NHLR team reports in from Sao Paulo
The team arrived to Sao Paulo Thursday morning after a red-eye from Miami. They were able to get a brief look at the track and unpack the race cars and equipment when the paddock opened at 12 noon local time. Today they were able to walk the majority of the facility as is customary for road/street venues and Formula Dream / Panasonic driver Hideki Mutoh had the following comments. “After coming from Chicago, it is very warm here! It was a good flight because I was able to sleep five or six hours from Miami to Brazil. The track is very interesting. There is a huge backstraight! I mean really long! It is longer than I expected for sure and I watched the simulation on YouTube 100 times. This will, for sure, be the fastest street course I have ever raced on. It is unbelievable. There will be some high speeds, especially in the race if you are behind someone and can slipstream and get a tow. There are also a lot of slow corners that will be tricky and the track will be bumpy and the concrete will be slippery. There is also a camber change at the slow corners at Turns 3 and 4. I think you will need a car with good traction and you have to be able to put the power down. There will be a lot to figure out with only one day of running before the race. It will be exciting for sure.”
WHAT ELSE IS NEW FOR 2010?
Izod IndyCar Series officials removed the four-position fuel mixture switch. The Honda overtake assist system will remain and receive almost a doubling of horsepower boost (it was between 5 and 20 horsepower in 2009 depending on fuel position). The "yellow" position will remain - to be used during caution periods if the driver chooses. NHLR Senior engineer Craig Hampson comments on the change. “The fuel mixture option was removed to give them the ability to increase the power difference between standard running and overtake. Previously it was +5 horsepower and now its +10 which is not a huge jump but definitely worthwhile. The added overtake power might have a bit of an effect. But for the races themselves, I don't think the removal of the fuel mixture is going to make a big difference. The fact is that most fuel savings at road and street races is done by the driver, not with the fuel knob. By being smooth with the throttle and shifting early, the driver can achieve a big improvement on mileage. We all know this -- and we all do it because it is so valuable to go the "extra lap" before your pit stop. On the other hand, most of the time the yellow comes out early and we all pit so all of the fuel savings was for naught! Here in Brazil I think you will need to be a bit more aggressive because there are some very good passing opportunities. If you try to save too much fuel, you'll surely get passed at one of those spots. All these calculated gambles are part of the game.”
Mutoh believes it will put more emphasis on the driver’s ability. “This change will make the race more straightforward. It will be more important for the driver to conserve fuel with his ability. I practiced this at the Barber test. It will be interesting to see the impact this has on the race this weekend.”
In addition, a reverse gear will be incorporated for the nine road and street course races and be available to drivers through the paddle shift system. Drivers will retain six forward gears, and the kit won't be required for the eight oval events. Hampson believes it will improve “the show.” “The reverse gear is a great sporting addition despite the expense it has added for the teams. It’s going to cut down on the number of yellow and red flags because now a driver can reverse himself out of a bad spot - like a blocked corner or a runoff - without needing the safety crew. It will improve all facets of the weekend: practice, qualifying, and the race. That is, provided all the drivers have practiced how to use it - and will remember in the heat of the battle!”
MUTOH AND HIS IDOL SENNA
While other drivers were shopping or sightseeing around the area the hotel and track are situated, Mutoh took the opportunity to visit Morumbi Cemetery where his idol Ayrton Senna was laid to rest. “Senna has always been my idol. 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.”
The 2010 Izod IndyCar Series season will finally begin tomorrow with two practice sessions (9:00–10:30 and 12:30-1:30) and the Firestone Fast Six Qualifying will take place from 3:30 – 5:00. All times are local and are two hours ahead of Eastern time for Saturday (one hour difference on Sunday after “Spring Forward”). Versus will air a qualifying show on Saturday from 2-3 p.m. ET.