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.
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”