Tuesday, May 4, 2021

A New Age Begins As Robert Wickens Gets Behind The Controls Of A Real IMSA Racecar

 
Robert Wickens captures a P3 Podium position along side of P1 Will Power and P2 Scott Dixon at the 2018 INDYCAR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Robert will be looking forward to a day where he, again, will be sipping the podium champagne, sooner than later. Image Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher via NICS (2018)

A New Age Begins As Robert Wickens Gets Behind The Controls Of A Real IMSA Racecar

Hat's off to IMSA, Bryan Herta Autosport, Hyundai, and the specially prepared No. 54 Michelin Pilot Challenge Veloster N TCR control-outfitted for 28 year old Michael Johnson. Michael was the first and only paralyzed driver licensed by INDYCAR, before making the switch to sportscar racing beginning in 2016 - so, this "track day" is a serious thing for Robert Wickens.

A time was set-up to give Robert this first return opportunity on the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course race track after going through a regime of rehabilitation for nearly 1,000 days since his debilitating INDYCAR accident at Pocono Raceway on August 19, 2018.

In Robert Wickens way of thinking, there was very little doubt this day would come in the racecar life he continues to pursue with admirable passion.

In review, Canadian Wickens’ stellar NTT INDYCAR SERIES 2018 debut season featured a pole position, and four podium finishes in addition to the Indy 500 Rookie of the Year title. Having transitioned back to North America from Europe where he was a Formula One test and reserve driver, Wickens’ INDYCAR career looked set for championship contention. After Pocono, however, Wickens suffered a thoracic spinal fracture, spinal cord injury, neck fracture, tibia and fibula fractures to both legs, fractures in both hands, a fractured right forearm, fractured elbow, a concussion, four fractured ribs and a pulmonary contusion in the incident.

Through his relentless regimen of rehabilitation and therapy, Wickens has become a trailblazer in developing new technology and treatment methods for the spinal cord injury community.

Tuesday, halfway through a full day test, Robert Wickens sat down for a ZOOM Call with motorsports media to share his thoughts and reflections for all who have followed his productive exploits.


Robert Wickens ZOOM Call Media Interview Transcript

Moderator:
It's been a long wait for you to get here, but how did it feel to get back in and feel a race car on a racetrack?

Robert Wickens:
It's been great. I mean, honestly, first off, thanks for coming everybody. It's been an amazing day so far. I mean, the weather hasn't been super kind to us. It was a little damp to begin with. It rained overnight and it's been changeable all day, but, nevertheless, it's been just a blast and I honestly can't thank Bryan Herta Autosport, Hyundai, and Michael Johnson (enough). It's not everyday that someone can lend you a race car to go take an item off your bucket list. So, it's been a great day so far.

Moderator:
How many laps did you run so far and what are the plans for the rest of the day for you? Are you done for the day? Are you getting back in?

Robert Wickens:
Yeah, to be honest, I wish I had a proper number for you on how many laps I've done, but I would say I'm around 25ish laps for the morning. Yeah, it's been, been a lot of fun and I hope to get back in the afternoon. I haven't really had a chance to talk with the team again. So, I just got out of the car and had a bite to eat and then been up here. So, we're gonna see what we can do. I know it's raining a little bit again right now, but, you know, I've always liked racing in the rain as well, so it should be, it should be good fun.

Question:
Hey, Robbie, welcome back. I know it's been quite a journey for you to get here but you promised us when this journey began that you would get back in a race car and today you lived up on that promise. So in many ways, how fulfilled do you feel about today?

Robert Wickens:
I mean, I feel there was a lot of emotions. I think once I was able to put my visor down and get back on a racetrack again, you know, the whole week up leading to this, it wasn't so much nerves. There was a lot of excitement and anticipation for this. And then once I put a suit on again and started putting in the earpieces, balaclava, the helmet, it just all went out the window and it was just like business as usual. Once I got back out on track, it was a slightly different story. You know, obviously the hand controls that Michael Johnson uses and the Hyundai Veloster is brand new for me. So learning that on a wet track, it wasn't without its difficulties, but we took it step by step and slowly chipped away at getting quicker and quicker.

Question:
And how are the hand controls? Because you've been trained as a race driver to do certain things, especially at a track like Mid-Ohio that you're familiar with, to now all of a sudden reeducate yourself to use your hands instead of what you were able to do before.

Robert Wickens:
Yeah, I think that that's the hard thing with accessibility is, you know, there's no textbook on it. It's not like the gas is on the right and the brake's on the left like every car, almost in existence. You know, with this, there's been a lot of people in the past that have raced with disabilities. You know, you have Billy Monger, you have Alex Zanardi, you have Michael Johnson here in the IMSA Pilot series. They all have different systems and they're all very successful at what they're doing. Michael's system here is, there's a ring on the front of the steering wheel that you push for throttle. And then there's another ring on the backside of the steering wheel that you pull in for brake, which I think is a great system. Having everything within fingers reach on the steering wheel has been pretty good so far. But yeah, like you said, it's a really steep learning curve and there's been a lot of mental focus, I guess, goes into it, trying to program in, you know, preplan what I'm doing with my hands before I get to the next corner. It's slowly starting to take shape where I'm having to think less and less about it.

Question:
Back to your day job, you work a lot with the young kids over at Arrow McLaren. One of them did pretty well on Sunday. What's your reaction to what Pato was able to do? Finally got his first victory.

Arrow McLaren SP driver Pato O'Ward notches his first win in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES after showing his pace in several races over the past full year. Doughnuts are fun when one is only twenty-one and in possession of a first-ever win - this only happens once. Image Credit: Joe Skibinski via NICS (2021) 

Robert Wickens:
I mean, with, with Pato is a long time coming. I think he's had three, maybe four second-places so far in his IndyCar career. And he's been so close so many times. I see a lot of myself in him in terms of he's doing so many things, right. And it's in an IndyCar, especially in any professional form of motorsport, you have to do the little things well, and it's the things that go unnoticed to the visual eye. You know, like your in-laps, your out-laps, stopping on the marks in the pit stops, your attention to detail. That's what wins you races at an elite level. It's never, as we say in the Arrow McLaren SP camp, you know, you have to do the not so sexy stuff well. Which is basically those in-laps and out-laps and those little parts of the game that can make the difference.

Question:
Robbie, congrats, man. That's awesome. So what are the plans here? I mean, moving forward, is this going to turn into something that is more full-time?

Robert Wickens:
I mean, I wish I could give you guys a bit more insight, but at the moment there's, there's no real prospects. It's just a great opportunity that, that Bryan Herta and Hyundai were able to present me with this track day. And I jumped on the opportunity, you know, I've been wanting to drive a race car for a long time now. And to finally tick that box is massive in my recovery and my journey back. Who knows what the future will bring, but I don't want to get too far ahead of myself. And I just want to take today for really what it is.

Question:
All right. So for not pushing the future too much, I have to ask, you know, with what Hyundai and Bryan Herta Autosport have done here, plus what you had mentioned off the top, what we've seen the likes of Zanardi, Billy Monger, Michael Johnson do here, could something like the Indy 500 now be in the cards?

Robert Wickens:
I mean, I was never really ruling it out to begin with. I mean, I think the biggest thing for me is, the hardest thing of my injury was, I felt like I was just hitting the peak of my career and my abilities when this happened. We're creeping up on three years now since the accident. And I feel like I'm not utilizing those prime years of my career. I would love nothing more than to get back at an elite level. And sure. I mean, selfishly, I would love to get back to IndyCar to close that chapter of my life on my own terms. You know, I think everyone can kind of relate, you know, if for whatever reasons, if something happens that you weren't really planning, sometimes it leaves a bad taste in your mouth. I would love nothing more ideally, you know, to win an IndyCar race and then maybe move on. But, you know, I think right now, there's so much to figure out. I mean, I think at the early stages of my recovery, I really wanted to return to IndyCar. I'm not saying I don't now, but understanding what goes into accessibility. And I think making an IndyCar competitive with hand controls would be a massive undertaking. One that maybe with the current IndyCar regulations wouldn't be entirely feasible. So, you know, but never say never. There's a lot of great teams out there, and I honestly think crazier things have happened in the past, but for the time being, I'm just going to keep doing what I'm doing, focusing on my rehab and hopefully, finally in due time, the right opportunity will come.

Question:
I realize you don't want to mess up Michael Johnson's setups at all. But how easy is it to kind of like tailor and customize those hand controls for yourself? For example, if you wanted to make the brakes less sensitive or more sensitive or the throttle response, is it easy to address?

Robert Wickens:
Ah, I'm still learning the system myself, but honestly I think, there's definitely, probably some tunability. I know with the hand control system that Michael Johnson uses in the Veloster, there's like a hydraulic big booster, like brake booster to help generate the pressure on the brake. And there's a tuning aspect to that for if I want the brake more sensitive or not so sensitive. And, Stephen Simpson, who is Michael Johnson's co-driver or other driver not co-driver, but a teammate. There it is. He does a great job of shaking down the car. So he was actually first in today and set up the brakes with what he believes Michael would have liked for me to try. You know, and then once the track started to dry out a little bit, we were talking a little bit and we changed the brakes a little bit again, once, you know, the track was getting a bit grippier and stuff like that. He's been a great asset today with getting me up to speed along with Michael himself. I've been bouncing a lot of ideas and a lot of questions off of him and it's been a really good day, but I think in terms of customization, I'm, I'm new to the IMSA world, but I believe the system is entirely homologated. So I think you can't really do a whole lot of customizations without homologating a new system.


Question:
As far as feel is concerned, obviously, a lot of drivers will say there's not just the visual or the feel through the steering while also feeling through your backside as well. Do you get still get those same sensations that you did before you accident and how difficult is it for you to kind of like switch to like a front wheel drive car?

