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IndyCar notes: Rahal pleased with test; Grenier gets KV role

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Three other IndyCar pieces of news to report on Tuesday, on what’s turning into a busy day in the news cycle:

  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing put out a release Monday night after the team’s first running of 2014. Graham Rahal completed 124 laps on Sebring’s short course, utilizing an older version of Honda’s new twin-turbo engine configuration. “We dealt with a couple of issues this morning so we started a couple of hours into the day but we got a ton done in a short period of time. We worked through our entire test list and I feel pretty good about where we stand,” he said. His engineer Bill Pappas said conditions weren’t ideal, with 80-degree temperatures and different rubber making for a slippery, greasy track surface, but they worked through.
  • KV Racing Technology confirmed Mikael Grenier as “an associated driver” for 2014, which doesn’t mean too much in terms of actual track time but does give the French Canadian a formal role with the team. The 21-year-old Quebec native tested for the team in November at Sebring. He’ll attend team meetings at selected races and potentially test more later this year. “We are very happy to have Mikael be associated with KV Racing Technology,” said KVRT General Manager Steve Moore. “Mikael did a good job during the test earlier this year and we felt a more formal association was warranted. We look forward to having him attend several races this year in an effort to accelerate his learning curve with an eye toward developing a more substantial relationship in the future.”
  • Per a Cosworth spokesperson, there won’t be anything further to announce on their front on Tuesday after a round of meetings between Cosworth Automotive CEO Hal Reisiger and INDYCAR officials. Last week, MotorSportsTalk was first to report Cosworth’s interest in returning to IndyCar, with the hopes of partnering with an OEM.  It’s all part of a bigger, global strategy for the company.

IndyCar 2015 Driver Review: Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz
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MotorSportsTalk continues its run through the driver-by-driver roster in this year’s Verizon IndyCar Series. Next up in 13th is Carlos Munoz, who fell back to earth a bit after winning Indianapolis 500, then series rookie-of-the-year honors in consecutive years.

Carlos Munoz, No. 26 Andretti Autosport Honda

  • 2014: 8th Place, Best Finish 3rd, Best Start 3rd, 3 Podiums, 5 Top-5, 8 Top-10, 0 Laps Led, 10.5 Avg. Start, 12.6 Avg. Finish
  • 2015: 13th Place, 1 Win, Best Start 4th, 1 Podium, 3 Top-5, 7 Top-10, 25 Laps Led, 14.0 Avg. Start, 12.1 Avg. Finish

Munoz fell down to earth a little bit in his second full season in IndyCar, albeit not as badly as fellow 2014 rookie Jack Hawksworth, who’d switched teams and had a myriad of issues throughout the season. He won his first race in the rain at Detroit race one, which was well judged, but there were precious other highlights from the driver who has showcased “wow” potential in the past.

His qualifying fell off year-to-year and that was probably the single thing to pinpoint as to why the decline occurred, falling from eighth to 13th in points. What had been a 10.5 average in 2014 fell to 14th this year, and behind teammates Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Ovals seemed his strongest type of circuit this year on the whole. Like teammate Justin Wilson, he’d been in position to score what would have been his third straight Indianapolis 500 top-five finish if a late splash of fuel wasn’t needed. Sixth at Texas from fourth on the grid marked his best overall weekend of the year, and fifth at Iowa and Pocono were also fairly good results.

But whereas Munoz picked his spots well last year and delivered a handful of podiums, his Detroit win marked his only podium visit this year. He didn’t really make much of an impression and was more anonymous than not over the course of the year. His future with Andretti is uncertain for 2016.

Williams maximizes wet setup work despite limited running in Sochi

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With action pretty much limited in both practice sessions due to the diesel spillage in free practice one and rain in free practice two for the Russian Grand Prix in Sochi, teams could only do limited wet-weather runs.

Williams Martini Racing tried to make the best of the circumstances, as one of only five teams that completed laps in FP2 (McLaren, Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Ferrari) with eight cars.

Felipe Massa led second practice but it was an essentially meaningless session.

“It was quite a stunted session today which stopped us from completing all of the work we wanted to,” said Rob Smedley, Williams’ head of vehicle performance. “We had planned to run in the wet but we had a strange situation this afternoon in that half of the circuit was much wetter than the other half which made most of the tests null and void.

“We have been working on the wet set-up of the car and so wanted to get out at the end of FP2 to see the progress we have made. In a similar vein to our low speed corner work in Singapore, we seem to be making progress. We got through all of the bits and pieces we wanted to get through in terms of control systems and power unit set-up, and we have to go into tomorrow with a good plan for FP3 to get the car set-up for qualifying and the race.”

Valtteri Bottas finished third in Sochi a year ago, while Massa seeks a rebound after a fuel flow issue in qualifying resigned him to a Q1 elimination and an 11th place finish.