Newman/Haas team analyzes Baltimore Street Circuit
The Baltimore Grand Prix will mark the inaugural race for the IZOD IndyCar Series here. A new layout will provide an added challenge to teams and drivers this weekend and Telemundo driver Oriol Servia and Sprott driver James Hinchcliffe are looking forward to the new challenge. The layout incorporates some of the city’s most popular attractions including Pratt street, the scenic Inner Harbor area and Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Newman/Haas Racing Chief Engineer Craig Hampson, who is also Hinchcliffe’s race engineer, describes the team’s approach to the weekend.
“This is obviously a new circuit for everybody,” said Hampson. “One immediately thinks "San Jose" (*See below) because we have to cross railroad tracks – twice -- and it has a hairpin. Since I went to the University of Maryland, I still have friends in the area. One was kind enough to do a pretty thorough recon for Newman/Haas, so we have a decent idea of the track surfaces. But until the complete circuit is built and we run on it to find all the bumps we won't really know. The pit lane is going to be a real challenge here. It’s very short, and the entry to the pits is a bit of a maze.”
- Champ Car raced in San Jose from 2005-2007; NHR earned 2 poles, 2 wins and 3 podiums there.
WHAT’S YOUR POINT(s)?
Telemundo driver Servia is ranked fourth in IZOD IndyCar Series point standings with 327 and is 73 behind third place Scott Dixon with four races to go. Servia is ranked No. 1 in the Laps Completed category after having completed 1765 of 1773 possible laps to date. Hinchcliffe is ranked 14th with 243 and is only three points behind Sunoco Rookie of the Year leader JR Hildebrand who is ranked 13th with 246. Hinchcliffe missed the season-opener and the opportunity to score points at that event.
ORIOL AND JAMES ON WHAT THEY KNOW ABOUT THE COURSE
“Our engineers have shown me the course on a map and the IndyCar Series has done a good job putting together a nice virtual lap around the track,” said Servia. “I think the track looks pretty good although I feel that it may need a couple of faster corners to really show what the Indy cars can do. But again, we drivers always want faster corners!”
“I know that it's a street circuit and I know that it's in Baltimore. That's about it!” added Hinchcliffe. “The team has done some research and simulations obviously, so I have taken what I can from that. The layout looks pretty cool; a good mix of slow and fast corners. We drive over some train tracks, which should be interesting!”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON ADVANCE PREPARATION
“There is not much you can do to prepare specifically for a new track that no one has ever been to,” said Servia. “You cannot watch videos from other years or look at data from other cars. All we can do is walk around it on Thursday and try to capture a couple more details of the surface than the rest of the competition.”
“The biggest thing you can do is to study the simulations and try and make yourself as familiar with the layout as possible,” added Hinchcliffe. “Then, the real preparation comes on Thursday during the track walk. I imagine we will take a little more time than we would at some tracks we have done a thousand laps around.”
HAMPSON ON THE EXPECTED COMPETITIVENESS OF THE TEAM IN BALTIMORE
“I think we'll run at Baltimore similar to how we've run in Long Beach, Brazil and Toronto. We certainly were not the quickest cars in qualifying but we looked pretty good in the races. James and Oriol both had good finishes in Long Beach, and we were set to repeat that in Toronto before Marco bowled a few cars out of his way, including both of ours. So getting into the top-five is certainly what we're aiming for this weekend. Oriol is in a close battle to finish in the top-five of the season championship while James is fighting tightly for Rookie of the Year so we need to do well. The challenge of a street course is that so much is out of your control. Often you get punted by someone or collected in someone else's accident. Even if you drive well and cleanly, many times you do not receive the result that your car, driver, and speed deserve. This is a bit frustrating, but is the nature of the sport. There is just so little room between the walls.”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON THE TEAM’S COMPETITIVENESS ON STREET COURSES THIS SEASON
“The truth is that we have been competitive on all types of tracks this year,” said Servia. “I have high hopes to be challenging for the win this weekend. We are getting closer to the end of the year and championship points are precious. It is a new track for everybody and the team and driver that adapts to it faster will be the winner.”
“We have been pretty competitive on street courses this year,” added Hinchcliffe. “Long Beach was good; Brazil was decent; Toronto was good. So I am hoping that this track will suit Newman/Haas Racing’s setup. One of the strengths of this team is improving over a weekend, so even if the cars don't roll off perfect, which is nearly impossible given that it's a new track, we know we can work on the car and make it competitive by Sunday when it counts.”
HAMPSON ON THE FINAL STREET RACE OF THE SEASON AND FOR THE DALLARA CHASSIS
“I think it is definitely time to move on to a new chassis. The chassis James will be racing is seven seasons old. I know there are others in pit lane that are nine seasons old. The front pullrod arrangement - which was designed for the least possible aero drag at Indy - is not the correct solution for street courses. And it’s difficult to work on. Purchasing new cars is going to be expensive for the teams, but for the engineers and mechanics - we're ready for something new.
“With the added turbochargers, we're going to have significantly more power next year. That's going to bring the new generation Indy car in line with the old Champ Cars. The added power is going to make the cars hard to drive, and harder to set up and I think that's a good thing. These cars should be the most difficult beasts in motorsport. Next year, they will be a lot closer that. It will separate the drivers and teams. The really, really good ones will certainly stand out.”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON THE FINAL STREET RACE FOR THE CURRENT DALLARA CHASSIS
“That is a very good point,” said Servia about this being the final street race for the chassis. “This Dallara was originally designed to only drive on ovals so the last couple of years we have made it do things that it was not really intended for. I personally cannot wait for the new car next year as I believe it will be a lot more fun to drive around twisty places like most street races. It would be great to win the last race of this car in a street race.”
“In a way it's a little sad that it will be the last street race for this car!” added Hinchcliffe. “I have only had this season to get to know it, but she has treated me well on the street courses! I have always liked street courses. The challenge of getting the best out of a car on a slick, bumpy surface with zero margin for error is a tremendous task and very rewarding when you get it right. I hope that we can have a great weekend and send off the current car with a good finish.”
ORIOL AND JAMES ON GOALS FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE SEASON
“We have done a great job all year and it shows in the points standings,” said Servia. “We want to win more races and continue the fight for points and I honestly believe that the best way to do it is just continue with the same approach we have had all year -- just focus on doing our best, session by session. If we do that, and knowing that this is the Orioles town, I think we should be in pretty good shape!”
“Honestly, I can't believe there are only four races left,” said Hinchcliffe. “I am trying not to think about it. I have no real goals or expectations at this point. I just want to head to every weekend and focus on that weekend and getting the best out of what we have. I am sure that some of the remaining races we will be more competitive than others, but as long as we maximize what we bring to the track then I can sleep well on Sunday nights.”