Final touches being applied to reconfigured road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway


The first test of the reconfigured road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is just two days away – and the track is still being tweaked for completion and to be ready as scheduled on Wednesday, according to a report in Sunday’s Indianapolis Star by writer Curt Cavin.

The inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis takes place May 10, two weeks prior to the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25.

As many as 75 workers toiled throughout the weekend, tweaking things such as sod installation, line striping and even final erection of additional grandstand seating, Cavin reported.

“Really, most of it is cosmetic,” track President Doug Boles told Cavin.

One thing that will not be finished by Wednesday, and it’s understandable given how much would likely be rubbed off by cars taking practice laps, is painting of curbs around the race course.

The reconfigured track layout has five modified turns and a fresh coat of asphalt on the infield.

“It’s a new racetrack, it’s a proper racetrack and the best part about it is it’s inside the world’s greatest racetrack,” Ryan Hunter-Reay told Cavin. “(They’re) letting a bunch of IndyCar drivers go at it, and that’s awesome.

“I feel like a kid. I can’t wait to try it out.”

But Sebastien Bourdais, who won the first Brickyard Grand Prix, has his reservations.

“I didn’t see anything wrong with the old track,” he said. “Obviously the IMS guys thought different, so we’ll just have to give it a fair shot and see how it shakes out.

“But they sure spent a lot of money for that, so it better be good.”

Wednesday’s two practice sessions, a two-hour stint in the morning and a three-hour segment in the afternoon, will be preceded a day earlier when 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve and NASCAR star Kurt Busch will spend much of the day practicing on the fabled 2.5-mile oval at IMS.

Both Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s sessions will be open to the public, Cavin noted.

It will be Villeneuve’s first return to Indy since his win there 19 years ago, and Busch will be competing in his first-ever 500, attempting to do the so-called “double” of racing in the 500 in the early afternoon and then heading to Charlotte for that evening’s Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup event.

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Ferrari teammates Vettel and Raikkonen fastest in rainy final practice at Australian GP

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MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Ferrari drivers Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen went one-two in the final practice session ahead of qualifying at the water-logged Australian Grand Prix on Saturday.

Vettel set a best-lap time of 1 minute, 26.067 seconds, more than 2.4 seconds faster than his teammate in second.

Both Ferrari drivers switched from their intermediate tires to the super-fast, ultra-soft tires for the final few laps of the session, testing conditions on the track after a day-long downpour left it slick and filled with small puddles.

Mercedes drivers Valtteri Bottas and Lewis Hamilton did not opt to try out their soft tires, sticking to the intermediates for the entire session. They had the seventh- and eighth-fastest times, after topping the leaderboard in practice in dry conditions on Friday.

The heavy rains subsided by early afternoon, allowing the track to rapidly dry during the third practice session and making conditions safe for drivers to test their soft tires.

Still, only a few drivers completed a timed lap with the softer compounds, with Mercedes, Red Bull and most of the others staying with their intermediates.

Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson had the third-fastest time of the session on ultrasoft tires, followed by Red Bull’s Max Verstappen on intermediates.

Hamilton remains the favorite to capture his fifth straight pole position at the Australian Grand Prix in qualifying later Saturday. He had the fastest laps on ultrasoft tires in the two practice sessions on Friday, though Verstappen was right behind him.

Verstappen and Vettel both slid on the slick track early in the third practice session, but maintained control and completed their runs without incident.

Verstappen’s teammate, Daniel Ricciardo, had the sixth-fastest time of the session. The Australian’s chances of winning his fifth career Grand Prix on his home track in Melbourne took a hit late Friday when he was assessed a three-place grid penalty for Sunday’s race.

The Australian driver was penalized for driving too fast under red-flag conditions during Friday’s second practice session because of debris on the track.