Overheard at Sonoma - Friday
A prefect day weather-wise in Sonoma for the first day of practice for the GoPro Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma on the modified Sonoma road course. As usual there was a lot of behind the scenes happenings to report on. One good news item is the fact that ticket sales are up about 8% over last year and expect the large main grandstand behind the pits to be almost full.
I hear that IndyCar is close to making two important announcements, either this weekend or next weekend in Baltimore. One is the decision of go or no-go for the body kits for 2013. We know Honda, Chevy, IndyCar, the customers (i.e. the fans) and some team owners want them. Mike Hull of the Ganassi team told us the cost of the body kits probably would not be an issue for the team owners if they were not spending so much more than anticipated on parts this year. And speaking of parts, we hear the second key announcement to be made by IndyCar is the work Brian Barnhart has done with Dallara, Cosworth, X-Trac, etc. to lower the cost of parts. It is our hope that the costs will be lowered enough that the team owners can agree on the new body kits. NASCAR tried a single body kit and we all know how that turned out. Horribly, but NASCAR has reacted and in 2013 the cars will look different and resemble the passenger cars a bit more. Stay tuned......
And what is the beef of the team owners if the Dallara parts list prices are only about 5% or so more than last year? AR1.com hears that the crux of the beef is they cannot buy the parts from other manufacturers like they did in the past. The financial model/budget the team owners had put together for 2012 was based on them getting consumable (i.e. parts like bearings, gears, wings, etc.) parts 25 to 35% cheaper from third party vendors. However, the new rules mandate the original vendors are sole-source for all parts. It took until Long Beach before the team owners realized the model they used to budget for this year was not going to work and that is when we first heard of their unhappiness.
Switching topics, recall the article we published recently about how racing is losing touch with the young generation and it is a major problem for all racing series, not only IndyCar. The young generation cares a lot about technology and the spec series like IndyCar and NASCAR are suffering because of it. F1, however, is booming because it is the highest tech form of racing.
I saw no one here from Judd this weekend and I spotted a Lotus engineering starting the HVM Lotus with his laptop. Speculation is that Judd is done with Lotus and it won't be long before Lotus is done with IndyCar. We suspect the reason why they are not gone already is because they have to pay IndyCar a large sum to break the contract and that number is being argued.
Word is that Justin Wilson lost a valve seal in his Honda during testing this week and will have to take a 10-grid penalty this weekend because it required an engine change.
Spotted here on Friday - F1 pit reporter Will Buxton who is playing IndyCar reporter for this last off-weekend for F1. He flies back to Europe and Spa on Tuesday. Also spotted were former IndyCar drivers Memo Gidley, Mark Blundell as well as former CART Team Owner John Della Penna. And did you know that Ed Carpenter's wife Heather is pregnant again. Is that baby #3 or #4? We lost count. Mark C. reporting from Sonoma