Power: Double points too far for Indy 500

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We honestly weren’t expecting too much out of the Day 1 press conference for the Indianapolis 500 opening day of practice, but a few intriguing nuggets emerged.

Will Power, who led the session, was asked about how much the points championship will swing as a result of the rest of the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Double points are awarded to the race itself, and qualifying will see points awarded both days – with a maximum of 42 available if a driver qualifies first on both Saturday and Sunday.

As a reference point, Power currently leads the Verizon IndyCar Series points standings with 149 points from four races. The maximum total someone can achieve for the Indianapolis 500 is nearly identical – 145 if a driver won the race (100), qualified fastest on Saturday (33 points) and Sunday (9), led a lap during the race (1) and led the most laps (2).

“I think double points is honestly way too far, but it is what it is,” said Power, who’s long been regarded as the series out-and-out fastest driver on road and street courses, but has traditionally struggled on ovals.

Power, who hasn’t had the best of recent success at the 500 (he’s finished 8th, 14th, 28th and 19th the last four years), says he’s due to break out of that slump this year.

“I’ve struggled recently here, but my performance to finish fifth in ’09 gave me the chance to be full-time,” he explained.

“So it’s time to have a good Indy 500 finish. With the things that have happened, it’s time to have a good finish… which is a win.”

Power was asked whether he could afford to carry any momentum into this race from winning the series’ most recent 500-miler, the 2013 season finale at Auto Club Speedway. He took that positivity into the offseason but now, with four other races complete, he said it’s akin to water under the bridge.

Do you think this is a case of Power merely sounding off at a race where he doesn’t think he can succeed, or does he have a point? Either way, the quote’s out there, and we’ll be interested to see how the points shake out after this year’s 500-miler is complete.

Porsche ready for final LMP1 outing in Bahrain

Photo: Porsche
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At the conclusion of this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain, Porsche’s four-year run in the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship will come to a close. The pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids will roll off from first and third after Friday’s qualifying, and will look to add one more win to their final tally.

Despite its short stint, Porsche more than made its mark on the class and the championship, immediately jumping to the fore and challenging young hotshots Toyota, race winners in 2012 and 2013 and LMP1 champions in 2014, and long-time stalwarts Audi, which introduced its first LMP1 entry in 1999 and quickly became the predominant force in the LMP category.

The 2014 season saw Porsche score four poles and a race win before embarking on a remarkable three-year stretch from 2015 to 2017, in which they scored three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and three straight WEC driver and manufacturer championships (they wrapped the 2017 titles at the previous race in Shanghai.

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of the LMP1 effort, detailed that the early days of the program were a little rocky, given the complex hybrid technology they were working with, but that they were able to find their stride relatively quickly.

“Back then (in 2014), we developed from zero a highly complex hybrid racecar on a Formula One level. The early days were extremely demanding, especially as we had to set up the infrastructure, including new buildings, at the same time, plus assembling a team of 260 excellent people. The timing was really tight and the 2014 Le Mans race came way too early for us. But since then, we have managed maximum success. I’m incredibly proud of this team and I hope that we can conclude the era of the Porsche 919 Hybrid with a good race in Bahrain.”

Team principal Andreas Seidl added that having the championships wrapped up will make the final weekend more enjoyable, as they won’t have the pressure of racing with the championships in mind.

“I feel a big relief that the pressure of defending the manufacturers’ and drivers’ world championship titles is resolved before our last race. The emotions of the farewell under the stress of the title battle would have been extremely hard for the team,” Seidl revealed.

Further, he added that Toyota’s TS050, which debuted last year, made their task all the more challenging as they worked to developed the Porsche 919 Hybrid –  the same basic car that they launched in 2014.

“In Toyota this year, we are facing a competitor who developed an all-new car for 2016. We, instead, kept developing our existing car. That we still won Le Mans as well as both championship titles is thanks to outstanding driver performances, many detailed improvements and the operational strength of our team,” Seidl asserted. “Now we have to get ourselves together and focus on this last race. We want to leave the stage not only as world champions but also with a performance that is satisfying for all of us. Six hours of reliability and faultless work are big challenges of men and machine. Safety has the highest priority. Only after the checkered flag can we allow our reflective feelings to break through.”

In terms of approaching Porsche’s LMP1 swan song, some drivers are taking different approaches. For example, Nick Tandy, driver of the No.1 entry with Neel Jani and André Lotterer, isn’t putting much thought into the farewell and is focusing entirely on the race.

“I prefer not to think about the farewell yet,” Tandy quipped. “The Bahrain race is very interesting anyway because we are racing from day into night. It is normally very hot for the car, the drivers and especially the tires. It is a challenging race to finish the season at. I haven’t been there since 2015 but I was on the podium back then when I came second in the LMP2 class. So this year’s target is to make it onto the LMP1 podium.”

Conversely, newly crowned champion Brendon Hartley, driver of the No. 2 entry with fellow champions Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard, freely expressed his emotions about the end of the Porsche LMP1 program.

“Going to Bahrain will be emotional for all of us. Especially as we arrive as World Champions with less pressure now,” asserted Hartley, who has also endured a busy stretch since the Petit Le Mans on October 7 that has seen him racing every weekend across the WEC, Formula 1, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “I have so many incredible memories and experiences with the 919 Hybrid, teammates and all the boys and girls from the Porsche LMP Team. We shared something very special together. After developing the Porsche 919 for more than four years, it’s an absolute dream to drive so we will all be enjoying every last lap with this awesome machine. On one side there will be a lot of sadness, but on the other hand we will be giving everything to give this project the ultimate send off it deserves.”

Porsche’s LMP1 effort won races in each of its four seasons, totaling 17 victories between it’s entries.

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