New Indy Lights car performs first full test day at Mid-Ohio (VIDEO)

1 Comment

Following a shakedown at Putnam Park in Indiana last week by Conor Daly (see below), the new Dallara IL15 Indy Lights car had its first proper run Monday at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Daly was slated to drive once more on Monday but had to leave due to a sponsor commitment in Miami.

That left testing duties to Tristan Vautier, the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie-of-the-Year, who’s been busy between Road To Indy TV work, Mazda LMP2 prototype racing and sports car racing this season.

Vautier got out early and began cranking off laps. Here was his pace after early runs:

The Frenchman put the new car through its paces and by the end of the day after 85 laps, got down to an unofficial best lap of 1:13.4 around the 2.258-mile road course, a time already half a second better than the pole time for this weekend’s pair of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races.

Here’s Vautier’s recap of the day, to Anders Krohn for R2ITV – Krohn is also the analyst for NBCSN’s Indy Lights race coverage.

Interest and discussion was high regarding the new Indy Lights chassis this weekend; the road course version of the car arrived on Sunday while the oval version show car was on display all weekend.

MotorSportsTalk has learned of at least one potential new entrant to the series, and potentially a current team on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder looking to purchase the new chassis. No formal announcement has been made by Andersen Promotions – the series promoters – regarding the number of chassis sold or number of teams interested.

But I did speak to Daly during the weekend, who hailed the car’s pace and ability. Here was Daly’s video of the car going past:

“This thing has a proper turbo sound and feel to it,” Daly said. “It’s going to be really cool to see how this car develops.”

Indeed along with the other news and notes on the IndyCar side, following the Indy Lights car and silly season development this winter is also going to be interesting to watch.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds