New Edmonton course offers action, speed

New Edmonton layout

There's isn't a particular seating area that Tony Cotman would recommend to Edmonton Indy ticket buyers – mainly because there isn't a restrictive sightline in the expansive City Centre Airport circuit.

That's one of the fortuitous byproducts of the reconfigured 2.556-mile, 13-turn course, which incorporates the closed East runway. The city shuttered the runway 10 days after the 2010 race weekend. Cars will run counterclockwise.

"The (1.96-mile, 14-turn) course one was good and fast initially but it was too hard to pass on," said Cotman, president of NZR Consulting, which has overseen temporary street course design and builds for INDYCAR. "One of the big things we needed to focus on with this course was how to make the show better, and I think we've achieved that.

"What's so unique about this track it doubles back on itself so much that no matter where you sit you can see the entire track. It's a spectacular area to Turn 1 surrounded by grandstands and people are right on the track."

The straight from left-hand Turn 13 to the left-hand Turn 1, which incorporates pit lane, is the second-longest on the IZOD IndyCar Series calendar to Sao Paulo, Brazil (right-hand turns leading into and out).

"I think that Sao Paulo proved that long straights work — at least for these cars," said Cotman, who made a site visit last week. "There has been a lot of surface repair on portions of the track, making it relatively smooth for an airport. The passing zones are intended to be enticing, but if you make a mistake there's plenty of room to get back in. I think it will be exciting and I expect extremely good racing."

Sam Schmidt Motorsports driver Alex Tagliani had the opportunity to drive the course during a promotional tour last week (albeit in a passenger vehicle) and offered "Amazing" as his initial reaction.

"Open-wheel racing with wings is very unique. You need long straightaways for people to draft and do a lot of braking to be able to pass," said Tagliani, who will compete in the No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins car. "Having the track built in a way where people in the grandstand are going to have a visual of three different opportunities for that is very unique.

"When you sit in the grandstand in Edmonton, you'll see crazy speed and amazing action. IndyCar really needs places like this for passing. It's going to absolutely be one of the best courses we'll have this season."

Scott Dixon is the defending champion in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. The first IZOD IndyCar Series practice is scheduled for 11:15 a.m. (local), following the initial Firestone Indy Lights session of the weekend.

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