Robert Wickens:
Yeah, I mean, in terms of transitioning to front wheel drive, it's been entirely seamless. If I didn't know it was front wheel drive, I probably wouldn't have found out for a long time until I had an understeer on exit that was a bit unique in the rain. I was like, 'Oh yeah, there's the front wheel drive.' But honestly, the Hyundai Veloster, it's an amazing little car, you know, I didn't really know what to expect. I've heard great things of, like a TCR car and the series itself, but it's a lot of fun to drive. It's very well balanced in the rain so far. It's been, yeah, it's been a pleasure to get up to speed with it, but in terms of sensation, there's definitely been moments that I've been maybe caught off guard by something, but it's more so what I'm doing with the brake pedal, you know, as most of, you know, braking is like 90 percent of motorsport. And, you know, I've had some like slight oversteer sliding moments that were related to the brake that I didn't realize I was maybe braking as much as I was and had a small oversteer from that. But it wasn't really, I think I'm having some pretty good sensation. I'm able to slide the car around and stuff like that. And I'm feeling kind of a bit what the car is doing, which, you know, obviously my first time back in a race car, you always wonder what that sensation is going to be like, but so far it seems to be there.

Question:
Robert, a few of us got to actually watch you today and stuff, and it seemed like every lap you took, you seemed a little smoother, a little smoother. Did it feel like that in the car? And did you get to the point where you had a little bit of a, I don't know, for want of another term, a thrill factor?

Robert Wickens:
Yeah, for sure. I mean, there was one stage there where it really started to dry out, when we were able to put slicks on for a few laps and it took a while to get them warmed up and get them going. Cause it was really like half wet, half dry conditions. But you can't, I mean, I did a lap that I pit right after it. Cause I was just like, I feel like if I don't like take a breather here, I might take things a little too far. So it's been a lot of fun so far, but it's been such a big learning curve and the cool thing is I've been able to drive this car and almost every condition here at Mid-Ohio. It's been, we started the day in pretty heavy rain conditions and then it's been a constant evolution and drying out throughout the day. So yeah, I've been able to experience kind of full wet and intermediate crossover to dry. It's like it's been a fun little day so far.

Question:
I was going to say in your mind when you're thinking, well, of course there's going to be a little bit of rain today. You know what I mean? Your first time back in a race car, et cetera, it's almost like they're putting you through it. I was talking with Bryan during a break there and what is the sensation that you need to get to? Like you were talking about the braking, for example, it seemed like you got smoother as the session went, but what is that sensation you've really got to get to where you feel, for want of another term competent again?

Robert Wickens:
Oh man, that's a loaded question. You know, I mean, ultimately, there really isn't one aspect to it. You know, I want to keep looking at the telemetry, try to look at onboards, but between the other drivers here at this track day and, and to improve myself slowly. I mean, I haven't had a chance really, to look at the data from my last run to see how I can improve to go forward. But I'm sure, like I touched on at the beginning, braking's probably one of the low hanging fruits of trying to find lap time right now. But I'm at the stage right now in my progression in this car today that I need to see that telemetry. I need some coaching basically on, on how to get the most out of this Veloster.

Question:
Hey, real quick, one more quickie, watching you pull out and stuff. Can you go through the procedure? You've got a clutch, you got a clutch lever, right? You have shift paddles, right? You gotta go through the procedure of just getting going so people can understand what you're doing there.

Robert Wickens:
Yeah. So, uh, it's a bit busy. So basically we have a lever to the right of the cockpit. That's the clutch. So normally obviously people have a pedal clutch, mine's a hand operated clutch. So I need to pull in the clutch select first gear and then use the throttle on the steering wheel to leave like you normally would. All while trying to not hit mechanics and other things as I drive off. So you know, I think honestly, that's one of the more complicated things is when the car is stationary. I think once you're moving, it's pretty seamless. But, you have, you need one more set of hands, I think to leave smoothly.

Question:
Hi there. Thanks so much for the time again today, Robbie. I know you mentioned that you felt like an IndyCar return might be a little bit farther off or just more complicated to put together, given regulations and everything right now. What would you feel like a realistic timeline would be if you got an opportunity from the right team in IMSA to make a comeback. I mean, would you with the right amount of testing feel potentially comfortable trying to put something together for next year? Is that something that you're even focused on right now?

Robert Wickens:
I mean, absolutely. I mean, I've not been shy to admit that I want to return to an elite category again and to continue my journey and my career. I mean, no one has a crystal ball, but first and foremost, I think getting up and running comes with finance. Unfortunately, that's the motorsports world. That's what we live in. It doesn't matter if that's IndyCar, if it's Formula E, if it's IMSA, you know, I think getting up and running with the hand controls, I would like to make some small, personal changes to hand controls to better suit maybe what I would want. But, you know, I think at the end of the day, first and foremost, finances is the first hurdle and once we can get up and running, then we kinda have the whole world at our disposal. But at the moment, it's pretty tough to get started.

Question:
What kind of timeline brought this together? I mean, was this something that has been in the works with Bryan and his team for a while now? Is it something that kind of came together last minute? How long have you known that this could be a possibility?

Robert Wickens:
I would say a bit of both. Bryan approached me a few months ago and basically we were just chatting and he asked if I'd ever want to drive a race car again. I said, 'Of course.' And then that was kind of it for a little bit. And then things started to slowly come together one step at a time. And then he was able to let me know that Hyundai was doing a track day here at Mid-Ohio. And there was an opportunity for me to drive Michael Johnson's Veloster and it was kind of the perfect opportunity, just great timing, really, you know. IMSA's here in a couple of weeks and, you know, they're doing their program to get things ready for the upcoming race and I'm just kinda hanging out in the background and just having fun.

Robert Wickens crosses the Yard of Bricks during the 2018 INDYCAR Grand Prix as he posts a P3 Podium finish in his rookie season at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Image Credit: Walter Kuhn via NICS (2018)

Question:
One last one, I know you took part in the IndyCar iRacing Challenge last spring, when we had the pause for the series due to the pandemic and you had a pretty, pretty solid success in that first race. I know a sim race and actually driving the car is very different, but maybe kind of take me through what you had to check off between April of last year and now to get to the point where you were either ready or cleared, or comfortable actually getting back in a race car.

Robert Wickens:
Yeah. I mean, I think first and foremost, you know, I have to get a lot of thanks to Simcraft, because they were able to provide me with a simulator at home, which was really the first step on this road back. I was able to compete again, like you said, even though it was virtual, I was able to kind of feel that competition again and to improve. And not only that we were able to evolve the hand controls to something that I'm very comfortable with on a simulator at home. The irony is that's not what I'm driving here today in the Veloster, but nevertheless, just getting more used to using your hands, you know, was massive for me. So yeah, it's been, it's been amazing, but yeah, just it's been, been a blast.
In addition to the IndyCar iRacing series, you also did made some appearances in the IMSA iRacing Pro Series last year. Were you in the one that we had at Mid-Ohio?

Robert Wickens:
No, I did Road America, I did Watkins and I believe, VIR.

Moderator:
Okay. I was going to ask you if it was helpful for today.

Robert Wickens:
So, I'm also doing Road Atlanta this Thursday. So I'm making my IMSA virtual comeback.

Moderator:
You heard it here first folks.

Question:
Thanks for joining us. Really appreciate it. I just wondered, you know, you kind of, as a driver coming up through, you're kind of trained not to feel any emotion when you're behind the wheel, and that's kind of like a prerequisite of being able to battle against your rivals. I just wonder kind of what you felt today on the first lap going into Turn 1. If you let yourself kind of have a moment there, or if there was any kind of a real feeling of realization of what you'd actually achieved just by testing today in itself.

Robert Wickens:
To be honest, there wasn't. You know, there was so much going through my head on, like, what I'm doing with my hands that I really don't think I thought of a single emotion apart from making sure I was pulling the right thing to stop the car. You know, I think that was the priority. I mean, as you guys know, Mid-Ohio Turn 1's a pretty daunting corner. So, going up to that the first time in the wet with an entire system that I've never used before, it was definitely daunting. But I definitely, I took baby steps and took it nice and slow, you know, I didn't want to be the hero on lap one. And yeah, I think, we progressed nicely throughout the morning and I'm looking forward to getting back in the car here in a little bit.

Question:
Hey Robbie, it's great to see you back in the car. What surprised you the most in getting back behind the wheel today?

Robert Wickens:
I think the thing that surprised me the most was how mighty that Hyundai Veloster is. Honestly, it's a really fun car. And just to have the opportunity, I was really happy that I got a run in on slicks at the end, before I took my lunch break here to come up and speak to you friendly people. But yeah, it's the fact that, you know, in the rain, it was very well balanced. Mid-Ohio Is not an easy track here in the wet. It's very slippery, very low grip and no room for error anywhere. But it handled it well, you know, the brakes are strong, the cornering speed, everything. I was very blown away by actually how quick this car is. I'm not trying to discredit what it was, but, you know, I was very pleasantly surprised with how much of a real race car it is.

Question:
You mentioned there's still a lot to figure out moving forward into the future, but what are the long-term goals that you're looking at now that you've gotten this chance to get behind the wheel?

Robert Wickens:
Yeah, I mean, I think long-term goals for me, haven't changed. I want to return to an elite level of motorsport again. It's been really since day zero of my recovery and we're still chipping away. This is a massive step in my journey back, but that's really all that is here today. Unfortunately, there's nothing really in the pipeline, because of that, but you know, I'm going to keep doing what I can keep working hard and I believe that hard work always pays off. And I believe I deserve to still race at a high level and at an elite level. And hopefully that can come true sometime soon.

Question:
You mentioned the recovery and the road you've taken to get to this point. What's been the toughest part of that recovery?

