Monday, May 29, 2017

TAKU Outwits, Outlasts, Outplays To Win INDY500

TAKU Outwits, Outlasts, Outplays To Win INDY500 - His Second Verizon IndyCar Race

Andretti Autosport may actually be doing more for the Andretti name in racing than any single family-named driver can do. Talk about a legacy!

After winning the 100th Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Andretti Autosport follows up this performance with Honda and former F1 driver Takuma Sato.

From L to R - JR Hildebrand, Fernando Alonso, and Takuma Sato in driver introductions for the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil in front of instantly recognizable The Panasonic Pagoda. Takuma Sato, who was also sponsored by Panasonic, won one other race in addition to this great event that is starting its second millennia of history ... as stated by writer, photographer, and custom guitar creator Timo Hulett - the other race has often been described as "the INDY500 of street courses" and that race is the Toyota Grand Prix Of Long Beach. If one is going to win just two races in an IndyCar career, why not make them the two most famed race events in American motor culture! Image Credit: Joe Skibinski via IndyCar (2017)

This excerpted and edited from Andretti Autosport -

Tokyo-native Captures Second Career IndyCar Win at Indianapolis 500

Japanese driver Takuma Sato scored his second career Verizon IndyCar Series victory today when he saw the double checkers wave through the Indiana sky. 

Marking his 123nd career IndyCar start, the 40-year-old began today’s Indianapolis 500 from the 4th position and battled through 200 laps before driving his No. 26 Ruoff Home Mortgage Honda to victory lane. Today’s win is Sato’s first with Andretti Autosport after joining the team for the 2017 season. Sato earned his first victory on the Streets of Long Beach, Calif., in 2013

This [win] is the 56th Verizon IndyCar Series victory for Andretti Autosport. Since 2003, Andretti Autosport has scored four series titles (‘04/Kanaan, ‘05/Wheldon, ‘07/Franchitti and ‘12/Hunter-Reay) and five Indianapolis 500 wins (‘05/Wheldon, ‘07/Franchitti, ‘14/Hunter-Reay, ‘16/Rossi, and '17/Sato). 
It wasn't cool enough to have a California born and raised American rookie with European F1 racing experience win the "Greatest Spectacle In Racing" virtually his first time in the cockpit of an IndyCar Dallara ... let's follow this up with fielding enough cars to own the field.
Andretti Autosport has four full-time entries in the Verizon IndyCar Series, with Soto, [last year's winner] Alexander Rossi  (No. 98 NAPA AUTO PARTS / Curb  Honda), [third-generation Andretti] Marco Andretti (No. 27 United Fiber & Data Honda) and [2012 winner] Ryan Hunter-Reay (No. 28 DHL Honda) and two  Indy 500-only drivers, [2-time F1 Champion] Fernando Alonso (No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti) and [former member of McLaren-Honda's young driver program] Jack Harvey (No. 50 Michael Shank Racing with Andretti Autosport Honda).
[ht: Andretti Autosport]

Andretti Autosport's Suvivor program with four of the six cars fielded pictured here at IMS. Eventual winner Takuma Sato, followed closely by  eventual P8 finisher Marco Andretti. In the background are the two early strong running cars of two-time F1 Champion and INDY rookie Fernando Alonso and IndyCar Champion and past INDY500 winner Ryan Hunter-Reay - both cars expired with blown engines. Before Fernando Alonso's Honda engine blew up, he held the fastest average lap times of all drivers on the track. Image Credit: Mike Harding via IndyCar (2017)

Let's be clear, "The Greatest Spectacle In Racing" is the motorsports equivalent to the American television's reality series Survivor. This long-running and popular television episode contest pits people with all different backgrounds and experience out in a remote location and have them fend for themselves for food and compete for immunity in made-up games of skill and endurance.

Outwit, Outlast, Outplay!

This last season of Survivor that just finished was titled "Game Changers," and with the fact that Andretti Autosport has won the INDY500 three out of the last four years, one may say that this Verizon IndyCar Series team, when it comes to the Indianapolis 500, are the game changers.

Andretti Autosport has found a way to stack the deck, or flood the zone ... as it were, in its focus to create interest and plan to win the Indianapolis 500. As 54 year-old team-owner, and second-generation Andretti family race car driver, Michael Andretti said in a recent pre-race interview with Paul Reinhard, we are going to field "six really good bullets in the gun" for the Memorial Day Classic.

Game Changer Survivor Michael Andretti shares the common winning moment in victory lane at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with his surviving winning driver Takuma Sato. Image Credit: Chris Owens via IndyCar (2017)

This excerpted and edited from Associated Press via Orange County Register -

Michael Andretti hoping his Indy 500 six-pack leads to victory lane
AP - OC Register - May 24, 2017

Michael Andretti’s busiest month could turn into his best Indianapolis show.

He has four cars in the front three rows of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500.

Two of those drivers – the defending race champion, Alexander Rossi, and this year’s highest-profile rookie, Fernando Alonso – avoided getting sidetracked by sideshows.

