Photo: NextEV NIO/LAT

Piquet pushing for KVSH IndyCar appearances as part of possible GRC deal

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HONG KONG – Nelson Piquet Jr. hopes that he can secure some one-off appearances in the Verizon IndyCar Series with KVSH Racing in 2017 to sweeten a possible deal to race for James “Sulli” Sullivan’s team in Red Bull Global Rallycross.

Season one FIA Formula E champion Piquet expressed his desire to get a seat in IndyCar to NBC Sports in July, having previously tested with Team Penske in September 2015.

The Brazilian raced the full 2014 and 2015 Red Bull GRC seasons for SH Rallycross/DRR, headed up by Sullivan, and most recently returned for a three-race stint this year from Washington, D.C. through Seattle.

With Piquet’s FE commitments taking precedence this weekend, SH Rallycross fielded Tanner Whitten for his Supercars debut in Los Angeles, and the GRC Lites graduate banked two top-10 results.

Sebastien Bourdais has raced for KVSH’s IndyCar program since 2o14, but looks destined to join Dale Coyne Racing for 2017, and is set to test for Coyne at Gateway Motorsports Park later this week.

KVSH Racing is in the process of determining its 2017 ownership and driver plans as a result. Sullivan and team co-owner Jimmy Vasser were on site in Los Angeles this weekend for the Red Bull GRC finale.

Piquet explained in Hong Kong at last weekend’s Formula E season-opener that although a full-time seat would not be possible due to clashes with other commitments, he would like to secure some occasional run-outs as part of a new GRC deal.

“A little bit,” Piquet told NBC Sports when asked if there had been any progress on his IndyCar hopes.

“The team that I race for in rallycross, KVSH, they have IndyCar, so I’ve been pushing them to get something done because they want me to go back to do rallycross.

“I said ‘well look, try to sneak in a bit of IndyCar for me and the deal will happen even easier.’

“Not a full season, because there are clashes, but for sure to do a race here, a race there, Indy 500 – I’m gonna try and do some stuff.”

Piquet took his first Formula E pole in Hong Kong, heading up a front-row lock-out for the NextEV NIO team just 12 months after its cars occupied the final two positions on the grid.

Piquet’s hopes of victory were dashed when he was forced to take to the run-off area to avoid a crashed car, with a poor strategy call deepening the Brazilian’s plight. He eventually finished the race 11th.

“The team did an amazing job, stepping forward from where we were last year, but if we want to win races, we need to up our game even more,” Piquet explained.

“Everyone’s taking this so seriously, we have to really really push as much as we can. All I can say is that it’s frustrating, mistakes like today, and I hope the team learns.

“We need to do a better job overall because if we’re not going ot have the most efficient car and make mistakes, it’s going to hurt us even more.

“I think we need to be the best at strategies, have good qualifying and then we can salvage some good points, a few podiums here and there.”

Latest INDYCAR Aeroscreen test continues to provide feedback; data to series

Bruce Martin Photo
Bruce Martin Photo
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RICHMOND, Virginia – After completing its third Aeroscreen test since October 2, INDYCAR continues to collect valuable data and feedback from the drivers and engineers involved in testing.

The latest test of the Aeroscreen came Tuesday, October 15 at Richmond Raceway, a .750-mile short oval. Five-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon has been involved in testing dating all the way back to 2017 at Phoenix with the original “Windscreen.” Tuesday’s test was the first-time two-time NTT IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden was able to test the device that partially encloses the cockpit proving greatly enhanced driver safety.

It was also the first time the current “Aeroscreen” designed and created by Red Bull Advanced Technologies, Pankl and Dallara has been tested at a short oval – a track that measures under 1.5-miles in length.

The previous tests were at the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway on October 2 and the Barber Motorsports Park road course on October 7.

“It wasn’t a problem getting in the car today and relearning a new viewpoint,” Newgarden told NBC Sports.com at the conclusion of Tuesday’s test. “It felt like a new viewpoint. It’s still an Indy car. It still feels like an Indy car. The car does a lot of the things it did before. It required some slight tuning differences to accommodate a different center of gravity and different total weight.

“Overall, it still felt like the same Indy car I drove three weeks ago. You get used to that new viewpoint within 30 or 40 laps. It was alien at first but halfway through the day it feels like home again.”

Newgarden’s Team Penske test team along with INDYCAR officials worked on changes to getting air into the cockpit and directing the air to the right place where the driver can utilize it.

“We’ve come up with some solutions that we like,” Newgarden said. “INDYCAR and the teams will continue to fine-tune this. That is why we are doing these tests. The main goal was to figure this out and fine-tune this stuff. We have come up with a lot of good solutions to all of the little things we have talked about that we have needed so when Sebastien Bourdais goes to Sebring (on November 5), it will just be another version.

“We are already close. Because they are such small details, it feels like normal racing stuff and we will come up with solutions for that.”

Some drivers who have participated in the Aeroscreen test has said, they almost feel naked without having the halo-like structure with a clear windshield protecting them on the race car.

“Once we got through a whole IndyCar season, if you took it off, it would feel really strange,” Newgarden said. “People adapt so quickly to a change, what the car looks like. Once you give us a couple of races and a full year, it will feel like home and something we are very used to as drivers.

“It is already starting to get that way. People are feeling more comfortable with it. The field of view is almost identical to the way it was before. Your peripheral vision is identical, the way you look out the front of the cars is identical, the way you see the tires is identical.”

Individual driver preference will allow for shading of the sun and that can be accomplished with the visor strips on the helmet and the tear-offs on Aeroscreen.

Drivers will also have a bit of a quieter atmosphere inside the cockpit. The partial enclosure makes it easier to hear his radio communication and the sounds of the engine in the driver’s car. It partially blocks out the sounds of the engines in the other cars and the rush of wind traveling at high speeds that used to buffet in and around the helmet.

“It has changed the noise level slightly inside the cockpit,” Newgarden said. “For me, it wasn’t super dramatic. It’s a slight reduction in wind noise. You’re not getting the wind directly over your head as dramatically as you would before. All that external noise has just been dimmed.

“You can hear the radio a touch better, things like that. But the engine noise is still quite prominent. It’s bolted directly behind us, so you still hear quite a bit of what’s going on in the car and the engine.”

Dixon was in the car at Indianapolis on October 2 and returned on Tuesday. The Barber test on October 7 included this year’s Indianapolis 500 winner, Simon Pagenaud, in a Team Penske Chevrolet and Ryan Hunter-Reay in an Andretti Autosport Honda.

“The only differences are the openings on the front wing that creates some more airflow around the legs and body and a different inlet in the screen that was in place today,” Dixon told NBC Sports.com. “There were helmet cooling options since the Barber test because on the road course, some of the drivers were getting a little hotter.

“This project has been very in-depth. It hit the ground running very smoothly. There are some alternate options they are trying to create, especially on the street courses where we will experience hot condition. On street conditions, your depth perception changes because of how close you are to the walls, but we should get used to that.”

Two weeks ago, Team Penske driver Will Power said it takes a different style to get out of the race car because of the added height of the Aeroscreen.

That hasn’t been a problem for Dixon.

“That’s easy, man,” he said. “Just go through the hole in the top.”