Robert Wickens:
There's been many, there's been many tough times. I mean, I think, something that a lot of people, try not to talk about, but the mental health aspect of a recovery like this is extremely daunting. That's been really one of the biggest struggles. I think a lot of people can put in the manual work and then to try and get better and get stronger, but to do it day in and day out and keep a positive outlook, it's extremely, extremely tough. And, you know, then there's the whole different world of emotions that come through, you know, then you go through different phases of your recovery and it's the mental aspect has been hands down the hardest thing of this recovery. And I've had a great support system. I have a lovely partner with my wife that has always had my back and has always been there for me. But then even from family, from friends, from colleagues, you know, I'm so fortunate to have such a great surrounding around me within the motorsports community that I really, I feel sometimes I don't know how I got so lucky to have such a great support system around me.

Question:
Hey, Robbie, just want to throw one more in. You were talking about your support system to be able to have Sam Schmidt involved. I mean, nobody can relate to what you're going through any better than Sam Schmidt. And how important of a role has he had in helping you through this mental aspect of it.

Robert Wickens:
You know, Sam was very good for us at the beginning of the injury. You know, obviously he had experienced everything there is with, with paralysis. So at the beginning of all this, he was able to answer a lot of questions that we had, he was able to help us when we were discussing what would be the best rehab facility to try to go to. So just to have that person to bounce questions and names of doctors and this, like, he's just very well connected within the industry. Yeah, I mean, I think in that stages, he was definitely very helpful.

Question:
Thank you. Great to see it back, Robbie. And I just have one question. Everybody else asked pretty much the questions that I would ask. You mentioned Formula E . Have you been in touch with anybody at Formula E? You know, your old pal Toto Wolff. Mercedes has got a team in that series, maybe the regulations, particularly, as far your situation are a little different. In any event, have you talked to anybody there about possibly getting involved?

Robert Wickens:
You know, I mean, yeah. Luckily I was able to end my relationship with Mercedes on very good terms. And Toto has been a regular person that I've been able to lean on throughout my recovery. Whether it be him coming to visit me when I was in the hospital still in Indianapolis to just kind of monthly or bi-monthly phone calls to check in, to see how everyone's doing. You know, he's such a great person. With that being said, there, there is no formal discussions with any Formula E teams. I mean, I would love the opportunity, but you know, right now at the moment, I think that that's a great championship, especially for accessibility given the advances in the technology that they have at their disposal there.

Question:
Hey, Robbie just wanted to follow up. So, you know, support systems on at any point, did you ever talk with like Alex Zanardi after say the 24 hours of Daytona or even, or even going longer for that, for that matter?

Robert Wickens:
I have actually. Yeah. I mean the whole support system in motorsports is phenomenal. You know, the amount of drivers that reached out to me and have talked to me, I'm sure a lot of sports are the same, but it's been amazing. And Alex was one of the first people to reach out to me. Once I was ready to take phone calls and you know, we immediately started talking shop and talking about what I needed to go racing again. And he gave me a lot of very good feedback on his experiences. Same with Billy. And not even that, like Trevor Carlin, who is the team boss for Billy, I was able to pick his brain on more of a technical aspect of what Billy used. But then, you know, every injury has its own kind of unique fix. So a lot of the things that they were using actually wouldn't work for me for example, but it's still very interesting to hear what they did and how they fixed or got around their problems.

Moderator:
I'm not seeing any additional questions and I understand the weather has improved there at Mid-Ohio. So we'll go ahead and let you get back in the car here for a little bit more, and we'll be eager to hear what that sounds like. We'll keep an eye on your socials for a final update once you're done for the day, but we really do appreciate your time to join us today, Robbie.
[ht: IMSA Communications]

Does anyone doubt the competitive resolve of this Canadian? 

We are "all in" on a Robert Wickens path/focus template in the pursuit of dreams in this finite process, yet unscripted treasure, of living life.

... notes from The EDJE




TAGS: Robert Wickens, IMSA, Michelin Pilot Challenge, Hyundai, Veloster, Bryan Herta Autosport, The EDJE

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Season-Opener Runner-Ups P2 Power & P3 Dixon Happy, But Not Surprised At Two-Stop Strategy

Podium race winners hold "The Chase" sculptured trophies above their heads during the "hat dance' - this with their engine manufacturers emblem on the front. Image Credit: Chris Owens via NICS (2021)


Season-Opener Runner-Ups P2 Power & P3 Dixon Happy, But Not Surprised At Two-Stop Strategy

Will Power and Scott Dixon were the head of the class of previous winners in the NTTINDYCAR SERIES in the season opener held at Barber Motorsports Park for the first time in the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama. They, however, were bested by a non-previous winner in second-year competitor Alex Palou who went off and hid during the first stint with an absolute wicked pace.

Other previous winners in the top 15 were outnumbered by non-winners largely because the rookie class for 2021 did well to finish this high in a field of 24 drivers. 

At the beginning of the race, 8 non-winners out numbered the winners (7) on Lap 89 of 90 Laps - the 7 drivers in the Winners Club, besides Will Power - Team Penske (2018 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion - 39 Wins), and P2, Scott Dixon - Chip Ganassi Racing (2008 Indianapolis 500 winner and Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion - 50 Wins), include ...

P5, Sebastien Bourdais - A.J. Foyt Enterprises (only INDYCAR driver to win four consecutive championships - 2004-2007 in Champ Car - and ranks sixth on Indy car career victory list with 37 wins).

P7, Graham Rahal - Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (six-time INDYCAR race winner who has won five times since 2015). 

P9, Alexander Rossi - Andretti Autosport (Seven-time Indy car race winner, won the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016, the first rookie to win the 500 since 2001 and the first American rookie to win at Indianapolis since 1928). 

P12, Simon Pagenaud - Team Penske (thirteen-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES race winner, including the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2019).

P13, Takuma Sato - Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (six-time INDYCAR race winner which includes being a two-time INDY 500 winner, 2017 & 2020}. 

To the bragging rights to all of the winners in the field, this all flipped when Alex Palou went from non-winner to Winner's Club when passing the Start/Finish Line at the end of Lap 90. 


NTT IndyCar Series News Conference 
Sunday, April 18, 2021 - Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Will Power - Team Penske No. 12 Chevrolet
Scott Dixon - Chip Ganassi Racing No. 9 Honda

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our second and third-place finishers today, Will Power from the No. 12 Team Penske Verizon, and No. 9 Scott Dixon from Chip Ganassi Racing who drives the PNC Bank car.

Thanks for joining us. We'll start with Will. I know you had a lot of momentum going out of last season and you wanted to get off to a good start. Go ahead and talk about your day for us, please.

WILL POWER: Yeah, obviously went from a three stopper to a two stopper with all those yellows at the beginning, which I didn't mind. I know we're very good at getting fuel and lap time, but Alex pulled away extremely fast.

I was surprised. I actually thought he was on a three stopper. But I think he had a very good middle stint saving fuel, and we came out close to him.

I still had to save a bit of fuel at the end there, so in the last few laps I could use Push-to-Pass. Made a little mistake which made the gap not possible to close.

Very happy with the day, though. Really, really just wanted a solid start to the season, and that's what we got here so far.

THE MODERATOR: Scott, obviously a wonderful podium finish for you and a great day for Chip Ganassi Racing with Alex Palou getting his first win. Go ahead and tell us about your day, as well.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it was definitely a huge day for the team. So good to see the 10 not just back on the podium but winning a race. It's been a lot of fun in the off-season. I think Alex has done a tremendous job. I think we had good pace.

It was just very tough once you were kind of in traffic and we even felt that once Will and I caught some lap traffic I think that middle stint we could have extended by probably another three laps, but because we caught that I think we just had to pit anyway to try and cover the 8 that was maybe trying to short pit us and jump on that situation.

Yeah, just, I don't know, it was kind of a bit of a blah day for us. We kind of sat there, tried to make some moments on the 12 car and with Will, but we just couldn't get close enough to pull it off and the speeds were so similar.

So congrats to everybody on the podium, and it's great to be back in Alabama. It was great to be back on the podium for us. Hopefully we can move up a couple spots come next weekend.

Q. Scott, I guess you've tested with Alex so you have a little bit of an idea what he's got; but Will, how familiar are you with Alex, and did you guys see or know that he had a win in him?

WILL POWER: Yeah. Yeah, I did, from last year, some of the pace he had at times and what he'd done in his previous series that he raced in. He was very, very good, a champion. It's not really a big surprise. It actually makes Ganassi a much stronger team because they've got two guys now that can win races (indiscernible).

Q. I know you've tested with Alex; were you expecting him to win so soon?

SCOTT DIXON: You know, it's hard to judge that, I think, just for the sheer fact that there's so many great teams, especially when you get to the first few races, it's hard to solidly know.

But yeah, his speed has been really good in preseason testing. We like a lot of similar things, the three of us, so it was good to see three CGR cars in the Fast Six. I'm not sure that's ever happened for us, so that was really good for us.

But last year, I think, as Will commented, even his podium at Elkhart was a pretty big effort coming through the field and what he did there and some of the speeds you saw with the team in his first season and last season for any kind of rookie was very tough. You hardly got any kind of track time.

Yeah, he turned up strong and it was the first one of the season. You can't start a season any better than that, and just feel real happy for him and the 10 car team, and it's definitely going to be a hell of a fight.

Q. I'm also curious, Jimmie yesterday tweeted he wasn't last in qualifying and he seemed really happy today after his race. Are these things that are small victories? They don't seem like victories, but are they?

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, absolutely. Again, I couldn't think of anything more difficult than what he's trying to accomplish. So I think some people said, Oh, you know, wait for judging anything until midway through the season, but I think you've got to wait until next season. I hope and I think the deal goes through next year.

