Andy Brown set as Brabham’s engineer with PIRTEK Team Murray

Photo: PIRTEK Team Murray
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Veteran race engineer Andy Brown, who was involved with the Galles Racing team when Al Unser Jr. won the 1992 Indianapolis 500, and then engineered Sam Hornish Jr to his two championships with Panther Racing, will make a comeback to the North American open-wheel scene as engineer for Matthew Brabham in his No. 61 PIRTEK Team Murray Chevrolet.

The full release is below:

The next piece of the PIRTEK Team Murray puzzle for this year’s 100th Indianapolis 500 was put into place today when it was announced that legendary engineer Andy Brown will be working with rookie Matt Brabham as he prepares for his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in May.

Brown, one of the most experienced engineers in the business, has been part of multiple Indy 500 and IndyCar Series winning programs.

He was the assistant technical director at Galles/KRACO Racing when Al Unser Jr won in 1992 in the closest ever Indy 500 finish in the team’s self built Galmer chassis and then went on to engineer Sam Hornish Jr when he claimed his back-to-back Indy Racing League Championships in 2001 and 2002 at Panther Racing.

PIRTEK Team Murray has been established by Australian motorsport entrepreneur Brett “Crusher” Murray and will run in cohesion with KV Racing Technology who will provide the infrastructure and support for the Angie’s List Grand Prix on May 14 and the 100th Indianapolis 500 on May 29.

Brabham is the grandson of three-time Formula 1 world champion Sir Jack Brabham and 10-time Indy 500 starter and 1993 Le Mans 24-hour race winner, Geoff Brabham. The Brabham family will create history as just the third family to have three generations start the Indy 500.

Brown studied Aeronautical Engineering at the University of Bath in England, graduating in 1981 before joining British Aerospace.

In 1984 he joined March Engineering and worked on their Formula 3000 program before becoming a race engineer for the March-Leyton House Formula 1 team from 1988 through 1990, where he worked with Brazilian Driver Mauricio Gugelmin.

In 1991 Brown had his first contact with the Brabham name, when he became Race Engineer for Martin Brundle at the Brabham F1 team.

The following year he stamped his name on the world of IndyCar when he joined Galmer Engineering as assistant technical director and went on to record that memorable win with ‘Little Al’ in a car of their own design.

Brown later became a founding member and Chief Engineer for PacWest Racing where he renewed his relationship with Gugelmin.

A move to Panther Racing would result in the back-to-back IRL Championships with Hornish Jr.

Brown joined Chip Ganassi Racing for the 2006 season to work as Dan Wheldon’s race engineer for a couple of seasons before moving into R&D with a focus on aerodynamics.

For 2011, he returned to the UK and created his engineering business ACB Consulting Ltd, however maintains a lot of on-going business in US open-wheel racing.

To satisfy his “need” for racing, Brown has recently been involved with 2013 British Touring Car Champion, Andrew Jordan in the British Touring Car Championship – ironically, in a car sponsored by PIRTEK.

Brown and Brabham will be working out of the KV Racing Technology shop in Indianapolis on a daily basis.

They are set to be involved work together in a road course test later in the month before some sessions on the Dallara simulator in Indianapolis.

The PIRTEK Team Murray outfit will contest the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis May 12-14 and then begin the Indianapolis 500 quest with opening practice on Monday, May 16. Qualifying will be Saturday May 21 with the 100th Indianapolis 500 taking place on May 29.

PIRTEK Team Murray has welcomed international Fluid Transfer Solutions company, PIRTEK on board as major sponsor and has partnered with the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation to honor military service members, veterans and first responders throughout the Memorial Day Weekend celebration.

IndyCar drivers say Thermal Club could host race after successful opening day to test

IndyCar Thermal race
Andy Abeyta/The Desert Sun / USA TODAY Sports Images
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THERMAL, Calif. – The “motorsports country club” passed the first test (figuratively and literally) with NTT IndyCar Series drivers pleased enough to proclaim The Thermal Club as race-eligible after its debut.

Though there were a few minor incidents on the 17-turn, 3.067-mile permanent road course east of Palm Springs in Southern California’s Coachella Valley, there was no significant damage for the 27 full-time cars that turned 1,119 laps Thursday.

Perhaps more importantly, drivers seemed to enjoy the ride around the track, which is unlike anything on the current circuit.

