Friday Report from Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix
Rain was the big story in Detroit on Friday, with showers and drizzle and grey skies the rule for most of the day. While all racing classes held practice sessions, one cannot really assign too much importance to the numbers posted in the morning sessions. It also dispels the idea that Roger Penske has God Almighty on his phone's speed dial.
The track dried in the late afternoon, and all 25 cars took to the track. When it finished, Will Power posted the fastest lap, with 2008 Detroit winner Justin Wilson rebounded from an early-morning off to grab the second spot. Ryan Briscoe in was third-fastest.
In Indy Lights, Sebastian Saavedra lead practice, roughly 4/10 of a second faster than rookie Tristan Vautier.
This week’s field has 25 cars, quite a remarkable feat, nearly twice that of some previous split-era events.
Conspicuous by her absence is Katherine Legge, whose Dragon Racing team went down to 1 car for the rest of the season. That one car will be split between her and Sebastian Bourdais.
Bourdais had an incident with a squirrel in practice, which no doubt will make the YouTube video "viral" list in coming days. Sebastien was 14th fastest in practice; the squirrel did not post a speed (nor will it ever again).
Then again, we can ponder which is worse – having a part-time ride in equipment that can win, or having a full-time ride in a car that is at the back of the pack. Not only will Simona de Silvestro start at the back of the pack this week because of the poor performance of her Lotus motor -- the only one remaining in IndyCar -- but she will further be penalized 10 spots due to a forced engine change last month at Indy, when the turd motor blew up. Simona -- who at one time was rumored to be a candidate for a Penske ride -- was hoping for a rainy race, when her underpowered motor, combined with her considerable talent, might've given her a good race result. In the dry, her car was dead-last in practice, some 7 seconds slower than Will Power -- and the thing died on track, interrupting practice.
Firestone is debuting a new rain tire for this race, and no doubt that part of the IndyCar practice was really a test session for this tire. Based in part from the Firestone Wide Oval Indy 500 passenger tire, it is more of an intermediate wet than a full wet. The tire ran out of grip for one driver in early practice, when Justin Wilson hit a pool of standing water and hydroplaned his way into the tires in turn 7. The tire wall appeared to be more heavily damaged than the car.
Early this morning, Indy Lights practiced was cancelled due to standing water on the track. The issue is that Indy Lights, and IndyCar, is set up to run in the rain, but are not equipped to run through large puddles of standing water – like the small lake that appeared on pit road this morning. The Grand-AM cars seemed to have no such problems. A brief, informal poll of Indy Lights drivers indicated that a lot more drivers than car owners liked the idea of driving the Detroit course in the rain.
I’ve been a critic of the IndyCar.com Web site since its introduction. While the graphics are wonderful, certain aspect are still not correct. Take, for instance, the win totals for drivers, which only reflects IRL-heritage wins. IndyCar, under Randy Bernard, has embraced all “Indy” wins (IRL, CART, and CHAMP), which gives Sebastien Bourdais 31 wins (and 31 poles), and Dario 30 wins. Neither driver has forgotten those numbers, and Dario has been lobbying hard to get the win totals fixed. IndyCar officials assure me that they’re working on it – and yeah, Dario had 30 wins and 4 championships. And SeBass has 31 wins and 31 poles, and 4 CONSECUTIVE championships. IndyCar is aware of the situation, and trying to correct it... but it's complicated. Tim Wohlford reporting for AutoRacing1.com
Sebastien Bourdais will compete in road/street course races and Katherine Legge will compete on ovals as Dragon Racing will consolidate into one full-time IZOD IndyCar Series entry. Bourdais, a four-time CART champion, will drive in the Chevrolet Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix this weekend in the No. 7 TrueCar Dragon Racing Chevrolet.
"Here we are, Detroit, the real start of my season," said Bourdais, who has never competed on the 2.07-mile, 14-turn course. "Now that Dragon Racing and I have joined the Chevy family, I am excited about the future prospects and particularly this coming weekend. I know how important this event is for Chevrolet, and I will do my very best to offer them a great result. I don't know this track but I have faith in the potential of our new package."
