Power tops opening day in Sao Paulo
IZOD IndyCar Series qualifications were postponed to four hours before the start of the race March 14 based on driver feedback relating to the slippery concrete surface of the one-third-mile Anhembi Sambodromo frontstretch.
Brian Barnhart, president of competition and racing operations for the sanctioning Indy Racing League, met with drivers and team owners/managers mid-afternoon March 13 to devise a schedule that seeks to provide a safe racing environment and a good show for spectators and the worldwide viewing audience.
Promoter Bandeirantes and race circuit designer Tony Cotman brought in grinding equipment following the final practice session to work on the concrete surface where drivers transition from the asphalt and the 180-degree Turn 11 of the 2.6-mile, 11-turn course. After a 15-minute warm-up session at 8 a.m. (local; 7 a.m. ET), qualifications will follow. VERSUS' race coverage begins at 11:30 a.m. (ET).
The Indy Racing League issued this statement:
We continue to work with circuit designer Tony Cotman and the promoter to fine tune the track with the feedback we've received from the drivers. This process is no different than any other new circuit we visit for the first time. Tony Cotman has done a great job creating a fast and racy track that will be a challenge to these world-class competitors while putting on a great show for our enthusiastic fans. We appreciate our drivers' feedback as we want to make this a track they will enjoy to drive.
DAY 1 NOTEBOOK:
This is the first IZOD IndyCar Series event held on the streets of Sao Paulo Brazil and the first held in South America. The 2.6-mile (4.18 kilometers) temporary street circuit features 11 turns and the longest straightaway of any circuit on the 2010 schedule - the 9/10 mile (1.45 kilometers) back straightaway that incorporates the Marginal.
Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsports has added Cemig, one of Brazil's leading energy companies, as one of its sponsors for the 2010 Sao Paulo Indy 300.
Cemig, headquartered in Minas Gerais (the home state of driver Raphael Matos) will place its logo on the front wing of the No. 2 HP Luczo Dragon car.
"We are pleased to have the support of Cemig, a company of international prestige. It is a privilege and a great responsibility to take the name of a great Brazilian brand to an international audience," Gil de Ferran, managing partner and president of Luczo Dragon Racing/de Ferran Motorsport said.
Andretti Autosport driver Marco Andretti is celebrating his 23rd birthday today.
Helio Castroneves and his girlfriend Adriana Henao brought their infant daughter, Mikaella to Sao Paulo for her first IZOD IndyCar Series race. Castroneves showed off the 10-week-old off to his team during the break between sessions.
The Brazilian Sugarcane Industry Association (UNICA) has renewed its fuel supply agreement with the Indy Racing League for the 2010 IZOD IndyCar Series season. The IZOD IndyCar Series will continue to utilize sugarcane ethanol to fuel its race cars, including at its signature event, the Indianapolis 500.
The agreement calls for UNICA to cover the cost of about 53,000 gallons of the 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol to be used in 16 of the 17 IZOD IndyCar Series races as well as the renewable diesel for the fleet of trucks that delivers cars, related gear and fuel. The only Indy race not covered by the series' commitment to use primarily sugarcane ethanol is the Iowa Corn Indy 250, which will utilize locally-produced ethanol made from corn under a separate sponsorship arrangement.
"We're pleased to continue our partnership with Indy, a global showcase for clean, renewable biofuels since 2007," said Marcos Jank, UNICA's President & CEO.
To offset carbon emissions from the season-opening race, UNICA will plant 14,165 native trees in the state of Sao Paulo.
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing driver Hideki Mutoh took the opportunity in Sao Paulo to visit Morumbi Cemetery, where his idol, Ayrton Senna, was laid to rest.
"Senna has always been my idol," Mutoh said. "I watched him race when I was a little boy and I am still amazed at his ability to this day. Since I was in Brazil for the first time and so close to Morumbi I wanted to go there and pay my respects to him.
"I have been asked before 'If you could meet anyone and ask them a question, who would it be?' My answer was Senna. He won three World Championships and was still racing. I would ask him what it was that motivated him."
TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven, second-fastest): "I'm extremely happy with the team effort - not just Team 7-Eleven, but the whole (Andretti Autosport) team. It was a good day, but tomorrow is another day, and we need to have another good one then. I don't think the changes to the track will force us to change a lot - at least I hope not."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 37 Team IZOD, third-fastest): "I wish we had qualified today because this team really deserved to qualify today. We came out prepared, the cars are great, the team is doing a great job and we have two cars in the top three. But you play the cards you're dealt - it is what it is. Team IZOD and everyone at Andretti Autosport really did its homework over the winter. Hopefully, with the changes to the track, it won't be a completely different game tomorrow."
RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 2 HP Luczo Dragon, sixth-fastest): "We had a huge improvement in the last outing. I improved some of my lines in the corners and found some more speed in the car. We found a good balance between our aerodynamics and mechanical grip and now we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We improved by a second and a half and hopefully we can now be a little more aggressive and find some more performance out of the car. The conditions have been difficult, but postponing qualifying really gave us all a chance to get more time on the track and that was essential to improving our performance. I'm happy, I like the direction we are going and I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 FAZZT Race Team, eighth-fastest): "We were very pleased today. This is the first year for the team and the FAZZT crew has just been fantastic so far, and I'm very proud of the boys and the job they have been doing. The Bowers and Wilkins car has been good. We rolled out and have been in the top-eight pretty much all day long. We finished the day with a very strong car and even though we didn't get a clear lap, I think we're looking to be very strong tomorrow. We'll see where we stack up tonight on the charts but I think we have a very good car for the race tomorrow." (About event): "I think the promoters have done a fantastic job to facilitate the travel, the teams, the garages. It has all been great. The track itself is a very unique track with the long straightaway, the longest in the series, and it's going to make for a good race and a lot of action. We have little issues here and there with the track but everyone was very good and responsive and said they would get it all fixed overnight. Those are just first year glitches for a new track, in a new city and a new circuit but for the long term it is going to be really good to be racing here in Sao Paulo."
WILL POWER: (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske, fastest of the day): "I like the circuit. I think it was a good decision to qualify (March 14). It is a little tough going down the slippery start/finish straight. It will be a very physical race. Everyone got closer (in lap times) toward the end of the (final practice) session, which will make qualifying tighter and make it better for the fans."
MARCO ANDRETI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy, ninth-fastest): "The schedule changes today will definitely make tomorrow interesting. Qualifying can take its toll on you both mentally and physically - and then you have to enter the race. I'm really optimistic though; hopefully we make it through all three rounds and into the Firestone Fast Six. We made a lot of good changes during this last session but I don't think we've seen the best of the Venom car yet."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com, 12th-fastest): "This track is challenging for unique reasons that I know the league is paying attention to and trying to fix. But, I'm glad that we had this last session to practice before qualifying. I think the more time for me the better and I think that we were really pretty competitive at the end of the session. We're certainly going in the right direction with the GoDaddy.com car."
VITOR MEIRA (No. 14 ABC Supply/A.J. Foyt Racing): "Overall it wasn't too bad of a day especially since we found something in that last practice session which really helped the car get the power down. We were on older tires so we knew when we jumped into the top 10, it was due to the changes we made. We slipped down in the final five minutes, but we have a good starting point for tomorrow's qualifying. The track conditions were not ideal today, but tonight they are making changes which will make it better for tomorrow. We are going to do the same with the ABC Supply car."
HELIO CASTRONEVES, No. 3 Team Penske, 10th-fastest): "Certainly for the first day, there was a little bit of a blip on the radar on track with the straightaway, but it was a great call by the IZOD IndyCar Series to think about safety first for the drivers and the fans as well. So, we will have the morning practice and then Team Penske will see what we can do in qualifying. It's awesome to race here in front of my hometown fans - they have been great, and we're all looking forward to putting on a good show for them tomorrow."