“I would love to race here,” said Chip Ganassi Racing rookie Marcus Armstrong, who posted the 10th-quickest time (1 minute, 39.9077 seconds) in the No. 11 Dallara-Honda that he will race on street and road courses after coming from the F2 Series. “I think it’s awesome. Would have to do a lot of neck training prior to the race because it’s much like a European circuit, quite demanding on the neck, towards the end of the lap anyway.

PRACTICE SPEEDS: First session l Second session l Combined

‘AN AMAZING PLACE’: IndyCar and its big plans for Thermal

“I think it’s cool. Very flowing, banked corners, banked high-speed corners. In terms of racing, it could be potentially not a lot of overtaking. You’d have to commit hard (in) maybe Turn 1. It wouldn’t be the easiest place to overtake. As a whole facility and circuit, it’s very enjoyable.”

Juncos Hollinger Racing No. 77 Chevrolet driver Callum Ilott, another F2 veteran who is entering his second year in IndyCar, was seventh fastest. Ilott said Thermal would “set a standard really of what we want to be doing with this series.

“It’s really, really high level, high tech,” said Ilott, whose rookie teammate Agustin Canapino went off course twice but incurred no major trouble. “As a circuit, yeah, it’s got a little bit different corners. I think the overtaking — we’ll find a way, we’re IndyCar — someone always sends it down the inside. I think if we can extend the straight and get some overtaking between Turn 6 and 7. It’s definitely a great circuit to drive and good fun and a bit different to the normal winter training we get in Florida. So I like the circuit.

“I think if we could, it would be good to race here once.”

Andretti Autosport’s Colton Herta, who turned the fastest lap (1:39.3721) in his No. 26, also was optimistic despite the passing challenges.

“I think it really comes down to tire deg, what people are showing with that,” Herta said. “It will be tough to pass, right? A lot of the good braking zones, you’re coming off of high-speed corners, so it will be hard to follow.

“But you never know. I would say some of the tracks we go to would be terrible for racing, and IndyCar still puts on a great show. You never know until it’s tested and proven right or wrong.”

The possibility of adding an IndyCar race at The Thermal Club has been floated, but there would be some challenges. It likely would be a made-for-TV event given it’s a private club (and filled with multimillion-dollar homes filled with vintage cars). The test is closed to the public and open only to members and VIPs.

There also are some areas that would need to be improved, namely the galvanized steel Armco barriers that ring the track and generally are considered antiquated in motorsports.

“I think the Armco might propose a little bit of an issue,” Ilott said. “Again, it depends on what angle you’re hitting them obviously. It’s a pretty straightforward process to make it a bit safer and a bit more cushiony. I’m not in charge of that stuff. I just drive and try not to hit those things.

“I think it’s a straightforward process. To be fair, everyone has had a little moment today, spun and carried on. That’s a good start. Obviously there are anomalies, these things happen. So far, so good.”

Said Herta: For sure. It probably needs a little bit of work. They’ve already done a lot for us to come here already. It seems like if they do want to have a race here, they’re willing to put the work in and money in to upgrade the facility to make it a little bit safer for us.”

Christian Lundgaard of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing was second fastest (1:39.3767), followed by Alex Palou (1:39.3970) and Romain Grosjean (1:39.4826). Will Power was the top Chevrolet driver in fifth (1:39.5690).

Though Andretti had two of the top four times, Herta downplayed the significance other than getting reacclimated to his team.

“Just a lot of knocking the rust off,” he said. “It’s quite a long offseason without being in the car. I don’t know how much we’re really going to learn from running here. It’s really good to get the team back into it, get all the boys working again. Yeah, just get everybody back into the flow of it.

“It could be a huge shake-up when we go to St. Pete and who’s up front and who’s at the back. It is too early to tell. It’s nice just to be back in the car and get lap times down, get everybody working again.

“The track surface is very strange, very different to anything I’ve really felt in IndyCar. It’s seven first-gear corners. We don’t really have that many anywhere we go on a street course. It is quite a bit slower than our natural terrain courses. But I don’t want to be in here and dig it the whole time. It’s a fun track to drive, especially the back section. It keeps you on your toes. It doesn’t really replicate anything else that we go (race).”

The test will continue with another six-hour session Friday.