Friday’s Brickyard Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will feature reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan and six other ‘500’ veterans on the grid. But another key storyline will be how the three-hour event impacts the current championship battle in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series.
Two teams find themselves tied at the top of the table – the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing (Corvette/Dallara/Daytona Prototype) duo of Max Angelelli and Jordan Taylor, and the No. 2 Starworks Motorsport (BMW/Riley/Daytona Prototype) team of Alex Popow and Ryan Dalziel. Last year’s inaugural event at IMS saw the Starworks No. 2, driven by Popow and IndyCar pilot Sebastien Bourdais, cross the line first, while WTR’s Angelelli and Ricky Taylor finished third.
Both squads have been preparing diligently for what could be a critical point in the title race. Starworks has announced that starting this weekend, they’ll utilize BMW power for the rest of the season to bolster their bid for a Rolex Series crown.
“We have always had a good relationship with BMW of North America,” team owner Peter Baron said in a statement. “There is a dynamic change coming with the series integrating next year and we are looking for a partner and people we could work with long term. It is mid-season, but we felt that the time was right to add BMW Power.”
“I am really happy about Starworks making this move,” Dalziel added. “…This is the best decision we can make for our championship assault. The latest generation [4.5-liter] BMW engine is a really exciting package and we are ready to get our first win of 2013 and bring home a championship.”
As for WTR, Angelelli said that the team has been going through many different set-up options to see what will be the best one for Indy’s road course, which winds through the infield before putting drivers on a run through Turn 1 and the frontstretch of the track’s famous 2.5-mile oval.
“We never have had so many meetings about car setup, and we realized that, getting closer to the race, there are more variables than we thought we had a few weeks ago,” Angelelli said in a statement. “Now, we are thinking about our different options, setup, gearing, etc. The track has a long, long straight, and an infield section that has fast and slow corners and low grip.
“Sometimes, you get to a race and you have no options, so it’s really kind of boring. At Indy, it’s the kind of racetrack where you have to balance setting up for the long straight with what you want your car to do in the infield.”
WTR and Starworks are far from the only teams in the hunt, though. Christian Fittipaldi, who has won the last two events at Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen with Action Express Racing co-driver Joao Barbosa, sits just four points off the lead. The No. 99 GAINSCO/Bob Stallings Racing team of Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty are five points back, and Barbosa himself is down just six points.
MRTI: Chris Griffis Test Sunday times and notebook
Thompson (90, Exclusive) and Hoogenboom (78, BN) in Pro Mazda. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
The two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test concluded on Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Combined times after the two days of running are below, with Nico Jamin (Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires) and Oliver Askew (Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires) remaining on top from Saturday to Sunday, and Darren Keane (Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda) supplanting Andres Gutierrez at the head of that field.
Previous notebooks are linked here (Friday, Saturday), with additional Sunday notes to follow.
Several drivers pulled double duty between series, namely Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport in Pro Mazda and USF2000), Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing in Indy Lights and Pro Mazda) and Aaron Telitz (Team Pelfrey in Pro Mazda, RJB Motorsports in USF2000). Telitz (above) added a run in Pro Mazda in Team Pelfrey’s No. 82 car; the Wisconsinite has done a lot of the series’ testing for the new Pro Mazda Tatuus PM-18, and had hoped to run all three series. We’ll have more meanwhile on Thompson and Exclusive’s double in the days to come; the Michael Duncalfe-led team out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan was one of three new Pro Mazda teams adding those cars to USF2000 efforts (Pabst Racing, BN Racing) this week.
There were a handful of drivers that changed cars or teams for Sunday’s second day of the test, primarily in USF2000. While Keane ran both days at Newman Wachs, the Brian Halahan-managed team ran David Osborne and Oscar DeLuzuriaga in the Nos. 37 and 38 cars, taking over from Jake Craig and Max Peichel. Osborne switched from Team Pelfrey, where he ran Saturday, and where Jacob Loomis ran Sunday. Justin Gordon ran a second Exclusive Autosport chassis, switching to the No. 90 on Sunday after running the No. 92 Saturday.
The PM-18 best lap set by Askew is more than three seconds faster than the series’ official track record (Pato O’Ward in 2016, at 1:22.8800, 105.941 mph). Askew’s best time of 1:19.8142 averages 110.010 mph around the 2.439-mile circuit. Neither the Indy Lights nor USF2000 cars eclipsed the existing lap records in those categories.
Drivers largely extolled the PM-18’s outright pace and potential with the horsepower upgrade, in what is a significant step forward for the series. “Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special race car and this weekend’s testing confirms that,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic race car and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled. It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher HP, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
Keane, one of the few veterans (relatively speaking) within USF2000 was plugged in this weekend as the only driver outside Pabst Racing to threaten the top of the timesheets. “It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team. They are a great group of guys and it’s just really good to see us improving and being where we want to be,” he said.
Rinus Veekay hailed the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 Mazda this weekend in his first test there, although the talented Dutch teenager may well focus on Pro Mazda next season and shoot to win that championship, and continue his battle with Askew established in USF2000. “The car is very nice, quick,” noted VeeKay. “You can really feel the downforce and it was a pleasure to drive.”
The MRTI is done with official running for the year, but the $200,000 MRTI Scholarship Shootout remains in December at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park, the former Firebird Raceway, outside Phoenix. The winner of that will get a ticket into USF2000 for the 2018 season.
Full MRTI spring training will take place at Homestead-Miami Speedway in February 2018, with undoubtedly a bevy of driver and team announcements to come over the following months.