Added tools serve as wildcard to road course races Ryan Briscoe and Ed Carpenter used their allotment of 20 presses of the Honda overtake assist button during their duel to the checkers at Kentucky Speedway on Aug. 1.
The option, which incorporates a 200 RPM increase (to 10,500) and a 5-20 horsepower gain based on fuel setting for a duration and frequency determined by Honda Performance Development for each venue, will be used for the first time on a road/street course this weekend at the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio presented by Westfield Insurance.
For the 85-lap race (1 p.m. EDT Aug. 9 on VERSUS), 15 presses for a duration of 20 seconds each will be built in, according to HPD Race Team Manager Roger Griffiths. There is a 10-second recharge time between availability, and there's a 100 RPM-per-second decline after the 20-second duration. Add the Firestone alternate tire option introduced this year and there now are a couple more wild cards added to the deck.
"The overtake assist button is just another tool that the driver can be thinking about in the car," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for the Indy Racing League.
"Another challenge for the teams from a gearing standpoint is to make sure you have it to maximize its benefit. So the team's got to be smart about their gearing and their planning for it. And the driver's got to have some strategy as to when to be pushing the button and how many pushes to leave with it, where to use it on the race track so they do it. "Of course, its effect is dictated by what fuel setting you're in. So I think it can be an interesting aspect. Combining with the Firestone (primary and alternate tires), it should help on a road course as well."
Where on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn circuit and when to employ the boost will be part of the equation
"At the road course, going up through the gears, coming off the second gate corner and going straight up sixth gear and when we're pulling 10.5 (RPMs) on every gear change, I think that's definitely going to show a boost, a bit of extra speed," said Briscoe, who will seek to successfully defend his race victory and extended his championship points lead.
"The alternate, the standard tire, that's always a tough one. We don't always know how that's going to be until really after the warm-up and even after the race, because we really don't get an opportunity to test the red tire before qualifying. And then until after warm-up, we don't have a chance to do any long runs. So I think it's all adding some extra excitement and be a challenge to the whole team and driving style and everything as to what we do in the race."
The overtake assist button was introduced at the 1.5-mile Kentucky Speedway oval after HPD tested the system (essentially advancing the spark of the normally aspirated V8 engine through a slight alteration of the ECU) at Chicagoland Speedway earlier in the summer. "It certainly seemed to enhance the product on the racetrack Saturday night," Barnhart said.
"The Honda overtake button is not a new concept. In Champ Car with the turbo charged engines, it certainly had the ability of having more effect than it does with our normally aspirated engines, but I do have to commend Honda for their work and their desire to help give options and tools to the drivers and the race car as well, because it's not a simple thing to do with a normally aspirated engine.
"I think it's something that can be continued to be developed and be an important part of our racing, whether it's on an oval or a road course."
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