But you know, as we see from my rookies, even from Alex last year, he didn't get a win. It takes time to progress, and once you get some laps, and even this year with limited schedules that we have on track time and tires, it just becomes very hard.

You want to push, but then you also don't want to crash the car. So it's a very fine balance.

I don't know, I think he finished in 18th or 19th. I saw he had a spin there. Without the spin I think he would have been a lot better off. You know, he beat five or six cars; that's awesome.

Q. Alex seems to be so upbeat and so positive in addition to being fast. What is it really like working with him, because talking to him the other day and talking to him all last season, he just always seems to be very positive and upbeat.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, he's actually one of those really nice guys. There has to be some underlying thing going on there somewhere. None of us have found it yet, but no, he's a really nice person. His family -- I've met his dad a few times now. Everyone is just super nice.

It's great to see somebody that's easy to work with. Some drivers that we all get to work with can be somewhat difficult, but he also is extremely willing and wanting to learn, asks a lot of questions, sends a lot of text messages to try and just do a better job.

He's been a real pleasure to work with through these times, the same with Marcus throughout the season, obviously Jimmie, as well. Yeah, he's just a super nice person.

Q. Do you think it helped him a little bit that there was so much attention placed on the other guy that's the newcomer to the team, that he was able to just go about and do what he was supposed to do, to go out there with the 10 car and have a good season?

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, maybe. But I think Alex is more of a kind of an under-the-radar type of person anyway. He's not very in your face or anything like that. You know, he definitely has a pretty relaxed personality, and then I think just wants the results to speak for themselves. Jimmie has been working hard, harder than all of us, I think, and that's a different dynamic all on its own, and maybe that does take a little bit of pressure off.

I also think when it's a four car team as opposed to a two car team that takes a little bit of pressure off, as well.

Q. For Will, to save your Push-to-Pass for the end of the race, how were you able to do that, and how realistic -- if you had been able to close the gap a little bit on Alex, how difficult would it have been to pass him?

WILL POWER: Yeah, it's pretty tough once you get close to them to pass. He would have had to have made a mistake or got caught behind someone slow that made a mistake.

I had saved enough fuel to use Push-to-Pass for the last two laps, then I made a mistake in Turn 9 and that opened the gap up too much. I closed right up to him at the end.

Obviously it's the last lap and he's not going to take any risks, but yeah, he was solid all day. It's very, very tough to even -- when he was pushing, it was so tough to close the gap. Yeah, I was happy just to have a good start to the year. Obviously it's only race one, but you know, obviously a win is always great. But compared to the way we started last season, this is nice.

Q. I wanted to ask how difficult it was to look after your red tires in that first stint and whether you think you would have had the same issues as O'Ward and Rossi appeared to have on the reds if you had gone after it and gone for a three-stop strategy.

WILL POWER: No, actually tires lasted the whole time for me. I could still pump out really fast laps at the end of the stint. They never went off. Reds never went off and the blacks never went off. They were just good. Yeah, I'm not sure if anyone else had issues, but that's how it felt to me.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I thought the reds were really good. I spoke to Pato briefly, and he said like they were just trying to cover the 27, so I don't think they were planning on doing that, and I don't think their degradation was playing into -- they I guess just thought everybody was going to switch after that three-stop strategy.

But yeah, I concur with Will that we had no real tire wear issues. We had some balance issues. It was definitely behind somebody or in traffic and maybe tire wear was up a little bit because of that. But yeah, tire wear was actually really good.

Q. I haven't checked the Firestone report yet, but did you struggle to get fresh blacks up to temp? Because that was another thing that Pato seemed to struggle on, as well, like it took ages for the fresh blacks to come in.

SCOTT DIXON: Mine, not too bad. I think kind of by lap 2, like your first out lap was a little tough on just trying to get rotation. Seems like the rears came in really quick for us just trying to get the car turned. But after the first kind of out lap and in your first time, they seemed to be pretty good.

I don't know what the other teams seemed to struggle with. We definitely caught the 10 car a lot I think on that last switchover or last pit stop sequence. So yeah, maybe some cars did struggle with that.

Q. Will, you touched on the start to the season and how you felt about that earlier, and I wanted to ask you a little bit more about that. Does this feel like kind of an emotional result for you? I know you're always looking for a win, but you've talked so much about needing that real strong start to the season. How are you kind of feeling sitting here now knowing that you've at least got that first race out of the way and scored a strong result?

WILL POWER: Yeah, it's just obviously satisfying to get a good start. Obviously it was a very calm day for me, and I'm calm about the season, to be honest. I've been around long enough to know how this ebbs and flows, and I think I've got a very good group of guys on my car this year.

I'm very happy with it. I think our stops are going to be really good all year. I think we've got the right combination to win another championship.

Yeah, just been calm, honestly, about the whole thing, and just trying to get the most out of every weekend and every situation we find ourselves in.

Q. Scott, nice to have another driver in the team who's capable of winning a race, and I guess you had that with Felix a little bit in the past, but it's probably been looking back to Dario the last time you had a regular winner in the team. Just wondered how you kind of interpret that because I guess for you, you want a strong teammate to help push the team forward and score points on a bad day, but at the same time Alex is taking points away from your championship today, so how do you kind of interpret that?

SCOTT DIXON: I think it's fantastic. At points we did have with that -- you know, with Felix and Marcus definitely had a strong start in qualifying. I don't know what happened with them later in the race, but he had a really strong actual second stint. He closed like an eight-second gap on Will and I, but looks like he maybe had fuel issues toward the end there.

Yeah, you know, I think it's great. It's kind of pushed the team forward, as you saw. I think, in qualifying to have three Ganassi cars in the Fast Six was a big day for us. Obviously we'd have wanted that to be one, two, three, but we were definitely a lot closer than we were in the past.

I think it will drive the team forward. It's great for team morale. It's great for the 10 car group. Obviously we expanded a lot in the off-season with additional INDYCAR, also the Xfinity and then the Cadillac program.

It's definitely been an interesting off-season, but this is huge for the team and hopefully that pumps everybody up.

Q. Scott, how much momentum does this give you guys as a team going forward to St. Pete but then also kind of further on in the season?

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, I hope so. I know Alex is going to be pretty pumped, so I think that will pull the whole team along. I think even when you have a bit of a bad day in that situation, that's going to pump you up, as well, just because the team has done so well.

Obviously a very different circuit, very different tires. There's a lot of different things that go into it. We'll keep our head down, of course, for confidence and feeling good this is a huge weekend for us as a whole, but it doesn't guarantee you anything.

You've got to work hard and put in the effort, and hopefully all of our cars will be strong come next week.

Q. Just a quick word on Jimmie for next week. Obviously he was with you guys in St. Pete last year. How do you think he's going to perform on a street course for the first time?

SCOTT DIXON: It's definitely going to be an eye opener for Jimmie. He's spent a good amount of time on the (indiscernible)^ which is definitely going to help the transition somewhat.

But a lot of us, it's more of like a commitment level that you kind of have to step outside the bounds a little bit to get the tire to work and then to get the confidence again, and it kind of just rolls into something.

So if you're a bit timid, the car feels horrible and you never really get on top of it. You've got to be aggressive but confidently aggressive, and I think we've tried to do enough sort of prep work with Jimmie that will help him get into it.

Detroit will be definitely a lot more difficult I think just for the first street course because of the grip levels there. Hopefully it goes well, but I know he's definitely put in the time and effort.

But again, you just get such limited track time these days with a couple of sessions and then you're straight into qualifying, so hopefully it goes well for him.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Will, and good luck next week in St. Pete.

Q. I'm just going slightly off tangent for you, Scott. You'll understand it. We've got effectively five Kiwis now up in the States in the greater INDYCAR Series with three in the Road to Indy, and as you know, I'm a trustee of the Motor Sport Academy down here, and these guys are seeing you very much as the guy to emulate and be one day.

I just wonder how that makes you feel as a New Zealander knowing we're getting more and more Kiwis up to the States now? Those that can travel, of course.

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, it's huge. I've been waiting 20 years to have a fellow Kiwi on the grid in INDYCAR, and that finally happened. Haven't seen how Scott did this afternoon, but he's done a tremendous job I think with fitting in and obviously with a great team.

But yeah, you know, I've caught up with Peter Vodanovich and then Hunter McElrea, and then I haven't seen I think it's Billy Frazer, I haven't seen him.

But been trying to keep up to speed on how they've done in races. I know they had a lot of bad luck this weekend with sort of mechanical issues. I think Hunter did a pretty good job.

Yeah, it's great. I think there's definitely a lot of talent in New Zealand. A lot of it sort of goes straight to Australia, whether it's Supercars or Porsche Cup or anything like that, but it's great to sort of see them tracking back to the American side and using the Road to Indy, which hopefully one day all three of those guys in those categories can make it to INDYCAR.

Q. It's important to come out of the box in good shape, isn't it?

SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, absolutely. It would have been if we had one, two, three for the team or one two three four. Obviously good stuff for the 10 car. St. Pete's will be interesting. Texas will be interesting. It was a track we didn't test at where I think the rest of the field did.

So it's a double-header, so could have a big swing potential in the points, but, yeah, I think the team is confident. I think we've covered a lot of areas I think in the off-season and tried to focus a little bit more, and the addition of Alex and Marcus sort of working on different parts of the program I think has really brought the team together, and we're definitely working well.

It's only one race, we'll just have to see how the next few go.

THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Scott, for joining us.
[ht: FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports]

... notes from The EDJE




TAGS: NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Chip Ganassi Racing, Alex Palou, Scott Dixon, Will Power, The EDJE

Monday, April 19, 2021

Welcome The Winner, Chip Ganassi Racing's Alex Palou, Into The NTT INDYCAR SERIES Winner's Club

Spaniard sophomore racecar driver to the open-wheel NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Alex Palou, with driving suit dripping in sprayed champagne, celebrates in Barber Motorsports Park Victory Circle with photographers and, of course, the trophy. Image Credit: Chris Owens via NICS (2020)


Welcome The Winner, Chip Ganassi Racing's Alex Palou, Into The NTT INDYCAR SERIES Winner's Club

There is only one club in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES that matters, at any time, and in any year, and that is the group of drivers that can be labelled as winners. Spaniard Alex Palou, in the first race of the 2021 Championship INDYCAR Season, won, for his first time, the first time season-opener held at Barber Motorsports Park ... the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama.

Other drivers still looking for their first time win in this most competitive professional motorsports series include the much heralded crop of rookies in name only (RINOs) - Romain Grosjean - Dale Coyne Racing with Rick Ware, Scott McLaughlin - Team Penske, and Jimmie Johnson - Chip Ganassi Racing. Other notable names that pop up that ended up in this season debut race in the top 15 (in a 24 entrant field) include NTT P1 Pole Award winner Pato O'Ward - Arrow McLaren SP, Rinus Veekay - Ed Carpenter Racing, Marcus Ericsson - Chip Ganassi Racing, Jack Harvey - Meyer Shank Racing, & Ed Jones - Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan.

The strength of the drive and strategy proved to be too much for two other winners in the club - at P2, Will Power - Team Penske (2018 Indianapolis 500 winner and 2014 NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion - 39 Wins), and P2, Scott Dixon (2008 Indianapolis 500 winner and Six-time NTT INDYCAR SERIES champion - 50 Wins). Not bad for a second year/sophomore series competitor.


NTT IndyCar Series News Conference
Sunday, April 18, 2021 - Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

Alex Palou - Chip Ganassi Racing

Press Conference

THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we've been joined by our race winner, Alex Palou, driver of the No. 10 Segi TV for Chip Ganassi Racing. New team, new sponsor, Alex, and your first career win. Go ahead and tell us how exciting your day was.

ALEX PALOU: Hey, everybody. I didn't know what to say. It was an amazing weekend. It was a really exciting race, really exciting qualifying. So yeah, I don't know what to say to be honest. Like I'm super, super proud of the team. The team did an amazing job, as you could see on qualifying.

We had three cars in the Fast Six, which it's amazing. It was my first Fast Six, and today they just gave me the best car. I just had to do the obvious things right, as Chip likes to say, and we kept it simple. We went for a two-stop, we were able to manage our fuel mileage and our tires, so I'm just super, super happy.

THE MODERATOR: We saw Chip lean into the window and talk to you when you pulled into Victory Lane. Can you give us a little bit what he might have said to you? We know Chip likes winners.

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, so basically he was just super happy. He was saying, Congratulations, and he told me, Welcome to the winners. So I'm a winner now. But we've just got to keep it building and keep it winning.

It's going to be tough, but we're leading the championship, so it's just amazing.

Q. Alex, was the original plan to do a two-stop race, or when Rossi and Pato hit the pits, did you guys just decide to wait and see what the deg was like on the Firestone reds?

ALEX PALOU: No, the first plan was to do a three-stop. I think to do a two-stop you had to go really, really slow just because of fuel mileage, but as we got two yellows, it was clear. Like as soon as the first yellow came I was already thinking on two stops. I was trying to save as much fuel as possible there.

To be honest, I saw that Rossi and Pato, they were not saving that much fuel. I was like wondering are they going to just not even try to do it or do they just know how to do it and not me. I was surprised that they didn't go for a two-stop because I think it was fairly easy after the two yellows.

But hey, I didn't call a two-stop. It was the team that they just told me, Now it's a time to push. Do 15 more laps and this is the target for fuel mileage that you have to do.

So that's what I did, and that's -- and it worked.

Q. I was wondering what you think of Romain's adaptation to INDYCAR. You went through it yourself last year. How do you think he's been doing so far not just in the race today, but in general?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, I think he did amazing yesterday. He's driving my car from last year -- well, with my team. He did really good being P7 there, and I don't know how he finished today, but yeah, so far, so good.

But he's a guy that's been doing single-seaters more than I've been walking, so it's a guy that has plenty of experience, and he's been doing it in the best level possible for a lot of years.

I kind of expected that.

Q. Let me see if I can get this right. So Montoya, Zanardi, Vasser, Dixon, Franchitti; you've done something that they didn't. You won in your Ganassi debut. What does that feel like?

ALEX PALOU: Amazing. It feels amazing. I think those names you said, they won more than one time, and they won championships. They are 10 steps ahead of me. It's just a start. It's just the beginning. But for sure we couldn't start better with Chip Ganassi Racing.

It means a lot, to be honest. Like winning a race in INDYCAR, it's not easy. You can see in the past, people struggle, and yeah, last year I was struggling a lot to be up front.

INDYCAR is so competitive that you don't know if next week -- it's just next week, like the car is going to be the same, I'm going to be the same, but you don't know where we're going to be.

We'll try to do our best, but for sure at the moment I'm going to embrace the feeling of being a winner, and I'll try to do it again.

I'll try to learn from them. So far it's been super good to have Dario, Scott, Jimmie, people that's been winning championships for more than one time, and being able to talk to them for everything I want. It has helped me to be here today.

I'll keep trying to learn as much as possible from them and just go for practice at St. Pete, go for qualifying, and go for the race, so we'll try to do that.

Q. You mentioned Jimmie and Scott there. Between the two of them there's 13 championships split between both of them. How has their knowledge been for you? In such a short period of time with racing for Chip, has it been very beneficial to have those champions, I guess, whispering in your ear a bit?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, I'm sure -- I'm in love with them. Like I'm in love with them. But I'm sure if you asked them, they are not going to say the same for me, because every time I see them I'm like, Hey, Scott, um, what did you do today, or how did you prepare that race or whatever, or how did you do the 2015 race?

And I'm the same with Jimmie. How do you keep up winning seven championships? How do you do it? So I think every time they see me around they are like, Oh, no, this guy again. But I'm enjoying it.

I try to learn everything from them.

I'll tell you that I've never been around a champion like them until this year, and seeing how they work, you understand why they are able to win that much and to be able to win that much.

I was surprised when I saw Scott that's been doing INDYCAR for, I don't know, 20 years, and has been winning six championships that he was at the shop every time I was there.

So I was like, Man, this is not possible. Like if I see him every time it means that maybe he's more. So I started going more and more, and he just works a lot.

Same goes for Jimmie, same goes for all the team. That was pushing me to be here now.


Q. Second Spaniard to win an INDYCAR race, 16 years after Oriol Servia. I wanted to ask you how you feel and how you perceive such an achievement for a driver who only a few years ago only had enough budget to race in GP3 and had INDYCAR as a distant future dream?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, thank you. Amazing, right, 16 years, second Spaniard? That's amazing. I didn't know that, and that's good to know.

It's just amazing, but I think it was part of the job, so when you are part of a big team and a successful team like Chip Ganassi, they give you all the tools. Like you have everything you need to win, and that's why you see so many successful drivers.

So I just have to thank the team for giving me the opportunity and all the sponsors. It's been amazing the road that we began single seaters. I went to Japan, spent time there, and my focus was to come here in U.S.

Last year I was struggling a bit, rookie year, pandemic going on, small team, didn't know any track, but now we had this opportunity, and I think we started out strong, but we've got to keep it up.

Q. How were the last 20 laps inside the car, especially knowing that you had Will Power behind you?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, it was not easy, especially because I had some guys in front. I had lap cars, and I was trying not to get to think too much and go over the radio like, Come on, go away.

I know INDYCAR is like that. I think it's good for the show. When you are leading it's not fun, but when you are P2 or you are P3 it's super fun. So I think it was fun, but I was like, Oh, man, please, go away.

The good thing is that I was not able to pass a lap car, so I think even if Will was just behind me, two tenths close to me, he was not able to pass me, either.

So yeah, I was trying to stay calm and the team was trying to keep me calm on the radio.

Q. I think you said that you're in love with Scott; does that mean you're in awe with him, like you're the little brother who's following him and learning from him?

ALEX PALOU: If I could, yeah, but I think his family wouldn't be so happy about that. But I try. I try. To be honest, when he's around, when we are around at the workshop and we are working, yeah, I try.

It's the opportunity I have been given. I think not everybody has the opportunity to be a young driver and having a champion as your teammate, so I try.

Q. When you got this opportunity to join the Ganassi team, what did you think?

ALEX PALOU: I thought that it was 50 percent of my dream. One of the dreams was to come here to the U.S. once you are in the U.S. you want to be more and you want to be competitive, and to be competitive I wanted to be part of Chip.

I actually introduced myself to Chip at the Indy 500 because I wanted to be part of that team. I saw the spirit of the team, just because of the years I was following. And yeah, to be part of Chip Ganassi is 50 percent of another dream, which is to become a champion.

But it's just 50 percent. I have to do the job now.

Q. So 50 percent was to join Ganassi and the other 50 percent is to be a champion?

ALEX PALOU: Of course.

Q. And how long did you think it would take to win a race?

ALEX PALOU: I thought it was going to be during this year because I saw that my pace was good, I was comfortable with the car, with the team. But you never know in INDYCAR if it's going to come on the first race, on the last race, in the middle, or maybe the second year.

Like it's not bad to not win a race. But yeah, I didn't really expect to win a race the first weekend, but to be honest, when I saw my pace during free practice and qualifying, I was like, Man, we've got a shot.

This morning when I woke up I felt like I had lots of chances to win. We did it.