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Team Penske 11th-fastest): "We are reasonably happy with the Team Penske car. We would have loved to qualify today, but the IZOD IndyCar Series officials made a great decision to put safety first. We will be ready to go out and give 100% tomorrow. We did some race set-up today. The car feels great and we are looking good for qualifying and the race."
SIMONA DE SILVESTRO (No. 78 Team Stargate Worlds/HVM Racing): "It was pretty crazy out there today. Considering how track conditions were throughout the day, I'm pretty happy about how we did. I'm learning all the time. Every corner I go by I'm learning. I think we are on the right track. We made some adjustments early on that did not quite work so we went back and now I believe the car is very good and now it's on me. I think we're good for qualifying tomorrow and we just have to complete tomorrow's race. I'm very excited about tomorrow and looking forward to driving in my first IZOD IndyCar Series race in Brazil"
HIDEKI MUTOH (No. 06 Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing): "The track is quite amazing especially the length of the back straight. It's very bumpy; the bumpiest track I have been on. There is very low grip so it's hard to find the limit of the car. It was hard work today. But I think we can overtake during the race so it will be a good one to watch. (About contact): "I'm not sure what happened; the car just went straight suddenly. We couldn't find anything on the data that was strange but my engineer Martin (Pare) was watching on the TV and said he thought it looked strange too. Maybe something broke but we couldn't find anything. Fortunately it wasn't a big amount of damage and we were ready to run in the next practice session. I want to thank my guys for fixing it. About the race): "I think the race is going to be a little crazy and I hope I am not part of that. There are a lot of rookies in the race so it will be interesting. Because of the very long straight, there is a chance to overtake. The hairpin is quite tight though so I think there is going to be a lot happening there. If it rains I think you can aquaplane on the backstraight because it is so bumpy. It will be a survival race if it rains. It might be anyway."
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 KV Racing Technology): "It was a busy day, but I think in the end, I am happy to say, it was a good day for us. We did a lot of work on the car for new circuit and tried to find the right approach for the set up. Today was another step for me and gave me some more experience with an IndyCar. It was obviously very difficult circumstances because of the track surface situation, but hopefully, we will have a good qualifying tomorrow.
E.J. VISO (No. 8 PDVSA-Jet Aviation KV Racing Technology): "Today was an exciting day for the PDVSA KV Racing team. We started from scratch on a track we have never been to before. It was a little bit crazy today especially with the conditions at the start/finish line straight. It is just so slippery and it is a challenge to be fast on the straightaway. We spent most of the day working on the setup of the car. Trying different things and comparing the data and now I think we are in a much better position for tomorrow's qualifying.
MARIO MORAES (No. 32 KV Racing Technology): "I am very happy to be back in the car for KV Racing Technology. Unfortunately my day didn't go as planned because I made a mistake in the last practice which put in the wall. I feel bad for the crew. They have worked so hard, but I am confident they will be able to repair the car and we will be ready for qualifying tomorrow morning."
DAN WHELDON (No. 4 National Guard Panther Racing): "We had a really productive last session. We made some dramatic improvements on the National Guard car and it was really fun to drive. When we made those changes it really changed the way I felt about the track, and I think it's going to be an exciting race for IZOD IndyCar Series fans, because you have that long straight where you can get a really good draft, which will certainly present many overtaking opportunities. The mechanics did a really good job because (Chief Engineer) David Cripps threw a really big change at them for this last session and they got it completed really quickly and it worked out perfectly because it really changed the balance of the car. We'll see what happens with the track overnight, and obviously take that into consideration with some of the stuff we're going to change, and hopefully go even better tomorrow."
SUNDAY'S SCHEDULE: (all times local)
8 a.m. - IZOD IndyCar Series warm-up (all cars)
8:30 a.m. - IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying (knockout group qualifying and Firestone Fast Six)
12:30 p.m. - Sao Paulo Indy 300 pre-race
1 p.m. - Sao Paulo Indy 300 (75 laps/195 miles/313.8 kilometers)
Combined Practice Times:
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