IndyCar drivers ‘explore the limits’ of IMS road course in new aero kits

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Verizon IndyCar Series teams tested the new superspeedway aerokits at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday, but Thursday it was back to the road course kit with two practice sessions around the 14-turn, 3.439-mile infield track at IMS.

For three hours and 40 minutes, 25 drivers tested under mostly sunny skies preparing for Saturday’s Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis, with Sebastien Bourdais and Scott Dixon taking the first and second rounds, respectively.

“It’s a lot of fun when you’re at Indianapolis, road course or oval,” Dixon told media after the second session. “I think this track is a little different to a lot of them in the sheer fact you trim out so much.

“It can be frustrating at times piecing a lap together.  When you do it’s rewarding.”

Dixon was rewarded with a fast lap of 1:10.6971 on his 22nd of 24 laps.

“As all of us have been off track trying to explore the limits,” said Dixon, who started sixth but finished 15th in last year’s Grand Prix of Indy. “The track is pretty slippery I find this year, maybe due to the tar field getting a little bit older.  But it’s definitely been a lot of fun today.”

One of the drivers to find himself off course was Team Penske’s Will Power. The defending series champion spun off into the dirt and gravel on the back half of the track early in the second session.

“It’s a track you can do that on because (there’s) not too many things to hit (off-course),” said Power who wound up second fastest despite the blooper. “I was very loose at the beginning of the session.  I’m just trying in the braking zones, as well, trying to get everything dialed in.”

One question going into the weekend is how tires will hold up with the new aero kit combined with weather conditions.

“(Once you) start to trim out a lot, you’re probably going to work the rear (tires) a lot harder,” Graham Rahal said after being the fastest Honda in the second session at P7. “You never know what can happen here or in the race. I think we saw that last year. A lot of guys I thought were really strong, when we went to the long run, they struggled a little bit.

“With a straightaway this long, you ought to be able to pass at least a couple guys in one shot.”

In the first practice session Chevrolet swept the top five position before Takuma Sato’s Honda claimed the sixth position. Rahal’s fastest second-session lap was 1:11.1422.

“I think all the Chevys are quicker than the Hondas here on trap speed,” Rahal said. “I think it’s probably just a bit of drivability. I mean, these guys are over here talking about adjusting it to their driving style.

Rahal finds it’s hard for his team adjust his No. 15 Steak ‘n Shake Honda to his driving style at the track.

“It’s pretty pitch sensitive,” Rahal said. “You find you’re sideways more than you’re pointed straight. As I said, if you’re doing that, it’s fast, that’s okay. That’s where we’ve been this year.”

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