Roller coaster day for Andretti Autosport in Mid-Ohio

0 Comments

LEXINGTON, Ohio – Andretti Autosport’s fortunes on Lap 18 of 90 in Sunday’s Verizon IndyCar Series Honda Indy 200 summed up its roller coaster afternoon.

First, Marco Andretti fought hard to hold off the advances of former teammate James Hinchcliffe exiting the Keyhole.

Further down after the Keyhole and on the run to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course’s primary passing zone, Turn 4, it appeared as though then two of Andretti’s current teammates – Alexander Rossi and Ryan Hunter-Reay – came together while battling for position. Rossi was on the outside and Hunter-Reay on the inside, with Hunter-Reay alleging contact.

It was that kind of day. Despite the spin, Hunter-Reay rallied to eighth, while Rossi was sixth.

Hunter-Reay quickly surmised his viewpoint: “It wasn’t his corner yet. He came down. That put me over the curb on the inside. I did that corner successfully side-by-side with three other drivers. So I’m not sure why my teammate couldn’t,” he told NBC Sports.

Rossi, very much keen to avoid any issue with his teammate, said he’d talk to him later on to clarify the situation.

“I was on the outside, so if anyone was gonna chop it would have been me,” he told NBC Sports. “I looked at it and it was 50/50. You never want that to happen to a teammate. So I will go talk to him.

“We work well together every single weekend, and have for a year and a half. It’s unfortunate. We’ll resolve it and move on.”

Takuma Sato, meanwhile, led the quartet on the day while Andretti had another quiet day, finishing 12th after saving fuel early on.

“Yeah, starting third and finish fifth, it isn’t necessarily too perfect a finish,” said the driver of the No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda, the company back on the car for another race after its Indianapolis 500 victory. “But, I think we had a little issue in a pit stop and lost a couple places, so it was good to recover in the end. A solid performance from the (Ruoff Home Mortgages team).

“I don’t think it was an issue. Just, when I came out of the pits, yes unfortunately we all came together. It was Helio, and I think Ryan, and of course Alex, and in the end I think Marco as well. We had side-by-side and very close racing, but I don’t think we had any, you know, bad moment. But, we can have a chat in debriefs that way, but I don’t think we had (any issues).”

Today’s result made it back-to-back races where Andretti Autosport placed three of its four cars in the top-10, a first for the team this year in 13 races.

Sato remains the highest placed driver of the four in the championship in seventh, 72 points back, after his best finish since Detroit race two.

Cadillac, Acura battle for top speed as cars back on track for Rolex 24 at Daytona practice

0 Comments

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The new hybrid prototypes of Cadillac and Acura battled atop the speed chart as practice resumed Thursday for the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

Chip Ganassi Racing driver Richard Westbrook was fastest Thursday afternoon in the No. 02 Cadillac V-LMDh with a 1-minute, 35.185-second lap around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course at Daytona International Speedway.

That pace topped Ricky Taylor’s 1:35.366 lap that topped the Thursday morning session that marked the first time the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship was back on track since qualifying Sunday afternoon that concluded the four-day Roar Before The Rolex 24 test.

In a final session Thursday night, Matt Campbell was fastest (1:35.802) in the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsports Porsche 963 but still was off the times set by Westbrook and Taylor.

Punctuated by Tom Blomqvist’s pole position for defending race winner Meyer Shank Racing, the Acura ARX-06s had been fastest for much of the Roar and led four consecutive practice sessions.

DETAILS FOR THE 61ST ROLEX 24How to watch, entry lists, schedules for the IMSA season opener

FIVE THINGS TO WATCH IN GTPRolex 24 at Daytona kicks off new golden era for sports cars

But the times have been extremely tight in the new Grand Touring Prototype (GTP) category that has brought hybrid engines to IMSA’s premier class. Only 0.9 seconds separated the nine LMDh cars in GTP in qualifying, and though the spread slightly widened to 1.378 seconds in Thursday’s practices with teams on varying strategies and preparation, Westbrook still pooh-poohed the importance of speeds.

“It’s always nice to be at the top, but I don’t think it means too much or read too much into it” Westbrook said. “Big fuel tanks in the GTP class this year, so you have no idea what fuel levels people are running. We had a good run, and the car is really enjoyable to drive now. I definitely wasn’t saying that a month ago.

“It really does feel good now. We are working on performance and definitely unlocking some potential, and it just gives us more confidence going into the race. It’s going to be super tight. Everyone’s got the same power, everyone has the same downforce, everyone has the same drag levels and let’s just go race.”

Because teams have put such a premium on reliability, handling mostly has suffered in the GTPs, but Westbrook said the tide had turned Thursday.

“These cars are so competitive, and you were just running it for the sake of running it in the beginning, and there’s so much going on, you don’t really have time to work on performance,” he said. “A lot of emphasis was on durability in the beginning, and rightly so, but now finally we can work on performance, and that’s the same for other manufacturers as well. But we’re worrying about ourselves and improving every run, and I think everybody’s pretty happy with their Cadillac right now.”

Mike Shank, co-owner of Blomqvist’s No. 60 on the pole, said his team still was facing reliability problems despite its speed.

“We address them literally every hour,” Shank said. “We’re addressing some little thing we’re doing better to try to make it last. And also we’re talking about how we race the race, which will be different from years past.

“Just think about every system in the car, I’m not going to say which ones we’re working on, but there are systems in the car that ORECA and HPD are continually trying to improve. By the way, sometimes we put them on the car and take them off before it even goes out on the track because something didn’t work with electronics. There’s so much programming. So many departments have to talk to each other. That bridge gets broken from a code not being totally correct, and the car won’t run. Or the power steering turns off.”

Former Rolex 24 winner Renger van der Zande of Ganassi said it still is a waiting game until the 24-hour race begins Saturday shortly after 1:30 p.m.

“I think the performance of the car is good,” van der Zande said. “No drama. We’re chipping away on setup step by step and the team is in control. It’s crazy out there what people do on the track at the moment. It’s about staying cool and peak at the right moment, and it’s not the right moment yet for that. We’ll keep digging.”


PRACTICE RESULTS:

Click here for Session I (by class)

Click here for Session II (by class)

Click here for Session III (by class)

Combined speeds