Inaugural Grand Prix Of INDY Road Course Event Pleases On Many Fronts
Last weekend, Speedway, Indiana hosted the first of two racing events that it hopes to package and fuse into an annual “Month Of May” motorsports celebration. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), famous for the endurance test and race that grew into the INDY 500 reworked the Formula 1 road course and the Verizon IndyCar Series held its first race on the 2.434-miles 14 turn infield road course that utilizes a portion of the famed IMS oval as part of the circuit with racers driving Turns 1 and 2 of the oval as well as the a long portion of the front straight … in the opposite (clockwise) direction.
When the race broadcast and venue is watched on phones, tablets, computers, and television screens one is struck by the unfamiliar familiarity. The Dallara DW12 cars belong here at this track but they look oddly different heading down the front straight with the famed Pagoda on the car’s right hand side.
For those fans that have followed American open wheel racing over this last 10 years or so, this track layout plays on broadcast a little like the Portland International Raceway in Portland, Oregon. The G.I. Joe’s Grand Prix of Portland was a Champ Car World Series race that was last held through 2007 and this venue still holds the record for the closest road course finish in Indy car racing history.
The pace and feel of a race on the road course at INDY felt a lot like watching a race on the Portland track only much larger to scale (the race held a Cleveland’s Burke Lakefront Airport also qualifies … but not as tight). The long front straight flowing into a contentious right-hander, followed immediately by a left with some speed at the end and, of course, some dodgey esses to contend with.
|Simon Pagenaud wins third race in less than a year at the inaugural Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Indianapolis and pulls to P3 … within 6 points of VICS championship points leader Will Power. A member of the European press mentioned that the road course reminded him of Magny Cours. Simon agreed. Image Credit: Simon Pagenaud via Facebook|
This excerpted and edited from Road & Track/Hearst Digital Media –
GP of Indy quiets the doubters
IndyCar’s month in the motherland starts strong.
By Marshall Pruett May 11, 2014
According to the experts on the Internet, IndyCar’s inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis was destined to fail from the beginning. What some called an exercise in trampling more than 100 years of tradition at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway–where Indy cars had only run on the 2.5-mile oval since 1911–the GP of Indy, run on a revised road course, was an unqualified success.
Fans, the Indy traditionalists maintained, would reject the event, but something north of 30,000 people turned out in beautiful weather to watch Simon Pagenaud put in a picture-perfect drive to claim the win. It marked the Frenchman’s third Verizon IndyCar Series win in less than a year, and proved that even in the huge shadow cast by IndyCar giants Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi, a modest operation like Pagenaud’s Honda-powered Schmidt Peterson Motorsports outfit can play the role of giant killer at any time.
|Grand Prix Of Indianapolis race start from above (Image Credit: INDYSTAR via Twitter) …|
|And Grand Prix Of Indianapolis race start 6-wide from below (Image Credit: Marshall Pruett/RACER via Twitter) …|
Pagenaud’s memorable finish was overshadowed by a frightening start to the GP as pole-sitter Sebastian Saavedra stalled when the lights went green and was clobbered twice from behind–by Colombian countryman Carlos Munoz and then by Russian rookie Mikhail Aleshin. All three emerged unscathed, but that couldn’t be said for a number of bystanders, including the Mayor of Indianapolis, who was hit in the shoulder by a flying chunk of carbon fiber.
More contact later in the race led popular Canadian driver James Hinchcliffe to pull off track and retire after he was struck in the helmet by a front wing endplate from a car he was trailing. Approaching 180mph on the long infield straight headed towards Turn 7, the hit was hard enough to cause a concussion, leading Hinch to sit out Sunday’s Opening Day for Indy 500 practice, if not longer.
Safety improvements are expected for next year’s race, including F1-style debris fencing on pit lane.
Racing aside, it was a welcome change to see IMS take a bold step to build new fans with a road course that some felt was little more than sacrilege. Thankfully, after seeing the positive reaction from curious fans and first-timers, IMS has a new tradition that should stand the test of time.
|Track view from a position in the stands around Turns 5 & 6. Image Credit: Brandi Iaria via Twitter|
The track plays well on television and if the powers that be (Drivers and Race Control) figure out how to frikken START and RE-START the dang race, some folks would be in the points and not have to spend so much time and money on car repairs.
To some, however, this is why they tune in. A venue and a race pleasing on many fronts.
… notes from The EDJE