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Edmonton track may play to Newman/Haas strengths
There is only one first time. Newman/Haas Racing, the team that finished 1-2 in the first Edmonton Indy in the old ChampCar Series in 2005, wonders if it is possible to repeat the feat in 2011 on another new Edmonton layout.

Probably not.

But the team, formed after the late movie star Paul Newman met Carl Haas at an Edmonton International Speedway event 40 years ago, offered some interesting perspectives heading into race week, especially in terms of the new 2.256-mile, 13-turn street course for the 90-lap 10th race in the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series.

The team, which has two wins, a pole and six podiums in six Edmonton Indy races on the old track on the opposite corner of the City Centre Airport, produced some things to consider prior to putting the cars of Telemundo driver Oriol Servia and Sprott driver James Hinchcliffe in the transporters to head to Edmonton.

Most teams produce pre-race material but Kathi Lauterbach, heading to her seventh Edmonton Indy here, brought two engineers for the occasion.

“In the past Champ Car era, Newman/Haas was quite good at simulating new tracks and developing setups for them,” said Craig Hampson, the chief engineer in his 18th season with the team and fourth as senior engineer.

. “Edmonton used to be a tricky road course, very fast and very bumpy. The setup used to be very specific to this track. This year will be very different. I would say it will be the same level of difficulty, but very different challenges for the setup and the drivers,” said Bruno Couprie, a six-year engineer with Newman/Haas.

“We predict a top speed somewhere above 170 m.p.h.,” said Hampson.

“The new layout is just very different than the old one. That track was fun to drive on, and it was a good place to watch an Indy car stretch its legs and use the aerodynamic grip to get through corners at a high level of acceleration and speed. But for the entertainment of a spectator for passing, it wasn’t very good at all. From a fan’s point of view, the new layout will be much more entertaining,” added the man who won the race with Sebastian Bourdais twice and is specifically in charge of Canadian rookie Hinchcliffe’s team this year.

“There are three good places to pass as opposed to one in the past,” said Couprie. “The passing will be easier, since there are not going to be walls all around. And with the wide track and runoffs, drivers will be encouraged to take more risks to pass.”

“Our better chance of success comes from Newman/Haas Racing’s ability to do well on new tracks,” said Couprie.

Hampson said it should all result in a most competitive race.

“It’s a new track. No one has a setup for it. None of the drivers have ever been there. It’s anyone’s race to win and a lot will depend upon who figures it out the quickest and who makes the fewest mistakes.

“Traditionally, we’ve been pretty good at evolving the car through the weekend. Hopefully that holds. It really helps that the old-guard IndyCar teams don’t have reams of setup books for this track, and that they won’t have been testing here over and over. We probably stand a better chance this weekend than others.”

And it will be a fun race, they figure, coming off the usual carnage in Toronto?

“I think IndyCar turned into a contact sport in Toronto so only the future will tell us whether it was a one-off or not,” said Couprie.

“Edmonton is not going to be surrounded by walls, and the track is wider, so I don’t think it will be yellow-packed in the same way that Toronto was,” said Hampson.

“I’m sure a few people may mess up the braking for Turns 1, 5, or 13. But I do think the race is going to be exciting, and that’s because of the new track layout. Three long straights followed by three slow corners. That’s three solid places to pass, which is better than almost anywhere else we go. Even if you don’t qualify well, there will be chances to move forward. So I think the fans will see a lot of passing.” Edmonton Sun
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