Andretti’s son, Marco, thrived despite taking on extra coaching duties this May. Ryan Hunter-Reay, the 2014 Indy 500 champion, posted the fastest qualifying average outside the nine-car pole shootout, and Japan’s Takuma Sato proved he could be a contender. On Monday, rookie Jack Harvey moved up the speed chart, too.

If these guys produce all the right numbers this weekend, Andretti Autosport will have the best six-pack of racers in 500 history.

“It’s been good because of the data we’ve been able to share and pass on, not only for someone like Marco or Ryan, but it’s been good for all the guys,” Michael Andretti said.

The six Andretti cars in the 33-car starting grid are the most by one team since Andy Evans started seven in 1996 with Team Scandia. 
“People are a huge problem because everyone in Indianapolis has a job right now,” said Michael Shank, co-owner of Harvey’s No. 50 car. “I have 22 to 25 guys in my shop, so it was only natural we could do it.”
Andretti, with an assist from Shank and Bryan Herta, the co-owner of Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car, didn’t have to be too patient: From the moment the cars rolled onto the 2.5-mile oval, they were already fast.

Marco Andretti finished the first day atop the speed chart. He’ll start eighth Sunday, the middle of Row 3.

Hunter-Reay produced top-five laps in practice each of the first four days he turned laps and qualified 10th, the inside of Row 4.

Rossi and Sato, both former Formula One drivers, helped the two-time F1 champ make a quick transition from the familiar high-tech, road-course cars to the even faster cars on unfamiliar ovals. Rossi is starting from the third spot on the front row. Sato and Alonso qualified in the second row and will start fourth and fifth.

“From all the comments that arrived to me, the comments from them are very, very useful because they know how one car behaves and how the other car behaves and what they needed when they came here,” said Alonso, the Spaniard whose 500 debut has attracted wide attention. “I probably experienced more or less the same journey as them.”
For now, though, Andretti and his six drivers are focused on one goal: Topping Sunday afternoon with a drive through victory lane.

“It is a big challenge for our team,” Andretti said. “There’s a lot, a lot of hours that go into organizing something like this and making it all happen and we’ve got to get it right.”
[Reference Here]

The finishing order of the 101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil as shown on the iconic front straight information and scoring pylon. The championship points race heated up a bit with this double-points paying event as Helio Castroneves took over the season points lead by finishing in P2, Takuma Sato moved into third  by winning, and Ed Jones who as a rookie at the INDY500 moved to ninth in Verizon IndyCar Series 2017 season championship points. Image Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher via IndyCar (2017)

As we all witnessed in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil, Andretti Autosport had all of the right moves, even when two of his pack-leading six Honda cars expired with engine issues, Michael Andretti's team Outwited, Outlasted, Outplayed all 33 cars entered in the field when TAKU crossed the "yard of bricks" finish line first ahead of Penske Racing's 3-time INDY500 winner Helio Castroneves by .2011 seconds to win this annual endurance game of motorsports Survivor!

101st Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil: SURVIVOR BOX SCORE

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: Takuma Sato, 101st Indianapolis 500, Outwit, Outlast, Outplay, Michael Andretti, Andretti Autosport, endurance, entries, experience, honda, racing, Alonso, Rossi, Verizon IndyCar Series, Survivor, winner, The EDJE

Thursday, May 4, 2017

McLaren Automotive Ups The Supercar Game With The New 720S

Aerodynamic winglet and vent behind the front tires combined with inlet airflow access that double as headlight position ports are just a couple of subtle design notes that signal the 720S is equipped to perform. Image Credit: McLaren Automotive (2017)

McLaren Automotive Ups The Supercar Game With The New 720S

This week saw the official release by McLaren Automotive of their next new lead model car, the 720s.

Since the the original birth of McLaren as a commercial car producer with the MP4-12C, the 720S - from the design pen of McLaren Automotive's Design Director Frank Stephenson, on first impression, can be best described as the epitome of the blending of pure design art and pure engineering science - welcome to the McLaren Automotive 720S!

The McLaren Automotive 720S at it's first unveiling at the 87th Geneva International Motor Show March 9th, 2017. Image Credit: Frank Stephenson via Facebook (2017)

To start, Frank Stephenson hits this evolution of design out of the park - so sophisticated, refined, and unpretentious. Much more masculine and with the recognition of race car aerodynamic notes being incorporated leaves one with the air of confidence when one approaches the signature dihedral driver's side door to hop in and give this high-performance transportation platform a whirl.

