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Transition drivers back to more comfortable setting
The nine drivers transitioning to the IndyCar Series should feel a bit more comfortable this weekend. Gone is the wide open, side-by-side racing at 210 mph on a high-banked oval. Back is the quick acceleration and heavy braking on the twists and turns of a narrow street course.
The Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be a fresh opportunity for transitioning teams and drivers to measure themselves against the competition in the Honda-Dallara combination used by all cars in the IndyCar Series.
“I'm excited about going to St. Pete,” said Oriol Servia, who finished 12th at Homestead-Miami Speedway March 29 to lead all of the transitioning drivers. “I think there's a little bit too high expectations for the transition guys just because it's our kind of track. At the end of the day, we're still fighting these big teams that know this car for five years. We're still quite a bit behind. The lap times we did at (an Open Test at) Sebring, what we learned in the car was very promising. At least we know in a street race, when we go soft at the front what it means to a car. Still we're here kind of guessing a lot.”
Servia and Bruno Junqueira competed at St. Petersburg in 2003. Junqueira drove to a third-place finish with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing while Servia finished 12th driving for Patrick Racing. Ryan Hunter-Reay, who joined the IndyCar Series midway through the 2007 season, also competed at St. Petersburg that season, finishing 16th.
As for the teams, Conquest Racing and Dale Coyne Racing fielded cars in the 2003 race at St. Petersburg, finishing fourth and ninth, respectively. Hunter-Reay’s current team, Rahal Letterman Racing, finished second in the inaugural race.
“On the road courses, I was very surprised (at the Open Test),” Junqueira said. “Oriol’s time, even Will Power and my time, we were competitive to the (IndyCar Series) teams. So, let’s see what happens in St. Pete. We’ll still be a little bit behind, but closer.”
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