Grand Prix Indianapolis (2014)

Race Report: Grand Prix of Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS May 10, 2014—“Eventful” was the word that both veteran Takuma Sato and rookie Martin Plowman used to describe the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

That was an understatement.

The race began with a spectacular accident when pole winner Sebastian Saavedra failed to launch in the standing start. Several drivers missed the stalled car but Carlos Munoz hit Saavedra and then Mikhail Aleshin plowed straight into him, sending debris flying everywhere. All drivers escaped injury.

Both Sato and Plowman did masterful jobs avoiding most of the carnage but received damage to their front nose assemblies which were replaced along with tires; Sato’s telemetry was knocked out too. Both drivers received knocks to the helmets from the flying debris – in fact, the debris grazed Sato’s helmet and punched a hole in his headrest!

On the second go round, Sato made a brilliant start picking up about seven spots but he lost them when he thought he had punctured a tire. With no telemetry to confirm air pressure, the crew told him to pit for new tires a lap later.

Both drivers then raced hard, but Sato’s two early stops positioned him to lose a lap about midway through the race. Savvy strategy allowed him to gain the lap back on the full course caution brought about by Plowman on lap 48. Plowman was forced onto the marbles entering Turn 7, went spinning off track and as he re-entered, he hit the curbing which launched him into the air. He landed on Franck Montagny (who wasn’t hurt), and came to a stop on the grass. He was restarted and didn’t lose a lap!

Qualifying Report – Grand Prix of Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS May 9, 2014—The Grand Prix of Indianapolis is proving to be full of surprises as the Verizon P1 Award went to the fourth different driver in as many races with Sebastian Saavedra claiming his first pole position. Saavedra earned the pole when Ryan Hunter-Reay lost his two fastest laps with less than a minute to go due to his contact with the wall. Hunter-Reay spun exiting Turn 14 and hit the outside wall on the main straightaway.

Rookie Jack Hawksworth will start second, followed by Hunter-Reay, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Scott Dixon. With the Fast 12 and Firestone Fast 6 qualifying sessions running in the rain, Pagenaud holds the new track record due to his 1 minute, 9.67 second lap in the first qualifying group which ran on a dry track.

Takuma Sato will start 16th in the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda (1 minute, 10.28 seconds), while rookie Martin Plowman will start 20th in the No. 41 Alfe Heat Treating Honda (1 minute, 10.45 seconds).

Sato, who won the first Verizon P1 award of the season in St. Petersburg, said, “It was a tough day for us today. With the practice session being wet in the morning, we had no time to try something that we wanted to do after yesterday’s analysis of the car setup because the car requires a different setup in the wet. So we went straight into qualifying with a little bit unknown, but we tried our best but didn’t have the speed. I think we improved the car a bit but we’re struggling with the lap times and the balance. We don’t have a morning warmup so hopefully we can put things together after looking at the qualifying data and have a better run tomorrow.”

Plowman’s first qualifying run was solid, especially considering his lack of experience in the DW12 chassis. Plowman said, "It was a fun but tough first qualifying for us as it was the first time that I've used the Firestone red tires, so I didn't have any time to learn what the limit was of these tires. I felt like we missed the balance of the car a little bit, which hurt me by a couple of tenths. Overall I think to be right on pace with Takuma with no experience is not a bad result, but of course we would both like to be further up the field. I think if we put together all of the small details, we could have been in the top 12, but we'll save that for tomorrow when it really matters."

The 82-lap Grand Prix of Indianapolis will be televised live on ABC-TV starting at 3:30 p.m.

 

Practice Report: Grand Prix of Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS May 8, 2014—Practice for the inaugural Grand Prix of Indianapolis took place under sunny skies and warm temperatures which was great for opening day.  Fans were able to “sample” the beginning of the historic weekend for free today and many took advantage to do just that.

Drivers Takuma Sato and Martin Plowman had little free time today as they worked together to sort out the No. 14 ABC Supply Honda and the No. 41 Alfe Heat Treating Honda which didn’t appear to enjoy the hot weather as much as the fans.

“The conditions are very different from the open test day so the lap times are significantly down, which  shows how we lost grip from the track because of the temperature,” said Sato. “Temperature always affects your balance and mechanical grip as well. You naturally lose downforce because of the density of the air, obviously cooler is faster. There’s a lot of work to be done as we’re struggling with grip and balance today. The good thing is we have two cars here so we’ll get twice the data, so I think we’ll be able to find our best solution for tomorrow.”

Plowman echoed Sato’s thoughts and was close behind him in track times. Sato ran 31 laps today with his best time – one minute, 11.04 seconds--slotting in at 19th overall. Plowman’s best time after 37 laps was one minute, 11.17 seconds which was 21st overall.

