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IndyCar track designer trumps F1's Tilke
Someone should call F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone and convince him to let IndyCar’s Tony Cotman design some Formula One tracks.

That’s the first thing that should have popped into race fans’ minds after seeing the new 3.631-kilometre, 13-turn race course that will be the scene of Edmonton’s fourth IndyCar event at its City Centre Airport in July. The move to a new layout was forced by the closure of the old runways previously used for the race.

The new layout looks fast, but it will likely be tough on brakes and tires and offer several good overtaking zones. The circuit on the airport’s East runway has a 90-degree first turn and two hairpin corners on both sides of the circuit, all of which should offer good passing opportunities. All three are at the end of long straights, which should create plenty of action on track to keep fans interested during the July 22 race in Edmonton. The weekend also features the Firestone Indy Lights Series.

In essence, the track is exactly the opposite of what Ecclestone’s preferred F1 track designer, Hermann Tilke, would dream up. His designs have played a key role in creating yawn-inducing F1 events. His designs have become legend for making overtaking next to impossible and producing processional races.

His portfolio includes Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi, Singapore’s Marina Bay Street Circuit, and the street course in Valencia, Spain. He’s also responsible for the new South Korean track that hosted its first grand prix late last year and is designing the new track for the Austin-based U.S. Grand Prix, which joins the calendar in 2012.

While F1 ringmaster Ecclestone looks to Tilke every time the sport need a new circuit, perhaps the Austin organizers would be wise to make a call to Tony Cotman, who should be known as the “anti-Tilke.”

“One of the big things we needed to focus on with this course was how to make the show better, and I think we've achieved that,” said Cotman, president of NZR Consulting Inc.

“There were restrictions relating to the airport, but I think we can create a much better actual racetrack for racing on and obviously that's what people come to see. It will be better.”

So unlike F1, IndyCar's track designer heads to his drafting table with the goal of improving the show.

The old track was 3.154-kilometres and featured 14-corners. It essentially had just one place to pass at the end of the start-finish straight.

The new design is already getting positive reviews from drivers.

“The new one looks really cool, with some great passing opportunities which the last configuration lacked a bit,” said Toronto driver James Hinchcliffe, who won the 2010 Indy Lights race in Edmonton.

“Edmonton was always known for being the most physical race, and I enjoyed that, but these new straights will take away a little bit of the challenge and give us more of a break over the lap. All the drivers’ necks collectively thank the design team.”

Hinchcliffe hopes to be in the field in Edmonton but he hasn’t yet sealed a deal for an IndyCar seat in 2011. The Toronto native has tested twice with the legendary Newman-Haas team.  Globe and Mail

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