INDYCAR, Firestone prepared if tires ‘blister’ at Texas

INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
INDYCAR Photo by Chris Owens
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FORT WORTH, Texas – In an attempt to avoid a situation experienced last year when the Firestone Firehawk tires “blistered” at Texas Motor Speedway, INDYCAR and the tire manufacturer came prepared for Thursday night’s practice.

Two different tire compounds are in the garage area as NTT IndyCar Series teams prepared for a two-hour practice session scheduled to get underway at 8 p.m. Eastern Time Thursday. Each team has 14 sets of the “primary” tire compounds, but if any teams experience blistering issues in the two-hour practice, there are 11 sets of an “alternate” tire compound available per team.

INDYCAR will also extend the practice session if teams have to use the “alternate” tires.

If there are no issues with the primary tire compound, the alternate tires will not be brought out and the teams will prepare for this weekend’s DXC Technology 600 as usual with one tire compound used for practice, qualifications and Saturday’s race.

The tires would be used on the right-side of the car.

“We tested in October and Texas is a pretty severe track with pretty severe temperatures, we tested several compounds and we had a lot of blistering in that test,” Cara Adams, Chief Engineer, Bridgestone Americas, told NBCSports.com. “We had one compound that didn’t blister, but the teams didn’t like it that much. We went back for a second test in March. It was a little cooler, but we developed several compounds that didn’t blister at all.

“Our race tire here is a much cooler running and faster wearing tire. We don’t expect to see blistering on that primary tire. Doing our due diligence and being very prepared we came up with a backup tire.”

Firestone notified the teams last week at Detroit that an additional tire would be made available if there are issues with the primary tire across the field.

“If there are no issues, there are no reason we will run the alternate tires,” Adams said. “Teams have 14 sets for the race weekend. If they switch to the backup tire, they will use two sets tonight and have nine sets of tires for the race itself.”

This is also the first time in at least 15 years that a Thursday night test has been added to the IndyCar schedule at the 1.5-mile, high-banked Texas Motor Speedway. Saturday’s race will be contested at relatively the same time period as Thursday night’s test – 7 to 9 p.m. Central Time.

Since then, practice and qualifications would be held on Friday during the daytime and the race would be held Saturday night.

“We work really closely with IndyCar and decided to have this practice to make sure we were prepared,” Adams said. “The challenge for Texas is to come up with a tire that wears sufficiently but does not blister. It’s something our compounders have worked together with compounders across the Bridgestone organization to come up with a tire that wears more quickly.

“The aero specifications have changed a little bit and the track has lost grip from last year, so it will be interesting to see what the conditions are tonight. We made sure we met with the chief engineer and team manager from each team to make sure they had no concerns and were grateful we had a plan for a backup tire.”

Rob Edwards, Chief Operating Officer at Andretti Autosport and race strategist for Alexander Rossi, was blunt with his thoughts on the tire situation.

“I prefer we have one tire (compound) and just get on with it,” Edwards told NBCSports.com.

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

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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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.