Observations from Indy – Thursday (No Lotus, no 33 cars)

UPDATE 7:00 PM Update: Back in the days when Indianapolis didn't do daylight savings time, the "happy hour" was 6:00 – 7:00 EDT. That IndyCar allowed Katherine Legge to complete the second phase of her rookie test during the old "happy hour" should be viewed as something of a gift. Given that there are only 33 cars to compete for 33 spots, probably no one in the IndyCar paddock really fretted about it, but it does show that Indy is intent on doing whatever it takes to get 33 cars — and a solid team — into this year's show.


The day's practice went off w/o so much as a serious bobble or scary moment. Scott Dixon posted the day's fastest speed followed by Josef Newgarden. Newgarden posted his fast speed at the beginning of the day, in the same car that spun and bushed the wall yesterday — the only "incident" for the entire month.


LOTUS = "Lots of Trouble, Usually Serious." That old joke is getting some serious mileage. The Dragon Racing people had a "For Sale Lotus Engine" sign on pit road too. Simona de Silvestro posted today's slowest speed of 210.315 in her Lotus-powered car, only a couple of ticks slower than next-slowest Jean Alesi in the other Lotus car (211.516). AS a comparison, Katherine Legge was considerably faster than both in the second phase of her rookie test at the end of the day.

Rumor has it that Simona's team will soon dump its Lotus. Since future races won't have 33 cars, no doubt there will be enough Honda and Chevy motors to make up for an ailing Lotus effort. Given the financial woes of Lotus, and the complete disaster this month, it might be some time before a "Lotus" comes back to Indy.


Tires are a big story at Indy this month. AS a cost-saving measure, each team was "given" 30 sets of tires. Since each team will save 10 sets for race day, the remaining 20 has to be enough for all of practice and qualification. May in Indy this year is unusually sunny and dry, with lots of time to practice, but the tire restriction — along with some concern about engine wear — forces many teams to practice a lot less than they'd like.


Tomorrow everyone gets more boost in their cars. No doubt this will be something of a R&D session for everyone, starting with engine manufacturers. No doubt IndyCar officials will look at the action to determine "the formula" (wings, tires and boost) for future events.


Tim Wohlford reporting from Indy

05/17/12 So how does Indy "turn up the boost"? Old guys like me remember the infamous pop off valve controversies of the 1970's, so I thought I'd ask. The Chevy motor guys told me that tonight IndyCar officials will collect the ECU's ("computers") from each car, and reprogram them for the higher boost level.


Part of the reason I pursued the "how do you turn up the boost" story is that, while 24 cars have been on the track today, nothing much has been happening on the track. Granted, we have the Lotus / Dragon Racing excitement (the track will allow Katherine Legge to do rookie testing today after 6:00 pm), but today it's like watching cars on the Interstate. Don't get me wrong — I don't watch racing for the wrecks — but aside from one spin yesterday, there has been no contact with walls this month. The cars are so slow for the downforce they have the drivers are not on the edge.


OF the 24 on the track (23 plus Bourdais' early re-orientation test with a Chevy motor) today, the fastest so far is Josef Newgarden at 222.7. The slowest 2 cars are Simona de Silvestro and Jean Alesi, both running Lotus motors, at 205 and 207 mph respectively. This places both beyond the "105%" rule that is usually employed by race officials when black flagging cars that are too slow on course. If they are not fast enough to qualify, then 33 cars may not happen this year.

Also notable with his slow speed is Tony Kanaan, at 211 mph. That is some 7 mph slower than his team mate EJ Viso. Tim Wohlford reporting from Indy

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