NOTES & QUOTES: INAUGURAL GRAND PRIX OF INDIANAPOLIS

Takuma Sato: No. 14 ABC Supply Honda

Martin Plowman: No. 41 Alfe Heat Treating Honda

Takuma Sato is in his second year running for AJ Foyt Racing, and his fifth year in the Verizon IndyCar Series. He has one victory and four pole positions. Rookie Martin Plowman is making his fourth start in the IndyCar Series, his first start in the DW12 chassis, and first start with AJ Foyt Racing.

TAKUMA SATO On:

Opening the month of May with the Grand Prix of Indianapolis: “Yes, I am a fan of it because racing is always good. I know it is tough logistically for the team because we have to get straight into the Indy 500 practice sessions after the Indy GP, but it’s good for the fans that we share the excitement of having new race in here Indy and it’s a good introduction for the INDY500 event.”

The new circuit: “It’s pretty unique, and in my experience, no other place has similar characteristics. The track is flat and has got a very smooth surface where no other road course in our race calendar is that smooth. The biggest difference is a downforce level. We are pretty much maximum downforce for road courses everywhere but, here in Indianapolis, you could go very light on the downforce. Simply because it has got a couple of long straights, so the car setup can favor the long straights or the cornering; however, it will be a decision balanced between low drag and having enough grip through the corners. One will need a good top speed to race so I would say there is a lot of emphasis on low drag and the resultant lower downforce, so it is a unique track.”

Physicality of the track: “Since this course has the longest straight line and you are able to run with low downforce, it’s not the most demanding physical track.”

The passing zones: “Turn 1 will be most the popular place for passing. Turn 7 is also a good possible place. Both corners require a big braking after a long straight.”

Key to success here: “We need to run pretty low downforce on this track so get a good mechanical grip is a key. Also we need to have a strong braking stability without having too much understeer.”

The GP being a new event and working in his favor: “I hope so, I’ve had a good history in the past for the new tracks (i.e., at the revised Edmonton in 2011, went straight into the qualifying after one practice session and won the pole, and so it was in 2013 at Houston). However, since we had an open test last week, everyone will be prepared well.”

Having Martin Plowman as a teammate: “It’s great to have Martin as a teammate. He had a little tough start at the Open Test due to lack of time in the car, but it’s great that we doubled in collecting data. We could split the setup work. We shared all the information, and it’s definitely helping us to move forward with more than one car at the event. I am happy so we can push team even further!”

MARTIN PLOWMAN On:

Opening the month of May with the Grand Prix of Indianapolis: “I love the idea of having the GP at the start of May. The event promises to be a great race for the drivers and the fans. By adding this race, the phrase ‘the month of May in Indy’ is relevant once again.”

The new circuit: “The nature of the long straights reminds me quite a bit of Monza in Italy. On these types of tracks you have to trim out a lot of downforce to gain speed and rely more on the car's mechanical grip. The cars tend to become a handful in the corners without the downforce, but it's where as a driver we will make the difference in the corners. I like the long straights, followed by heavy braking zones. There is one technical flow section where if you miss your marks in one corner you will mess up the following four corners as a result. I love the challenge of that part of the track.”

Physicality of the track: “It's hard for me to say, as I don't have many other tracks to compare to driving an IndyCar. This was also the first time this year that I felt 100% in race-shape, so physically I felt pretty good all day [at the open test April 30]. The hardest part of this track on your body is probably the heavy deceleration on your neck. We experience close to -3.5g under braking!”

Alfe Racing Honors Foyt Legacy with Retro Look for Grand Prix of Indianapolis

INDIANAPOLIS May 1, 2014 (Throwback Thursday)—Something old and something new.

The vintage “Coyote Red” colored No. 41 Alfe Heat Treating Honda, piloted by rookie Martin Plowman, made its debut on a brand new road course as the Verizon IndyCar Series conducted its first test on the 2.439-mile infield circuit of the venerable Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The retro-look was the brainchild of graphic designer Jason LaFrenais and Alfe Heat Treating’s Motorsports Manager Ryan Westman, who said, “The first time that Alfe got involved with IndyCar racing, it was on a Coyote orange colored car in 2011. We thought that it looked great and it worked well for us because it is the color of our corporate identity,” said Westman.

“It’s great to see my old colors come back,” said team owner A.J. Foyt. “I won a lot of races in cars with those colors, but I’m not putting pressure on Martin. He’s a rookie and we just want to get him comfortable in the car. I know he can do his job if we do ours.”

“I love the retro livery on the 41 Alfe Heat Treating car,” said Plowman, the 26-year-old Englishman who lives in Indianapolis. “It seems to have been very well received so far. It's an honor to be able to drive the car in tribute to A.J.'s fourth Indy 500-winning car from '77. Looking over the car for the first time, I noticed that the chassis number of the DW12 was #077. It's a very cool coincidence and hopefully a good omen for the race!”