IndyCar: Briscoe provides update on IMS road course evolution

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Only Graham Rahal will be able to match Ryan Briscoe’s perception of how the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course has evolved, from an exploratory test held last fall through today’s open test for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Grand Prix of Indianapolis, to be held May 10.

The driver of the No. 8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet ended Wednesday’s test session second fastest at 1:09.6558 (126.054mph), trailing only CGR teammate Scott Dixon.

Rahal and Briscoe tested back in the fall before the GP of Indy was formally announced; for Briscoe, today marked his first time on the IMS road course driving in his usual entry as opposed to the National Guard Panther Racing car he drove last year (a sponsor which now, coincidentally, sponsors Rahal).

“When I was here back in October and did some laps in the IndyCar, we were trying the configurations.  We actually ran turn one going backwards.  That was weird,” Briscoe admitted.

“And the banking felt huge.  When we go this way for the 500, you don’t even notice the banking. It doesn’t feel like there’s any banking at all. You go backwards through it, it’s like you lean over, the steering gets heavy. It really stood out.”

Briscoe noted the two major passing zones.

“One and seven are the big pass zones,” Briscoe added, describing the track. “I think (there’s) just huge improvements over what was the F1 track with extending the straight down the middle, slowing down turn seven, then opening up the next set of S’s in eight, nine and ten where it used to be very slow and now it’s really fast and challenging.”

Briscoe didn’t have the chance to compete in an F1 race, but he was a Toyota-affiliated reserve and test driver during the 2004 season before coming over to North America to race in IndyCar.

He said the weirdness of seeing the Pagoda on driver’s right, as opposed to driver’s left, was stranger outside the cockpit than in it.

“I think still it looks the strangest from outside the car,” he said. “When we’re out there driving, it’s just another racetrack really. But you stop and you have a look and you see the cars coming up the straight the wrong way, it takes some getting used to, for sure.”

Upon his return to CGR for the first time since the 2005 season, Briscoe has shown flashes of speed but hasn’t had a huge weekend as yet. The GP of Indy provides him his best chance yet at his first Firestone Fast Six qualifying and race podium appearance of the season.

Starting lineup grid for IMSA Petit Le Mans: Tom Blomqvist puts MSR on pole position

Petit Le Mans lineup
IMSA
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IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar championship contender Tom Blomqvist put the Meyer Shank Racing Acura at the front of the starting lineup for the Motul Petit Le Mans at Michelin Road Atlanta.

Blomqvist turned a 1-minute, 8.55-second lap on the 2.54-mile circuit Friday to capture his third pole position for MSR this season. Earl Bamber qualified second in the No. 02 Cadillac for Chip Ganassi Racing.

Ricky Taylor was third in the No. 10 Acura of Wayne Taylor Racing, which enters Saturday’s season finale with a 19-point lead over the No. 60 of Blomqvist and Oliver Jarvis (who will be joined by Helio Castroneves) for the 10-hour race.

PETIT LE MANS STARTING GRID: Click here for the starting lineup l Lineup by car number

PETIT LE MANS: Info on how to watch

With the pole, MSR sliced the deficit to 14 points behind WTR, which will field the trio of Taylor, Filipe Albuquerque and Brendon Hartley in Saturday’s race.

“We really needed to put the car in this kind of position,” Blomqvist said. “It makes our life a little less stressful tomorrow. It would have given the No. 10 a bit more breathing space. It’s going to be a proper dogfight tomorrow. The guys gave me such a great car. It’s been fantastic this week so far, and it really came alive. I’m hugely thankful to the boys and girls at MSR for giving me the wagon today to execute my job.

“That was a big effort from me. I knew how important it was. It’s just awesome for the guys to give them some sort of reward as well. It’s always nice to be quick. If you do the pole, you know you’ve got a quick car.”

Though WTR has a series-leading four victories with the No. 10, MSR won the Rolex 24 at Daytona and has five runner-up finishes along with its three poles.

The strong performances of the ARX-05s ensure that an Acura will win the final championship in IMSA’s premier Daytona Prototype international (DPi) division, which is being rebranded as Grand Touring Prototype in the move to LMDh cars next season.

Taylor qualified third despite sliding into the Turn 5 gravel during the closing minutes of qualifying while pushing to gain points.

“Qualifying was important for points,” Taylor said. “Going into it, if we outqualified the No. 60 Meyer Shank Acura, they had a lot to lose in terms of championship points. So, we were trying to increase the gap over 20 points which would’ve made a big difference for tomorrow. We would have loved to get the pole and qualify ahead of the No. 60, but in the scheme of the points, it didn’t change a whole lot. I’m feeling good since it’s such a long race, and the No. 10 Konica Minolta Acura team does such a good job strategizing and putting us in a good position.

“I’m very confident in our lineup and our team compared to them over the course of 10 hours. I’d put my two teammates up against those guys any day. I think we are all feeling optimistic and strong for tomorrow.”

In other divisions, PR1 Mathiasen Motorsports (LMP2), Riley Motorsports (LMP3), VasserSullivan (GTD Pro) and Paul Miller Racing (GTD) captured pole positions.

The broadcast of the 10-hour race will begin Saturday at 12:10 p.m. ET on NBC, moving at 3 p.m. to USA Network.


QUALIFYING

Results

Results by class

Fastest lap by driver

Fastest lap by driver after qualifying

Fastest lap by driver and class after qualifying

Fastest lap sequence in qualifying

Best sector times in qualifying

Time cards in qualifying

PRACTICE RESULTS: Session I l Session II l Session III