Q. In all this following around Scott, what do you learn the most?

ALEX PALOU: I learn that you've got to keep working as hard as possible every day, not only in the races, not only when you are struggling. You've got to go to work -- maybe not tonight. Maybe tonight I can have a good fatty dinner because I like fatty dinner after win.

But tomorrow I have to go 8:00 a.m. and work and prepare St. Pete, because that's what they do, that's how you keep on working, and that's what I'm going to do tomorrow.

Q. What kind of dinner did you say you like?

ALEX PALOU: So to be honest, I like fried chicken after a win or after a race. I don't know what's wrong with the drivers, but I think that 80 percent of the drivers will tell you that after a race we need something that is not good for our body, and that's what I'm going to take tonight, if I can.

Q. Fried chicken?

ALEX PALOU: Fried chicken.

Q. Kentucky Fried Chicken?

ALEX PALOU: I don't care. Fried chicken, whatever. And fries. Lots of fries.

Q. Alex, I was kind of curious, and I've got to give Rob Howden credit here. Back at Mid-Ohio last year you had told INDYCAR radio that you didn't have budget for 2021. I'm kind of curious how the situation played out for you ending up at Ganassi and being able to pay it forward right out of the gate this year?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, that was true, and I didn't really have strong talks with Chip at the moment, so that was completely -- I was devastated by Mid-Ohio because we had a good chance to stay up front and we crashed on the first lap, so that was not good, and that's not what I needed.

But Chip -- and not only Chip, but all the team trusted in me, believed in me, and they gave me this opportunity, which is amazing. Like going from not knowing if you're going to be around next year or not and then suddenly they give you the champion car, it's like, wow, amazing.

Q. How long was that holding pattern for you just kind of not knowing what your future was going to be for this year?

ALEX PALOU: That normally goes from January to December, to be honest. It's been like that all my life. But here in INDYCAR, it came earlier. The season starts, the preseason or post-season starts earlier, and I think just before St. Pete I knew that I was going to be driving the No. 10 this year.

Q. I asked Scott, he said, you come over and you're always so upbeat and positive and this and that, and Scott says, He's really just a nice guy. He says, We keep looking for bad things that we can find out about him and we can't find anything. When you hear a guy like Scott Dixon describe you that way, what do you think?

ALEX PALOU: Wow, I didn't know he felt like that, so that's really cool. That's amazing. I'm just in a happy place. I am racing cars in the U.S. I'm driving INDYCARs and I'm driving for the best team. They gave me the opportunity to be here talking with you guys and winning races, so that's why I'm always smiling, always positive, and I'll keep like that as long as I keep racing.

Q. Also this arrangement you had last year with Team Goh and Dale Coyne Racing. How important was that to get you where you are today? What did you learn in that season with Dale Coyne Racing and with Team Goh that's really been a longtime supporter of yours?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, it was everything I needed. Like Team Goh and Delco, they were able to take me from Japan to the U.S. to INDYCAR, which is a crazy move, and they made it happen. They gave me the chance to show everybody what I could do or what I thought I could do, and to have the opportunity to drive with Chip Ganassi Racing today.

Yeah, I owe everything to Team Goh, to Delco, and to be honest, I've been to those places a lot of times in my life, like from the car team there was somebody that helped me to go to Europe, to the European Championships, and then to go to single seaters and then always there was somebody there to helped me to do the next step. I've been really lucky in life.

Q. I think it was back in March where you said that you believed that you would be able to score a win before Fernando Alonso and before Carlos Sainz. Congratulations on fulfilling that. I wanted to ask, if you had stuck to the three-stop strategy, did you feel that you had the pace in the car to beat O'Ward and Rossi if it had come down to one of those races where it's just flat-out and it's a three-stop strategy?

ALEX PALOU: You never know. You never know what could happen, but I think I was able just because when we started pushing, like when we were racing with them, I was saving fuel already, like I was hitting my numbers and I was just keeping my tires and saving fuel to be able to go for a two-stop.

I didn't know they were not, so that's why I was like, Man, they are pushing a lot and they had some more pace than me, but it was just that I was fuel saving and they were not.

So I thought maybe with Pato, I thought Pato was strong, so it would have been something with strategy that we could do to overtake him, and with Rossi I think we could have done something on track to overtake.

Q. Will was saying that it blew his mind that he assumed that you were so fast because you were on a three-stop strategy, as well. Clearly Ganassi has done its homework on road courses over the winter. Does this give you further encouragement for places like Road America, Mid-Ohio and those kinds of tracks?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, a hundred percent, a hundred percent. I think everybody could see from free practice that Chip Ganassi did an amazing job over the winter, especially on qualifying. Like qualifying we struggled -- they struggled a lot last year, and suddenly first race and you put three cars in the Fast Six.

I think it's going to be good also when we go back to Indy road course, to Mid-Ohio, to Road America, but you never know if you're going to have such a good day yesterday. But we'll try and we'll work for that.

Q. Looking at Barber Motorsports Park, you've tested here before, never raced here. Are there any circuits that you've raced on around the world that give you a little bit of a reference like, oh, I've driven this track like this before, that you've been able to use to help you in your experience?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, it's true that we never raced before, but it was good to be able to test here. And yeah, for sure, over the years with experience you go through so many tracks that when you go back you say, Hey, this Turn 1 is the same as Turn 5 in, I don't know, in Budapest, for example.

For sure it helps, but Man, every track is different. Every day changes. Every lap changes because there's more rubber, less rubber. So it was hard to keep up with those guys, but yeah, we did it.

Q. I know you spoke earlier in the off-season about feeling fairly confident that a win would at least be the target this year and would be possible, but after today's result, getting it so early, how does this impact your interpretation of going for the championship this year? Do you think that's a realistic and achievable goal for you, or is that setting your sights a little bit high based on one victory?

ALEX PALOU: Yeah, I think it's a target for the 24 drivers or 28 drivers that are doing post-season. Yeah, it's achievable. That's the end target, but that's not what I'm thinking now. I'm thinking about St. Pete, free practice, qualifying, and hopefully gets lots of points and hopefully be on the podium and hopefully win the race.

This championship is so long that you need to take it one race at a time, and yeah, maybe when it's three races to go we can start talking about what's really the championship or how is it going. But at the moment let's focus on St. Pete, try to do the best result we can there. If we have a car to finish fifth, try to finish fourth, and that's what we're going to try to do all year.

THE MODERATOR: Alex, that's it for you for this press conference. Congratulations on your first career win in the NTT INDYCAR Series. Really exciting day and we can't wait to see you in St. Pete next week.
[ht: FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports]

FIFTH GEAR: FIVE TAKEAWAYS FROM BARBER RACE
By Zach Horrall | Published: Apr 19, 2021

It was a battle between two young athletes eyeing their first career win, with Palou and the No. 10 SEGI.TV Chip Ganassi Racing team’s two-stop strategy getting the best of pole sitter Pato O’Ward and the No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP team’s three-stop strategy. Sandwiched between the young stars were series champions and Indy 500 winners Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon 5G Team Penske Chevrolet and Scott Dixon in the No. 9 PNC Bank Grow Up Great Honda in second and third, respectively.

The season-opening race offered a lot to take in before we get to the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg this Sunday, April 25 (noon ET, live on NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network). Allow us to shift our minds into Fifth Gear to see what we learned in Birmingham, Alabama - LINK >>>.
[ht: NICS]

... notes from The EDJE




TAGS: NTT INDYCAR SERIES, Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama, Chip Ganassi Racing, Alex Palou, Scott Dixon, Will Power, The EDJE

Friday, April 16, 2021

Chevrolet Sets Table For 2021 And Gives Hints On Future Hybrid Engine Evolution Development

Felix Rosenqvist taking a break between testing sessions at the 2-Day IMS Open Test in his new Chevrolet-powered Arrow McLaren SP Dallara. This will be the first year he will compete in a Chevrolet-powered NTT INDYCAR SERIES ride. He posted a 16th fastest time in the 2-Day IMS Open Test. Image Credit: Chris Jones via NICS (2021)


Chevrolet Sets Table For 2021 And Gives Hints On Future Hybrid Engine Evolution Development

A pre-season NTT INDYCAR SERIES ZOOM Call was held in advance of the first race of the 2021 championship season. The call, held with members of the world press, was fairly open-ended and highlighted current developments on the 10 year old turbo-charged 2.2 liter specification racing engine, and gave additional information on the developments of the 2023 Hybrid 2.4 liter specification racing engine.

It was stressed that nothing will be left on the table for 2021 or 2022 in terms of continued evolution of improving performance power bands and reliability on the current 2.2 liter power plants as the all new 2.4 liter specification comes forward for 2023.


CHEVROLET RACING IN NTT INDYCAR SERIES - INDY GP OF ALABAMA - APRIL 17-18 - BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK - LEEDS. ALABAMA

CHEVROLET ZOOM CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT - APRIL 15, 2021

MARK STIELOW, DIRECTOR OF MOTORSPORT COMPETITION FOR INDYCAR, IMSA,NHRA (CHEVROLET AND CADILLAC) 

ROB BUCKNER, CHEVROLET RACING ENGINEERING PROGRAM MANAGER FOR INDYCAR 

CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT - MEDIA VIA ZOOM AND DISCUSSED OUTLOOK FOR NEW INDYCAR SEASON STARTING WITH THIS WEEKEND AT BARBER MOTORSPORTS PARK, THE INDY 500 AND OTHER FUTURE ENGINE DEVELOPMENT TOPICS. 

THE MODERATOR:
First of all, some introductions of two people who you probably have heard of but may not have met yet, we’re going to make that right today. 

The first is Mark Stielow, the General Motors Director of Motorsport Competition Engineering for the INDYCAR Series, IMSA, and NHRA for Chevrolet and Cadillac. 

We also have Rob Buckner, the Chevrolet Engineering Program Manager for the INDYCAR Series, as well.
 
