Hunter-Reay tests at Barber trying to find some speed
Barber Motorsports Park has always been a difficult road course to master. It was intended to be that way.
For the Andretti Autosport team in the IZOD IndyCar Series, it was difficult enough that they returned to Barber last weekend for some post-season testing.
The objective was to find the Goldilocks set-up -- the formula for setting up the car that's not too hot, not too cold, but just right. That's not easy to do, said Andretti driver Ryan Hunter-Reay, who tested at Barber with teammate Marco Andretti.
"There's so many elevation changes that really play tricks on what you're trying to achieve," he said. A car set up to run well through the first several turns won't run as well through the high-speed turns down the backstretch.
"It's all about compromise," Hunter-Reay said. "You have to choose one way or the other. You have to give up two corners to get five or six other corners."
Finding the ideal compromise is necessary in order to improve the team's qualifying effort, he said, because being up front at the start is vital to being up front at the end. And Barber, he said, "was our weakest road course of the year."
The track is also "one of the most difficult tracks to pass on where we race," he said.
Compounding that problem during the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in April was the length of the race. At 90 laps, some teams stretched their fuel to make it to the end with only two pit stops. Others stopped three times.
Teams at the front conserving fuel made it very difficult for any of them to pass each other.
Indy and track officials have said they are considering either adding or subtracting several laps so that everyone will either make it on two stops or require three. That would be fine with Hunter-Reay.
"I always like it when it doesn't come down to fuel strategy," he said. "It makes it a better show for the fans."
Hunter-Reay and Andretti are two members of a team that brought four cars to Barber in April but will likely only bring three in 2011. Former Indy champ Tony Kanaan was released from his contract last week after his longtime sponsor, 7-Eleven, said it would not return next year.
Hunter-Reay's 2010 sponsor, IZOD, also won't be back as a car sponsor in order to concentrate on its series title sponsorship. But Hunter-Reay, a native of Texas, was just signed to a two-year contract.
He said the team has a primary sponsorship lined up for him and will likely announce it in a few weeks. Birmingham News