Notes & Quotes: Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg
TAKUMA SATO ON:
The season opener at a temporary circuit with concrete walls: “I’m not really affected by the concrete walls. Obviously with a new package, there is always a short supply of parts at the beginning of the season so we have to be careful that not to damage them. It is always exciting and fun starting a new season. The race can be rough and aggressive, but the course is fun to drive and race on.”
The testing at Sebring: “Our testing went well. The program was interrupted a few hours due to a minor technical problem, but that was good to have sooner rather than later so we could sort it out before the opening race. We were able to manage a number of good test items and successfully gathered very valuable data. I felt good about the car but it was equally important to work closely together with all of the engineers as we are now a larger, new group. It felt very positive so I am happy.”
How Sebring helps prepare for St. Pete: “Sebring is a good track for us because it is the closest circuit we run where we can replicate a street-course in terms of bumpiness and a couple of tight corners. However, Sebring’s grip level can be too high compared to a street-course so we have to be a little careful that we don’t chase the track too much. Also another important point is that Firestone provided street-course tires for this test which is a different construction and compound from road-course tires, so we can evaluate the car properly. Testing in Sebring is a good preparation for St. Pete.”
The differences in the new Honda package compared to the 2015 car: “The car feels more stable aerodynamically so the new aerokit gives better consistency. Ultimately the performance gain looks to come from the new engine. It’s a lot more powerful than last year’s engine, and it has improved a lot in its drivability.”
The best part of having the season opener in St. Pete: “It’s in Florida! Who could complain about that? I think St. Pete is a great venue for opening the season. The fans are very enthusiastic, the restaurants have great food, and normally it’s warm good weather. Also, the racing is very exciting, the street course is unique, technical, and has a few places with great overtaking opportunities.”
JACK HAWKSWORTH ON:
The testing at Sebring: “We had an extremely successful test in Sebring. The ABC Supply crew did a fantastic job with the car preparation and we had a problem-free day. This allowed us to work methodically through our test plan and we discovered some useful information heading into the 2016 season. The pace of the car came easy and for the first time we were able to accomplish everything we set out to do during the day.”
The key to setting up a fast car for St Pete: “As with all street circuits, their bumpy nature requires the car to be compliant, and it increases the amount of importance on tire contact patch. We have a good idea of what to expect and will aim to develop and fine tune throughout the weekend to optimize the car setup for both qualifying and the race.”
His impression of the new aerokit and if it affects how he drives the car: “The new aero kit is more consistent throughout the corner and seems to be easier to work with and predict. From a driving stand point it is pretty similar, the same principles and techniques for extracting lap time still apply.”
His preparation during the off-season: “My preparation has been relentless for this season. I have worked on every single aspect of my game and I will arrive not only in physically phenomenal shape for St. Petersburg but also mentally relaxed and focused on the key elements to executing every single race weekend. I have left no stone unturned and I am ready to pounce on any opportunity and take absolute advantage of the strides the team has taken over the winter immediately.”
What he likes about St. Pete: “St. Pete has been good to me in the past. I won there in both Star Mazda and Indy Lights consecutively and I have always been very comfortable at the circuit. The weather is good and the crowd is usually strong. I will look to stand in victory lane with the ABC Supply team under the Florida sun come the weekend!”
A.J. Foyt returns to the track: Foyt makes his first race appearance since the Iowa race July 18th. He missed the final three races of the season due to a staph infection in his artificial right knee. He required two surgeries two months apart to correct. Foyt missed the first four races of the 2015 while recovering from his triple bypass surgery in late 2014. He is planning to make every race this season.
Alfe Heat Treating returns as a major associate sponsor for season 6: What began as a limited race sponsorship in 2011 has evolved into a season-long sponsorship of the team for the sixth straight year. Headquartered in Fort Wayne, Indiana, Alfe Heat Treating, Inc. is the largest commercial aluminum heat treating operation in the United States. The company operates plants throughout the Midwest and Southeast serving aerospace, automotive, military, and commercial customers with both ferrous and non-ferrous facilities.
Valspar signs on for second season: Valspar returns as an associate sponsor of the No. 14 and No. 41 ABC Supply Hondas this season. Founded in 1806 and headquartered in Minneapolis, MN, Valspar Corporation employs over 10,000 employees in more than 25 countries. It is the fifth largest paint and coatings company in the world.
ABC Supply Co. enters its 12th season as marketing partner of AJ Foyt Racing: ABC Supply began sponsoring the AJ Foyt Racing team with the 2005 Indianapolis 500, and is the second longest active team sponsor in the Verizon IndyCar Series. With this season, the company ties U.S. Tobacco’s Copenhagen brand in length of sponsorship of Foyt’s team. ABC Supply has leveraged its involvement by sponsoring races at Milwaukee and now at Pocono with the ABC Supply 500, and by entertaining over 75,000 associates and customers during the past 11 racing seasons. At St. Petersburg, the company will entertain nearly 570 guests.