Mark, let’s start with you. Please talk to us about what your overall expectations and goals are for the Chevrolet INDYCAR program ahead of the opening weekend at Barber.
 
MARK STIELOW:
“I joined the team back in September and am getting up to speed. We kind of got INDYCAR racing going after the COVID-19 hibernation we did; so, I got to the last couple of races in the season and then went into the off-season. There was a lot of work done by our engine partners and our teams to get us ready for this season. And I think we’re going to have some strong teams and I think things are going to look pretty good for us this year.”
 
Rob, it’s been a long time since we’ve been in action, but you were in Indianapolis recently for the open test. Talk with us about some of the highlights of that session and what you think we can look forward to in the opening couple of rounds.
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“Thank you everyone for taking the time to talk with us today. I know a lot of familiar faces, and miss seeing you on pit lane. We’ve been so limited. We used to do these types of things in person and now everything is a video call. Thank you for everything you have done to try to cover motorsports during COVID-19 and people not being at the track. Going into this year, it’s always great for us when we can run at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Track time testing there is very limited. We had a great two days there. We’ve already run over 8500 miles on our 2021 race engines and 4900 of those came from Indianapolis. So, we really ran a lot of miles over those two days in preparation. I think we learned a lot. We’re always working with our teams. Our engine program is always looking for any opportunity to improve and we’re excited to get going.”
 
Q&A’s:
 
Q.) A RECENT GENERAL COMMENT BY PENSKE DRIVERS WAS THAT THERE SEEMS TO BE A LITTLE BIT MORE TORQUE OUT OF THE HONDA ENGINE OVER THE CHEVY ENGINE. WHAT IS YOUR VIEW ON THAT EVEN THOUGH WE ALL KNOW THE ENGINE PERFORMANCES ARE EXTREMELY TIGHT AND EXTREMELY CLOSE?
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“Yeah, it’s interesting. The 2.2 liters have been in competition for 10 years. And I think over that time, both us and our competitors have recognized and addressed some weaknesses that we’ve had, individually. Or, sometimes we’ve got a slight advantage somewhere and they always catch up. The general thought is we’ve always had a very strong top end and they’ve always had a very strong mid-range. I think we’ve kind of converged to a very similar torque delivery but all we can control is our own power profile going into this weekend, and I think we’ve got a very robust package for Barber. 

Team Penske's Will Power is looking forward to getting back on the track in his Verizon sponsored 5G machine. He's had great success at Barber Motorsports Park and he believes this season opener will be his. Image Credit: Joe Skibinski (2021)

To Will’s comments, the surface has a lot of grip. A lot of times at road courses we’re struggling to put power down and Barber is kind of unique in that I think this weekend, the car and the tire is going to be able to take all that the engine can give it. And that’s what we’ve been preparing to do. I think we’ll be in a pretty good place come this weekend.”
 
Q.) YOU COVER ALL THE OTHER MAJOR RACING CIRCUITS HERE IN AMERICA, WHETHER IT BE IMSA OR NHRA OR NASCAR OR WHATEVER; WHAT DO YOU SEE AS YOURBIGGEST CHALLENGES OVERALL?
 
MARK STIELOW:
“The biggest challenges that we’re working on right now is you know, folks spend a lot of time on Sports Car racing. So, the GTLM class is going to converge into GT Daytona Pro. So, we’ve been working a lot on a conversion package for that. And there has been a lot of investigation, a lot of work has been done, on our end studying the LMDh proposal. 

LMDh is very interesting to us and there’s going to be a lot of manufacturers in that space, so we’ve been heavily looking at that. So, there’s a lot of activity going on in that space. My counterpart, Eric Warren, has got all the NASCAR stuff and with all the work going into NG7 car, and with that getting ready to launch next year, there’s a lot of activity in that space also. So, there’s going to be some exciting stuff going on in motorsports in the next few years.”
 
Q.) ON THE CHEVROLET DETROIT GRAND PRIX WEEKEND, IT’S BEEN A BIG INCONVENIENCE WITH THE RE-SCHEDULING OF EVENTS THIS PAST YEAR. RECENTLY WE’VE LEARNED DETROIT WILL BE THE TRADITIONAL IMSA/INDYCAR DOUBLEHEADER AND A HOMETOWN DEBUT ON THE CORVETTE C8.R. WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF THAT WEEKEND TO SHOWCASE GM RACING’S TECHNOLOGY WITH CADILLAC, CORVETTE, AND CHEVROLET?
 
MARK STIELOW:
“It’s always good to play on a home field. We’ll be racing in the shadow of the Ren Cen. In my previous jobs at GM, I’ve actually driven some of the parade cars down there. So, it’s nice to run that event and for us to do well. Unfortunately, our competitors won’t be showing up to race against the Corvettes, so we’ll be running exhibition only. There are some prior commitments that Porsche has that they can’t get out of, so we’ll be running the Corvette exhibition. And the Cadillacs will be there strong and INDYCAR also. It’s always a fun event. I’m hoping that COVID-19 turns around and we can have it be a well-attended event, but that’s still kind of up in the air right now.”
 
Q.) ONE OF THE BIG QUESTIONS WE’VE GOTTEN SINCE LAST YEAR’S INDY 500 IS WILL WE HAVE CHEVY BACK, HOPEFULLY ON EQUAL TERMS; MAKING IT A TRUE QUESTION MARK AS TO HOW THE 2021 EVEN WILL PLAY OUT. IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WERE ABLE TO TAKE FROM THE OPEN TEST HERE THAT MIGHT LEAD BOWTIE FANS TO HOPE AND BELIEVE THAT THERE COULD BE A REALLY HARD AND COMPETITIVE RUN HERE IN MAY THAT MIGHT LEAD INTO A REVERSAL OF FORTUNE FROM LAST YEAR’S EVENT?
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“I think so. I always joke with our group that hope is a very bad plan. So, we’ve had to really dig deep and try to look at where we missed it last year. Collectively, our groups have never worked better together when you look across the Chevrolet performance team with Ilmor and Pratt & Miller and everyone at Chevy, and then our race teams. I can’t thank them enough for all that they’ve contributed in the off-season. And we didn’t play a blame game. We just left there frustrated with our overall performance and have done everything we could since late August there to address it for this year. I think that the cars have changed enough that it’s kind of a re-set from 2020 when you look at the new aero parts that INDYCAR is introducing there. It seemed like at the test that guys could follow closer is maybe a little easier to pass with the barge boards and some of the different floor configurations that INDYCAR has come up with. But that was a pretty favorable day. It was cool and cloudy. I’m sure if we have a 95-degree sunny race day it’s still going to be really difficult. So, we’ve put a lot of emphasis on how we are going to qualify better, how are we going to get the most out of our engine package; like I said, we’ve visited every area of performance and tried to polish on everything. Our group is very detail-oriented, so I think we’re going to have a strong package.”
 
Q.) THE END OF 2022 IS THE END OF THE CURRENT INDYCAR ENGINE REGULATIONS. YOU ARE PROBABLY WORKING RIGHT NOW ON THE NEW ENGINE CONFIGURATION. BUT FOR THIS CURRENT ENGINE, IS THERE STILL DEVELOPMENT GOING ON?
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“Yeah, we’re very fortunate to have a lot of depth and talent and motivated people. So, there’s still things we can work on in the 2.2 liter. There are some areas that are always open. And we’re running 2.4 liters now. We have our first engines on the dyno. We’re very happy with where that program is at and we’re multi-tasking. It’s very busy times for the engine program. We still have to go to the track. We’ve got to race the 2.2 liter approximately 32 to 34 more times. We’re not looking to give up anything there. And then we’ve got to have a prom debut in 2023 as well. So, the engine-side of things is flat out at the moment.”
 
Q.) JOSEF NEWGARDEN WAS TALKING LAST MONTH ABOUT HOW THE COVID RESTRICTIONS HAVE REQUIRED THEM TO WORK SMARTER AND MORE EFFICIENT AND THAT THEY STRUGGLED WITH THAT LAST YEAR AND WEREN’T ABLE TO USE OPTIMIZATION ACROSS ALL THE CARS. FROM A CHEVROLET PERSPECTIVE, HOW ARE YOU APPROACHING THESE CHALLENGES?
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“COVID-19 has affected motorsports and everyone in the paddock kind of the same. We don’t look at it as an excuse that we have less track time because it’s the same for all the competitors. There has been a trend in the last five years that track time is reduced and you have to roll off the trailer very, very strong. If you’re completely lost Friday morning or Saturday morning, it doesn’t make that much difference. But overall, we’re all recognizing come P1, you really need to be in the window, you need to be close; and then just polish on it. Ideally, you don’t make many changes. So, the pre-event preparation, I think, circuit by circuit, how we use our DIL simulator working with teams and drivers before we ever get to the race track; all those things were already trending in this direction, and then with the COVID-19 reductions in track time, it’s really just amplified it. I don’t think anyone would have ever thought two years ago that NASCAR would only have really four practice sessions in an entire year. So, even within NASCAR, that’s the extreme; and then specific to INDYCAR, we have a reduction but not an elimination of practice. So, we still have an opportunity to learn and improve; especially at street courses where you cannot test. But Jay Frye and his group have done a great job of putting together a pretty logical plan of street courses. They’re mostly three-day events. Road courses are two days. If you really struggle at a road course you can test there in the off-season. So, I think we’re really pleased with how INDYCAR has handled this and the direction that it’s going. For us, it just amplifies the work you do before getting to the race track really matters and needs to be correct.”
 
