A look down Baltimore's pit lane (Tony DiZinno)

Thursday notebook: Baltimore IndyCar and ALMS setup day

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Although there is no on-track activity Thursday at the Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT, IndyCar and American Le Mans Series teams were still heavily in action preparing and setting up for the weekend around the street course that encloses Camden Yards. A few quick news and notes to follow from both series:

  • There’s not much in the way of circuit changes, other than the asphalt being laid down around pit in and the temporary chicane being put in on the front straight. The biggest change, of course, is the painting of pit boxes in reaction to last week’s Scott Dixon/Will Power contretemps at Sonoma. As IndyCar is the primary series at the circuit, the pit boxes are designed to IndyCar specifications; the unintended consequence, though, is that the sharing American Le Mans Series teams will need to guide their cars in knowing that their available space is smaller. More than 30 ALMS cars are entered while only 24 IndyCars will take the green flag on Sunday.
  • IndyCar points leader Helio Castroneves had his media availability Thursday and among the topics he discussed, besides points and IndyCar’s new pit box changes, was how restarts will work here at Baltimore. A year ago, his Team Penske teammate Ryan Briscoe was passed by Ryan Hunter-Reay on the final restart as the two exited the chicane and launched on the front straight.  “We’ll hit the details of this in the driver’s meeting but here, it’s very difficult to time it correctly,” he said. “It goes from single file, to double file, and then you go. You have to time it just right to make sure you have a good idea of when to go.” Castroneves has finished just 17th and 10th in two prior Baltimore starts.
  • Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing sophomore Josef Newgarden did a photo shoot with the Soft Side 1 to raise awareness and help kittens in the Baltimore area find homes. If you follow Newgarden on Instagram you’re aware he’s made tongue-in-cheek references to cats before, and the sounds of “oohs” and “awwwws” were prevalent at every angle.
  • Other ALMS notes: Dane Cameron joins the PR1/Mathiasen PC class entry as co-driver to Mike Guasch. The RSR team, run by Paul Gentilozzi, has sold its own PC chassis to Peter Baron’s Starworks team and Alex Popow replaces Duncan Ende as the car’s Silver-rated driver. It’s unfortunate for Ende, who co-drove with Bruno Junqueira to victory at Road America three weeks ago and won’t have a chance to repeat.
  • In ALMS P2, as was written earlier this week, there’s a shuffle in the P2 class with Guy Cosmo moving from Extreme Speed to Level 5. Cosmo will co-drive with Marino Franchitti in the No. 552 HPD ARX-03b with Level 5 team principal Scott Tucker and the returning Ryan Briscoe in the championship-leading No. 551. Anthony Lazzaro, who had been rated a Gold driver, will take Cosmo’s place in Extreme Speed’s No. 01. P2 regulations state at least one Silver driver must be used in a car and Lazzaro, who turned 50 earlier this week (August 26) would qualify to be downgraded to a Silver per that age change. That said, when I asked him directly about the change, he was unsure whether his birthday meant he would have a different driver classification to meet the requirement.

Alonso enjoys maiden Toyota LMP1 test, ends as second-fastest rookie

Adrenal Media
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Fernando Alonso took his first step towards a possible entry to the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 2018 by testing an LMP1 car for the first time with Toyota in Bahrain on Sunday.

Two-time Formula 1 world champion Alonso has made no secret of his desire to race at Le Mans, having signed a deal to race in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in January as preparation for a possible entry at the Circuit de la Sarthe.

Toyota confirmed after Saturday’s FIA World Endurance Championship finale in Bahrain that Alonso would be testing its TS050 Hybrid LMP1 car in the traditional rookie test on Sunday.

Alonso was given the car for the bulk of the five-hour test day following an initial shakedown by Sebastien Buemi, completing 113 laps in total – more than any other driver – and posting a best lap time of 1:43.013.

“It was a great day,” Alonso said. “Testing an LMP1 car is always a nice thing for any racing driver because these cars are amazing to drive. They are very consistent throughout a stint which is a positive thing.

“I have wanted to test a car like this for a long time now and today I could achieve that, so I am happy.”

However, Alonso did not finish as the fastest rookie, with that honor instead going to Pietro Fittipaldi, who was the final driver to drive the Porsche 919 Hybrid ahead of the closure of the German marque’s LMP1 program.

Alonso is now set to head back to Europe before a test in United Autosports’ LMP2 car on Tuesday as part of his Daytona preparation, before then returning to the Middle East for the F1 season finale in Abu Dhabi next weekend.