Graham Rahal on the IMS road course (IndyCar photo)

Rahal, Briscoe, IndyCar series officials rave after IMS road course test

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Running an IndyCar road course race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – particularly in the month of May – seems as counter-intuitive to “tradition” as humanly possible. But judging by the reactions of those who participated in Wednesday’s test, it was a day to open minds and give serious consideration to the possibility.

Graham Rahal, who drove the No. 15 blu eCigs Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda, said drafting could be a big part if the series opts to use the clockwise course configuration used by Formula One and GRAND-Am, where the oval Turn 1 is taken as a right-hander leading onto the front straight. There’s also the configuration used by MotoGP, a counter-clockwise version.

“When I showed up, I thought we shouldn’t use Turn 1 at Indy,” he said. “We shouldn’t run on the oval at all. But I think that’s what is going to make the racing so good. If you’re leading on the last lap, you’re bound to get passed by anyone within eight carlengths. The tow someone would get down the frontstraight would be massive.”

Rahal added that the setup balance between a car optimized for the straight or the tricky infield section would be a great challenge.

Ryan Briscoe was also on hand, in the No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing Chevrolet. Briscoe, unlike Rahal, had not had a prior opportunity to drive on the road course before. But the Australian seemed to enjoy the opportunity.

“It was definitely strange to be coming off the wrong way on the frontstretch. It’s a pretty good track, actually,” he said. “It’s got a lot of high-speed corners. Turn 13 (oval Turn 1) is really fast. A lot of high load in the steering wheel and very different to what we do here on the 2.5-mile oval. It’s a really different feeling going the other way.”

INDYCAR President of Competition and Operations Derrick Walker said this was an opportunity for the series to test the track as it is and make the necessary alterations based on driver feedback.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles spent most of the day talking with fans on hand gauging their input. Without saying “Yes, it’s happening,” Boles gave every indication this is moving ahead.

“I think everybody at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the whole organization is excited about the prospects. Otherwise we wouldn’t be having this test,” Boles said. “We have a great facility right here in the middle of Indianapolis, and many of the teams are based here. Even if we were using it for testing throughout the season, it would be nice to have, but we certainly think we have a big fan base here in Indianapolis and people love to see these cars run. Yes, it’s a break from tradition, not running in the oval direction, but that’s why we’re here.”

MRTI: Juncos signs Carlos Cunha for Pro Mazda campaign

Photo: Juncos Racing
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Juncos Racing continued to bolster its entries in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by signing Carlos Cunha to pilot a third Juncos Pro Mazda entry for 2018. Cunha, who finished third in the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season on the back of seven podium finishes, joins Rinus VeeKay and Robert Megennis in Juncos’ Pro Mazda lineup for 2018.

Cunha previously tested with the team at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in October and joined Juncos for the Chris Griffis Memorial test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in November, testing cars for both the Pro Mazda and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams.

“It’s great to become a part of Juncos Racing,” said the 18-year-old Cunha. “I am really excited to start the 2018 season with Juncos Racing. This fall we did some testing together and from there I was able to see how focused everyone on the team is and I even felt like I became a part of their family in no time. I am confident we will get great results together next year and I look forward to learning and growing more with the team. It will be a huge pleasure and also a great responsibility to carry the number one on my car, thanks to (2017 Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni) and I hope to deliver it back to the team at the end of the year!”

Team owner Ricardo Juncos added, “We are excited to add Carlos to our Pro Mazda lineup. From the moment we started testing with him in early October, we knew he would be a great fit for our team. Carlos has been very quick in testing and even had an impressive showing in the Indy Lights car at the Chris Griffis test back in October. He had a great run this past season in the Pro Mazda series and we are confident he will carry that momentum into the 2018 season.”

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