've had the fortune of participating in the past, and I've seen great success and great failure all compressed into the one month. With all the practice days and practice laps, one would get the feeling that everyone would converge on a solution and the drivers would all find a comfort zone, but this is rarely the case. The conditions can change so dramatically - even hour to hour - that you can spend an awful lot of time just chasing the track.

"Rather than level the playing field, I think Indy really highlights weaknesses - separates the men from the boys, so to speak. It's a place that you either grab a hold of or it grabs a hold of you. Fortunately, I think our guys are up to the task and will respect Indy rather than fear it."

Although Newman/Haas/Lanigan's Graham Rahal debunked the theory that it may be some time before a Champ Car team won this season, Zeto also claims that the balance could still be skewed in favour of the IRL regulars, especially on ovals, although he accepts that there is not much difference between the Panoz and Dallara that the two rival series use.

"Time really is the crux of the issue," he said, "The transition teams all thought they were going to be racing in Champ Car at the beginning of March so, in a month - or, in some cases, less - these teams effectively had to re-invent themselves.

"They had to build new cars, purchase all new parts, build pit equipment, revise engineering tools, etc. When you think about it, when in history have we seen a collection of rookies who had never even previously seen an oval, let alone race on one, complete about 100-150 laps of testing and then go straight into a full blown race weekend - on a superspeedway no less?

"Ultimately, an Indycar is still a racecar with four wheels on it but, what the 'transition' teams and drivers need is mileage - and lots of it."

For the rest of an enlightening interview with Eric Zeto, click here.



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