The following IZOD IndyCar Series cars/drivers have incurred 10-grid spot penalties for unapproved engine changes at Indianapolis: #38 Rahal, #78 De Silvestro.
David Ostella will compete in this weekend's Firestone Indy Lights race on Saturday in the No. 22 Global Precast/LiUNA/entry fielded by Team Moore Racing with assistance from Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb/Agajanian.
Ostella's Team Moore Racing car was damaged in an accident during the Firestone Freedom 100 race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 25. The will utilize Bryan Herta Autosport's white and blue No. 28 car as well as its crew to put the young Canadian back on track.
DAVID OSTELLA (No. 22 TMR-Global Precast-Xtreme Coil Drilling): "I have a lot of respect for Bryan Herta Autosport. They run a great program, so I think this partnership with Team Moore will be a great opportunity for me to learn and honestly, I can't thank them both enough. Without this partnership and all the effort extended to help me after Indy, I wouldn't be racing this weekend. I'm confident in this team collaboration and in the car. Indy is behind me now and I'm ready to just race so I can show my sponsors and fans what I'm capable of."
Firestone Racing engineers have developed an all-new rain tire for use in the IZOD IndyCar Series that is a significant departure from the type of rain tires that have been utilized for the past 15 seasons. With rain falling on the Raceway at Belle Isle circuit during today's practice session, this new wet-condition race tire is being utilized for the first time today.
The new Firestone Firehawk rain tire's tread pattern is inspired by the Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval Indy 500 passenger tire, and it will serve as more of an "intermediate" rain tire than its "full wet" predecessor.
AL SPEYER (Executive Director, Firestone Racing): "We always say that Firestone Racing regards our participation in the IZOD IndyCar Series as a giant laboratory," said. "This new rain tire is truly a product of that philosophy. It's unique in the fact that its tread design is inspired by the ultra-high performance Firestone Firehawk Wide Oval Indy 500 tire, so it borrows from passenger tire technology. But it also contains new technology that we believe will one day make its way into passenger and commercial (truck) tires. It is a very interesting two-way technology transfer."
Each IZOD entrant receives five sets of primary Firestone Firehawk tires for the race weekend plus three sets of alternate tires. The Firestone primary and alternate tire specifications for Detroit remain the same as those used earlier this season on street circuits at St. Petersburg, Long Beach and Brazil.
ABC's coverage of the 96th Indianapolis 500 earned a 4.3 final rating, according to Nielsen Media Research. It is the best final rating for the Indianapolis 500 telecast since the 2008 race.
Full-season IZOD IndyCar Series entrants were given the choice to use the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race engine they received for Miller Lite Carb Day practice and the 200-lap race May 27 or the changed-out engine for the balance of their 1,850-mile threshold.
Multiple teams refitted the changed-out engine for testing at the Milwaukee Mile on May 29 in preparation for the June 15-16 Milwaukee IndyFest to use up the remaining miles, and inserted the Indy 500 engine for this weekend's race on Belle Isle and subsequent events until it reaches the 1,850 miles.
The series is in the midst of five consecutive weekends of racing. Following Belle Isle is the Firestone 550 on June 9 at Texas Motor Speedway, the Milwaukee IndyFest, and the Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 23 at Iowa Speedway. The Texas and Iowa races are under the lights.
Sixteen drivers are scheduled to test at Iowa Speedway on June 12-13 in advance of the event on the .875-mile oval that will feature two heat races on June 22.
Firestone Indy Lights officials announced today the following post-race penalties from the May 25 Firestone Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
Sebastian Saavedra has been placed on probation for the remainder of the 2012 racing season for failure to follow rules as instructed in the Race Day Drivers' Meeting and engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct.
Tristan Vautier has been penalized five driver points for failure to follow rules as instructed in the Race Day Drivers' Meeting.
Gustavo Yacaman has been penalized 10 driver points and put on probation for the remainder of the 2012 season for failure to follow rules as instructed in the Race Day Drivers' Meeting and engaging in unsportsmanlike conduct.
Pursuant to the Firestone Indy Lights rulebook, the member may appeal the imposition of the penalty within the time and manner prescribed in section 13.1.