Drivers, Firestone get jump start on 2017 Indy 500 with IMS tire test

(Getty Images)

This time of year is similar to summer school final exams for drivers in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Several drivers have or will take part in a number of tests as the schedule moves into the final quarter of the season.

Last Thursday, numerous teams tested at Pocono Raceway. Thursday, more will test at Watkins Glen.

And Monday, several teams took part in a closed Firestone tire test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The test was to examine different compounds to potentially be used in next year’s Indianapolis 500 and compare them with the tires used in this year’s 500.

Among drivers that participated were Graham Rahal, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Juan Pablo Montoya, reigning Indianapolis 500 champ Alexander Rossi and Ed Carpenter.

“Kind of a typical tire test, really,” Dale Harrigle, chief engineer and manager of race tire development for Bridgestone Americas said during Monday’s test. “A couple right-side compounds, we have a couple construction options.”

Hunter-Reay and Carpenter were the primary drivers in Monday’s test, while the other participants also contributed their feedback, as well.

“We’re always developing our car and setups; they’re always developing their product,” Hunter-Reay said of Firestone. “It’s just great testing Firestone tires because I always have 100 percent confidence in them. There’s not going to be any big surprises out there. It’s just constant development, going faster and faster.”

Added Carpenter, “For me, I know I love doing this. … It’s always a great opportunity to work with Firestone and test tires. When we come to these tests, there’s a lot of controlled runs. Every run we do is the same amount of laps and they brought quite a few different types of tires here.

“Sometimes it will be one tire, sometimes it will be a couple tires that are different from the control tire which was the 2016 Indy 500 race tire. You work through those changes, jump back to a control (set), just give them feedback on what you’re feeling. I don’t really like to know necessarily what I’m testing, I just like to go out and feel what the car is doing and give them that honest, raw feedback.”

The day-long test started with short runs in the morning, followed by data examination, driver feedback and then long runs in the afternoon.

Admittedly, the mood Monday was somber, as drivers recalled one of their fallen competitors, Bryan Clauson, who died Sunday after being involved in a Midget car crash in Kansas Saturday night.

Clauson finished 23rd in this year’s 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500, lived in suburban Indianapolis and was close to a number of drivers in the IndyCar series.

“It’s a difficult situation for everybody to go through but our job today is to focus on this car,” Rahal said. “We came back here to test to try to improve as much as we can. In light of everything else, this is what we’ve got to focus on right now.”

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X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E

Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.