Ganassi’s first 2015 test offers chance to build off latest second half surge

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The 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series season is still a couple months away from starting, but on-track preparation is about to begin this week.

Chip Ganassi Racing will be testing at NOLA Motorsports Park on Wednesday, the team’s first outing at the track.

“It’ll be the first time I’ve been to New Orleans since I was six years old,” noted CGR managing director Mike Hull, speaking to MotorSportsTalk at this weekend’s Roar Before the Rolex 24 test at Daytona International Speedway.

But while thoughts of New Orleans always seem to center on its culture, nightlife and atmosphere, the team will be focused for its first day of running at the track itself, and building off winning three of the last four races to end 2014.

If there’s been one rare area where CGR hasn’t excelled in recent years, it’s in starting strong out of the gate, and it’s something Scott Dixon, driver of the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, feels is important to correct in a year when aero kits are coming.

“We do NOLA (this) week and we did some other stuff before Christmas,” Dixon told MST at Daytona. “There isn’t any more body (kit) stuff until Barber I think. Some of the Chevy teams have completed it. We had our Sebring test in December (without the kits), and that helped to clarify a couple changes we did toward the end of the year.”

Dixon expects that along with longtime engineer Eric Bretzman, the team should be in a better spot earlier in 2015, having already had a year under its belt with the Chevrolet engine after switching from Honda last offseason.

“It should be easier now,” he explained. “We pushed pretty hard through the first part of the season with adjustability per driver. It should transition well now. We haven’t got the new engine specs yet. Right now we’ve had big breaks and not much testing. But once the season hits, it should be full go.”

Tony Kanaan, who ended the year on a tear with some excellent qualifying efforts, several podiums and a win in the season finale at Auto Club Speedway, also expects his second year to be even better in the now No. 10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.

“I think it was the entire team, we started off slower than we wanted to,” Kanaan said. “We were all getting used to it. Even Scott was struggling.

“Once we found out what we had to do to make it better, we were both extremely strong. We won three races as a team, and in a championship that is so tight, that was a very good result.

“By the time I got used to it, and made changes in how I wanted to the car to be, we got to where we wanted to be the whole year.”

Both Dixon and Kanaan were at Daytona this weekend as part of CGR’s “all-star” second car, the No. 02 Riley-Ford they’ll share with CGR NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Kyle Larson and Jamie McMurray.

Sergio Perez wins rain-delayed race in Singapore over Leclerc; Verstappen seventh

Sergio Perez Singapore
Clive Rose/Getty Images,
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SINGAPORE — Max Verstappen’s Formula One title celebrations were put on hold after the Red Bull driver placed seventh at a chaotic Singapore Grand Prix, won by his teammate Sergio Perez on Sunday.

Perez’s second win of the season saw him finish 7.6 seconds ahead of Ferrari’s Charles Leclerc, with Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz Jr. in third place.

Perez was investigated for a potential safety car infringement but still kept the win after a 5-second time penalty for dropping too far back after being warned.

Verstappen had won the past five races but needed to win here and finish 22 points ahead of Leclerc to be crowned champion for a second straight season. That could happen next weekend at the Japanese GP.

Verstappen made a mistake after the second safety car restart, following AlphaTauri driver Yuki Tsunoda’s crash on Lap 36. When Verstappen tried to overtake Lando Norris’ McLaren, he locked his tires and needed to pit again.

Leclerc started from pole position with Verstappen going from eighth after a team blunder in qualifying.

The race start was delayed by more than an hour to clear water off the Marina Bay Circuit track following heavy rainfall. Drivers had to finish the 61-lap race within a two-hour window; 59 laps were completed.

Tricky conditions saw the virtual safety car deployed three times and DRS was allowed with about 30 minutes remaining.

Perez made a good start and jumped past Leclerc while Verstappen dropped several places. The first safety car was on Lap 8 when Zhou Guanyu’s Alfa Romeo was cut off by Nicholas Latifi’s Williams.

Perez got away cleanly at the restart, while Verstappen climbed into seventh behind Fernando Alonso – whose 350th F1 race ended disappointingly when his engine failed on Lap 21, bringing out the first VSC.

With the track still damp, drivers decided against changing to quicker tires – apart from Mercedes’ George Russell, who struggled for grip.

Hamilton made a rare mistake on Lap 33 and thudded into the crash barrier. Soon after, the leading drivers changed tires in a flurry of stops. They did so just before the safety car was deployed again following Tsunoda’s error.

Verstappen overtook Sebastian Vettel’s Aston Martin right at the end for seventh place.