Q.) WHAT’S THE BREAKDOWN BETWEEN ILMOR ENGINEERING AND GM IN TERMS OF WHAT DO THEY DO AND WHAT DO YOU DO ON THE ENGINE? AND WHEN IT COMES TO THE HYBRID THAT’S COMING IN, WHO IS GOING TO DO THE HYBRID PIECE? WHO IS GOING TO INTEGRATE IT?
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“Our technical group tries really hard to not operate in silos or individual company-type thinking. So, we all work for the Chevrolet program. We’re all pulling in the same direction all the time. So, we really blur those lines. A lot of times the collaboration amongst the group has been spectacular. And even breaking down, just beyond the engine program, of bringing in the race teams to these conversations and where we want things to progress over time. So, I would like to think, internally, that Ilmor and GM are all just one engine program working together to try to have the best package we can. There are certainly strengths Ilmor has that we don’t have and vide-versa. We have some analysis and tools that as General Motors and Chevrolet is very useful. And Ilmor is a very competent, excellent engine supplier in motorsports. So, I think we try to put all that together and that makes us have an overall really good engine package.”
 
Q.) HOW POSSIBLE IS IT TO TEST THE 2.4 LITER ENGINE WITHOUT THE HYBRID SYSTEM HOOKED UP? ARE YOU ABLE TO PUT A FIGURE ON HOW MUCH THE INCREASED DISPLACEMENT OF THE ENGINE AND HOW MUCH WOULD COME FROM THE HYBRID?
 
MARK STIELOW:
“On the hybrid-side we could emulate that. Before we get the hybrid unit, we can run some simulations on our dyno to simulate that. On the power-side of the equation, I’ll let Rob answer that. I haven’t really been in all the details of that yet.”
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“I think somewhat lost in the 2.4 liter transition is the fact that we’re going up in base boost as well. So, the easy thing is to think we’re going up roughly 10 percent in displacement. We’re going to go up 10 percent in power; but also, we’re going to start operating at 1.6 bars, the standard for street courses instead of 1.5 bar. And you put all that together with the hybrid unit, I think fans will be pleased with the power projections and where the engine programs are headed overall. To answer your question, we can’t run a 2.4 liter with a hybrid. Once you delete an alternator it is gone for good. So, I think all of us, INDYCAR, Honda, Chevrolet are all in for the hybrid unit to run the 2.4 liter is going to be required, not optional.”
 
Q.) THE 900 HP TARGET AT INDYCAR, WHEN DO YOU THINK WE’LL SEE THE ENGINES HITTING THAT MAGIC MARK?
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“I’m not sure. I think a lot of that depends on the finalized specs of the hybrid unit, which is really INDYCAR’s area of development during this. On the engine-side, we’re just going to focus on getting all we can out of the 2.4 liter at all the various race levels of boost.”
 
Q.) IN THE PAST YOU HAVE USED THE INDYCAR ENGINE PROGRAM TO HELP DEVELOP THINGS LIKE DIRECT INJECTION TECHNOLOGY AND TO RUN ENGINEERS THROUGH. WITH THE CHANGING LANDSCAPE IN POWERING CARS, IS THAT STILL THE MAIN PURPOSE FOR BEING PART OF A SERIES LIKE INDYCAR?
 
MARK STEILOW:
“Yeah, my counterpart, Russ O’Blenes, has the propulsion-side of motorsports, and there are a lot of young engineers in that space that learned about racing and there’s also joint development work being done both at Ilmor like Rob talked about Ilmor and GM up at Pontiac for motorsports powertrain development. So, there is still a lot of technology transferred between the two. It’s still a viable training ground for us to learn more things and for us to develop people, processes, and tools to become better. General Motors and Chevrolet are still going to keep on making internal combustion engines for a while; so, we’re going to keep on pushing it as far as we can.”
 
Q.) I WON’T ASK ALL THE NAMES OF THE TEAMS AND ENTRIES YOU’LL BE ENGAGED WITH FOR THE INDY 500, BUT CAN YOU TELL US THE ANTICIPATED FINAL NUMBER OF CHEVY-POWERED ENTRIES? AND IF YOU ARE UN-SIGNING TEAMS OR IF THERE ARE STILL POSSIBILITIES FOR MORE TO BE HAD FOR THE MONTH OF MAY?
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“That’s a very good question given the time of year. I think that’s the most cars last week we’ve ever run at Indy during an open test which, for our group…. It’s a difficult expansion when you go from running 10 to 11 full-time cars and then I think last week we had15 and then that’s kind of an incremental step. We expect we may add another one. We’re not completely sure. But it’s getting close to crunch time, so we’re close to finalizing. For us it’s really do we have the parts and the people to do it. And if race teams put something together, we try to be good partners with our teams; and we’ll figure out a way to make it happen.”
 
Q.) REGARDING 2023 HYBRIDIZATION AND INDYCAR, GENERAL MOTORS HAS NOT CONFIRMED ANYTHING IN REGARD TO IMSA AND LMDH, BUT BY CHANCE BOTH CLASSES WILL INDEED BE GOING HYBRID AT THE SAME TIME. AT LEAST WHILE PLANNING TO BE IN INDYCAR, CONSIDERING BEING IN IMSA, IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO AS A MANUFACTURER KNOWING THAT NASCAR IS ALSO LOOKING AT HYBRIDIZATION? WHAT DO YOU DO AND HOW DO YOU TREAT ALL THESE POSSIBILITIES FOR THE PLACES WHERE YOU ARE RACING, COULD BE RACING, SWITCHING TO THIS NEW TECHNOLOGY WITH POSSIBLY EACH ONE A BIT DIFFERENT THAN THE OTHER? DO YOU WORK WITH THESE SANCTIONING BODIES AND SAY HEY, DON’T ASK US TO BUY THREE DIFFERENT ONES OF THE SAME UNIT? HOW DO YOU TREAT WHAT COULD BE THREE VERY DIFFERENT THINGS?
 
MARK STIELOW:
“Right now, all the conversations I’ve been in and everything we’ve seen, there is very little sharing between the sanctioning bodies. So yeah, in a utopian world, it would be awesome if those guys all worked together, and we could come up with a common solution. But for a lot of reasons, everybody wants their own special mousetrap. So, what I’ve seen so far is everybody is heading down a slightly different path. But that stuff seems to be changing all the time. These meeting are constantly evolving.”
 
Q.) THERE HAS BEEN SOME TALK OR RUMORS ABOUT WHAT F-1 DOES. THEY CAPTURE MGU-H TO TAKE THE HEAT OFF THE ENGINE AND CONVERTING THAT TO ENERGY IN THE BATTERY. IS THAT ANY TALK OF DOING THAT FOR INDYCAR OR IS THAT STRICTLY A KINETIC ENERGY SYSTEM?
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“Yeah, it’s been an interesting conversation with INDYCAR because we would be the first series to run a Hybrid on an oval. So, a lot of this is very conceptual. To your point, INDY qualifying engine duty cycle is ideally 100 percent if you never lift. So, how do you get any kinetic energy from that? Other times during the race, the engine duty cycle is not 100 percent when you’re in traffic. So that does open up the possibility of the car wasting some energy there. In the end it’s an energy balance equation that INDYCAR is going to need us or going to need to tell us how that want this. It also adds a layer of complexity and cost that I’m not sure is the right fit for INDYCARS. So, I think we’re leaning more toward it’s going to be a kinetic recovery system primarily.”
 
Q.) THE PUSH TO PASS WE HAVE TODAY, IS THAT COMPLETELY GOING AWAY WITH THE HYBRID? OR WILL THERE STILL BE A TURBO BOOST PUSH TO PASS IN COMBINATION WITH THE HYBRID SYSTEM?
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“The nice thing is with our boosted engines is if any point during the development and first test of the hybrid unit we need more or less power, the engine programs function on electric wastegates. So, it’s relatively easy to change the boost limitations if INDYCAR desires that. I think that. If they need us to help push with a little bit more boost, I’m sure we would easily be able to do that.”
 
Q.) YOU MENTIONED EARLIER THAT YOU’VE DEVOTED A LOT OF TIME LATELY TO IMSA AND THE LMDH AND GTD-PRO. CAN YOU GIVE US AN IDEA ON WHEN GM MIGHT REACH A DECISION OR MAKE AN ANNOUNCEMENT ON FUTURE PARTICIPATION THERE?
 
MARK STIELOW:
“I would say it would be in the next 45 days.”
 
Q.) CONCERNING THE NEW ENGINE WITH THE HYBRID 2.4 LITER, CAN YOU SAY SOMETHING ABOUT THE MEASUREMENTS?
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“INDYCAR and us are working around the assumption that it will be around the same size engine, physically. We’re going up in bore size but 2.4 is not a huge architecture change. Our engine is going to be all-new. I don’t know of any carryover components that we’re taking from the 2.2 liter. So, from that perspective, it’s a clean sheet design; but fitting in the same envelope, if you will.”
 
Q.) ON THE ISSUE OF COST, IF YOU HAD TO GUESS, WHAT INCREASE WOULD THERE BE TO THE TEAMS WHEN THE HYBRID SYSTEM IS IMPLEMENTED, PER SEASON?
 
ROB BUCKNER:
“That’s pretty open-ended and not really defined at the moment as the early hardware and INDYCAR is still working through what that system is going to look like. It’s really not going to be a part of our relationship with the teams, so I’m not really familiar. I know that Jay Frye and Darren Samsum are leading that program for INDYCAR and they’re very cost-conscious; and they’ve been involving the teams in these discussions. So, we think overall, the paddock will be able to make that work. But I can’t say I know any exact figures or details as of today.”
[ht: Inside Track Communications For Chevrolet]

... notes from The EDJE






TAGS: Mark Stielow, Rob Buckner, General Motors, Chevrolet, Cadillac, NTT INDYCAR SERIES, IMSA, NHRA, Hybrid 2.4 Liter. Turbo 2.2 Liter, The EDJE