Indy Lights: Dixon, Hinch to test new car; Belardi confirms 2 for 2015

1 Comment

Two bits of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires news came through on Friday that we neglected to hit at that point, so here they are:

DIXON, HINCH GET NEW CAR TEST

While youngsters Tristan Vautier and Conor Daly are the primary testers of the new Dallara IL-15 Indy Lights chassis, and both of them have already sampled the new car to this point, two Verizon IndyCar Series veterans will also have the chance to drive it next month.

Both Scott Dixon and James Hinchcliffe – each is an Indy Lights veteran and Dixon is a past Indy Lights champion – will test the car on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course Sept. 5-6.

“I’m excited to see the new car and the direction the series is taking,” said Dixon. “It’s a very important stepping-stone on the road to the Verizon IndyCar Series. I look forward to driving the new car at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and hope to help with the ongoing development.”

Added Hinchcliffe, “It is always fun being part of something new, and helping to develop this race car is a cool opportunity so I was excited when I got the call from T.C. to be a part of it. I am a big believer in the Lights series; racing in Indy Lights made me the driver I am and prepared me to step up to the Verizon IndyCar Series. I think this new car is a big step in revitalizing the series. Being in on the ground level and helping to push the series in this direction is something I am looking forward to.”

BELARDI OFFICIALLY SIGNS UP FOR 2015

To clarify a post from earlier this week, the 8Star Motorsports to Indy Lights announcement was a notice of the team’s intentions to enter the championship. However, Belardi Auto Racing has confirmed it has placed deposits on two new chassis for 2015, and thus Brian Belardi’s squad will be present for the new season.

“I’m extremely pleased with what Dan Andersen has accomplished in providing stability for the Mazda Road to Indy, but he’s also been aggressive in moving Indy Lights into the future, and we’re behind him 100%,” Belardi said in a team release. “I also have great faith in Dallara and the recent results of the new car testing have been phenomenal. I attended the test at Mid-Ohio and was happy to see the car’s anticipated performance levels be confirmed on-track. I’m thrilled for next year and I’m excited knowing that we’ll have two cars on the grid, and possibly more.”

Belardi has run points leader Gabby Chaves the full season, while alternating Alex Baron and Axcil Jefferies in the second car throughout 2014.

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.

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)

Combined speeds