Forsythe Red Bull Atlantic Squad sharpens focus
With two young drivers and a revamped team structure, the Forsythe Red Bull Atlantic squad journeyed south last week from their base in Indianapolis to the fast and demanding MSR Houston road course in Texas for a two-day private test. For 17-year old Robert Wickens of Toronto, Ontario and 15-year old John Edwards of Little Rock, Arkansas it was a chance to experience increased cornering loads and magnified downforce on the physically draining 2.38-mile 17-turn high-speed road course.
For the crew, it was a chance to build the relationship with their two young guns while seeking the always-elusive team chemistry that defines a championship contender. For engineers Lou D’Agostino and Nick Harvey the test served as a time to evaluate the progress of their teenage prodigies, both of whom are already seasoned products of the Red Bull Junior Team global driver development program. For Team Manager John Brunner, the final private test of the preseason was a critical benchmark for the upcoming 33rd edition of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship, which gets underway with the much-anticipated Vegas Grand Prix Fueled by Visa, April 6-8 on the downtown streets of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Robert Wickens #3 Red Bull Mazda-Cosworth/Cooper/Swift
“The test went well; it was nice to get in a lot of laps on a high-speed circuit. Downforce is a tricky thing to get used to because the faster you go the more grip you have so it was a bit of an eye-opener, but things went as expected and we found the limit with no issues. Fitness definitely came into play since this is a very busy track and the long high-speed corners build a lot of G-force, but both John and myself have pretty strict workout programs so that’s paying off. We set some fast times and I got more comfortable with my engineer Lou (D’Agostino) and the whole crew - just a good test all around.”
John Edwards #7 Red Bull Mazda-Cosworth/Cooper/Swift
“MSR Houston is a really great track, very fun to drive and an excellent test of fitness. We had some wind both days in the afternoon that blew quite a bit of Texas dirt and dust onto the track so conditions were constantly changing, but that’s just like a race weekend so it wasn’t a big deal. Conditions change throughout the day at any race track. It was great to work more with Nick (engineer Nick Harvey) and we’re getting to know one another very well. Drivers and engineers have to develop kind of a “sixth sense” when it comes to communicating and we’re getting there. Our times were good and I’m looking forward to the open tests in Sebring, back here in Houston and then in Laguna Seca so we can see how we stack up against the competition.”
Lou D’Agostino Lead Engineer for driver Robert Wickens, Red Bull #3
“The test was very productive. Robert and John are two really nice young men and just a pleasure to be around. It’s my second test with Robert and we’re progressing at a tremendous pace; I’m very pleased. He responded well to everything we threw at him. Given the amount of maturity and professionalism he displays it’s hard to believe he’s only 17, but he’s already won a championship (the 2006 Formula BMW USA title) and it shows. We got in a lot of laps with changing conditions and he never put a wheel wrong while setting some very quick times.”
Nick Harvey Lead Engineer for driver John Edwards, Red Bull #7
“The two days went very well. We had far from ideal conditions but we got a lot done and I was pleased overall. One of the most important things was evaluating the driver’s fitness level and both guys did well, although I suspect they’ll take an even more focused approach to their physical training after we beat on them for two full days. I actually met John when he was just 13 and even then you had to be impressed with his maturity and focus. Now, two years later, he’s like this grizzled old veteran – I mean, he spent two years in European Formula Renault which is about as cut-throat as it gets and he was able to win and post strong results. I’m very much looking forward to seeing how this season plays out.”
John Brunner Team Manager
“That was a very important test for us; not just for the drivers, but for the whole crew. We had our full team on hand and everything went smoothly with John and Robert completing almost 700 miles between the two of them. This track is really ideal for two critical things – high speed cornering and testing a driver’s fitness level. We also used it as an opportunity to apply pressure to the guys and see how they responded. We had some tough conditions with wind and wide swings in temperature, plus we did some qualifying simulations and threw in a few things like surprise Red Flags that forced them to adapt to the situation and get those fast laps in at the appropriate time. With the changing weather we also had a good opportunity to tune for the conditions and work on the feedback that the drivers have to provide in order to stay ahead of the track situation. It was pretty demanding but the drivers and crew performed well. We also got a chance to work on standing starts, which we hadn’t spent time on before. Overall it was very, very productive and now it’s on to Sebring!”
At the conclusion of the test, Wickens and Edwards headed across the Atlantic Ocean to Austria for an intensive week-long Red Bull training session. The next challenge for the Forsythe Red Bull Atlantic team is the first of three open tests coming up prior to the Las Vegas season-opening race. Taking place on the historic road course at Sebring, Florida on January 27-28, all the teams and drivers will be on track together for the first time as Cooper Tires Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. For more information, please visit the official website of the Atlantic Championship at www.ChampCarAtlantic.com.