Chevy works through program on first test day of 2014 IndyCar season

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Ten Chevrolet drivers put in the first major running of the 2014 IndyCar Series season with a one-day manufacturer’s test Friday at Sebring International Raceway’s short course.

Chevrolet’s IndyCar program manager, Chris Berube, outlined some of the goals the manufacturer is working on as it seeks its third straight Manufacturer’s Championship in 2014.

“The IndyCar engine homologation table allowed a fairly significant amount of change to the engine for 2014, including new turbochargers and fuel system revisions,” Berube said in a Chevrolet manufacturer release. “Work on all of that started last year and this first track test is an exciting yet anxious time for the engineers that toiled over and tortured the new bits to push the performance level up while maintaining the competitive advantage in reliability Chevrolet has had in 2012 and 2013.

“The engine change-out mileage increases from 2,000 to 2,500 miles in 2014 so achieving a 25 percent increase in life simultaneously with a performance increase is the holy grail of engineering development.”

Most of the Team Penske testing this offseason has focused on Juan Pablo Montoya as he reacclimatizes back to IndyCar after a several-year hiatus. Meanwhile teammate Will Power, who ended 2013 on a roll with three wins in the last five races, described the process of working through the first test of the year.

“Obviously we have the 2014 spec of the engine so just going through a few teething problems so we didn’t get that much running this morning,” Power said. “It is the first test of the year, I get (to) run with Helio (Castroneves) and Juan (Pablo Montoya) and I think it will be a good year. I think we’ve all got pretty good feedback and work together to get a better car.”

Montoya said he was struggling a bit with the balance while Castroneves thanked Chevrolet for the improvements, and praised the team’s ability to gather feedback and data for all three cars.

Besides the Penske trio, Chip Ganassi Racing’s quartet (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe, Charlie Kimball), single-car entries from KVSH Racing (Sebastien Bourdais), Ed Carpenter Racing (Mike Conway) and Panther Racing (Carlos Huertas) also tested on Friday. A.J. Foyt Racing’s Takuma Sato was the only Honda runner.

Further Chevy-only tests will occur in February at Auto Club Speedway, in Fontana and Sonoma Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.

Ferrari, Mercedes launch 2018 F1 cars

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The title combatants from the 2017 FIA Formula 1 World Championship season both launched their 2018 challengers earlier on Thursday, with Scuderia Ferrari revealing the SF71H and Mercedes AMG Petronas revealing the W09.

For Ferrari, the SF71H represents an evolution of last year’s SF70H, which helped produce Ferrari’s best season in several years.

They presented a strong challenge to Mercedes for the championship, even leading the way at various points, with Sebastian Vettel recording five wins along the way. But, mechanical failures and crashes hampered their efforts late in the season, and they settled for second in the driver’s championship (with Vettel) and the constructor’s championship.

Entering 2018, the team is emphasizing the importance of building momentum with every race to ultimately secure their first constructor’s crown since 2008 and their first driver’s crown since 2007.

“There are no challenges actually. There are no challenges in the plural. There is just one challenge, which is the final challenge,” asserted team principal Maurizio Arrivabene. So that’s work that you build and you don’t build that work in one or two races. We’ve seen over the last few years, in the last championships, that you work race by race, and you always try to do the best you can.”

Technical director Mattia Binotto detailed some of the updates on the 2018 car, such as an new power unit and new suspension designs in anticipation of new tire constructions.

“We worked a lot on the power unit, we worked on its reliability and performance. We worked on the packaging, on suspensions in the rear axle because there will be new tires the following season, so we also tried to design the car to accommodate the new tires,” he explained.

Binotto added, “In regards to aerodynamics, we maintained our concept of having the inlets on the radiators, and everybody’s copying that, but we tried to make an additional step forward and what we showed today is not the same element of last year, but it is something more developed.”

Mercedes, meanwhile, will look to take it’s fifth consecutive driver’s and constructor’s championships with the W09. The team even took the car to the track for its launch, conducting a filming day at Silverstone Circuit.

“It is always a very exciting time because what has been designed is coming together and coming alive,”  team principal Toto Wolff said during the launch.

Despite facing challenges with last year’s car, the W08, the team elected to follow a similar design concept with the aerodynamics to improve on the car’s strengths while simultaneously addressing its weak points.

“We like some of the character traits from our diva,” Wolf quipped. “The W08 was the fastest car on the grid, scoring the highest number of pole positions and winning the most races last year. So we were careful not to lose the car’s many strengths just to overcome the difficulties.”

Both Ferrari and Mercedes are expected to slug it out again for the 2018 driver’s and constructor’s championships.

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