The face of the new 720S imparts a bold, no nonsense masculine look. not a lot of swoop or swirl - pretty much . Image Credit: McLaren Automotive (2017)

This excerpted and edited from The Drive -

2018 McLaren 720S: First Impressions, Straight from Rome
BY LAWRENCE ULRICH - The Drive - APRIL 27, 2017

I'm still tingling as I write this, having just driven the spectacular, $288,475 McLaren 720S back into the pits at Autodromo Vallelunga, the high-speed Italian circuit that hosted the Rome Grand Prix back in the Sixties.  
Here are my first impressions—minus driving impressions—of McLaren’s new 212-mph supercar, which replaces the 650S.
It wasn’t hard to see McLaren’s own triumphant Rome tour as a kind of British wink-wink, or maybe an outright “screw you,” to the Italian supercar establishment of Ferrari and Lamborghini. McLaren executives flatly denied this, but they were smiling when they said it. Then I drove the 720S through a picturesque Italian hilltop village, where a flock of charming schoolchildren ran into the street, shouting, to snap cell phone photos of the McLaren. I stopped smack in the middle of the lane and let them photograph to their hearts content, while cars lined up behind me. Not one person honked, but more than one older bystander tipped their caps to the McLaren. Conquering heroes, indeed.
Your body is the hand and these seats are the glove with all that is needed at one's fingertips. Image Credit: McLaren Automotive (2017)

It’s the prettiest McLaren yet - Stepping onto a carbon-fiber limb, I’d say the 720S looks better than the legendary F1, and better even than the seven-figure P1 hypercar. The P1 appears alien and imposing, but the 720S carries itself more like a real road car, and it’s a distinctive visual rival to the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini. Highlighting its formidable active aero functions, that sexy, slippery design is also a worthy building block for multiple McLarens to come.
McLaren (finally) has a hit soundtrack on its hands - A stickler might say this is a “driving impression,” but I beg to differ: The 720S sounds lusty and expensive even when it’s standing still. Thank a “Loud Start” function that, when you hit the Engine Start button in selectable Track mode, cuts the twin-turbo V-8’s ignition spark and squirts some unburned fuel out the exhaust valves. 

“Instead of lighting the fuel in the combustion chamber, you’re lighting it in the exhaust,” says Ian Howshall, product manager for these Super Series models. The result is a proper burp-and-bark that will wow bystanders or enrage snivelers.
Let There Be Light - Whether it’s darting scooters in Rome or bike messengers in Manhattan, the McLaren lets you spot looming danger better than any mid-engine competitor, thanks to outward views inspired by a jet fighter's canopy. The latest iteration of McLaren’s F1-based, carbon-fiber Monocell allows incredibly slender roof pillars. Naked carbon fiber forms the windshield A-pillars. Ogle the McLaren from the back—destined to be a regular occurrence—and the unbroken expanse of glass can fool you into thinking there are no rear pillars at all. Ah, but there they are, a glazed pair as skinny as a Milan model’s forearms, disguised below the tinted glass.
Three Coins in the Fountain - Let’s raise a glass to McLaren’s health, a company whose expansion into a successful road-car manufacturer was by no means assured. McLaren was formed as a racing builder in 1963, but McLaren Automotive wasn’t spun off until 2010. Just seven years later, McLaren is on track to sell about 4,000 cars this year, after moving 3,200 in 2016—a 99-percent jump from 2015. After founding its first retail shop in central London, the growing company now has 80 stores in 30 markets, including about a dozen in China, with plans to top out around 100 locations. The company has already taken 1,400 deposits on the 720S, meaning the first year of production is “oversubscribed,” a fancy word for “sold out.”  Wisely, 30 percent of company profits are being plowed back into R&D and products. 
Travel Light, Travel Heavy - Combine a 710-horsepower, 4.0-liter twin-turbo V-8 with the lightest curb weight in the class—including the bulkier Ford GT—and you’ve got one shrieking-fast supercar. The base model 720S boasts a dry weight of just 2,828 pounds, which rises to a DIN curb weight of 3,128 pounds for our Luxury model, topped with fluids and  a 90-percent-full tank of gasoline. With performance checked off, the 720S gives owners and passengers more excuses to test it, with its supple, adjustable Proactive Chassis Control suspension and generous cargo space. There’s no glovebox, but the 720S adopts the sleekly trimmed rear Luggage Deck from the more-affordable 570GT model. Add a surprisingly large trunk below the hood, roughly the size of a Porsche 911’s, and you’ve got nearly 13 cubic feet of cargo space.
These Numbers Don’t Lie - Until I can publicly parse the subjective performance behind the McLaren’s specs, try these numbers on for size: 0-60 mph in 2.8 seconds (0-100 kph, or 0-62 mph, is 0.1-seconds slower), 0-124 mph in 7.8 seconds, and 0-186 mph in 21.2 seconds. The latter, license-shredding acceleration figure is four seconds faster than the departing 650S.  McLaren says that, fitted with standard Pirelli P Zero street tires, the 720S will circle many racetracks faster than the 650S did with Pirelli P Zero Corsa track rubber. Those stickier, faster-wearing Corsa tires will be a no-cost option on the 720S, so let your imagination run wild.
[Reference Here]

Trademark flow design of the McLaren rear end. Image Credit: McLaren Automotive (2017)

And this excerpted and edited from Road & Track -

McLaren 720S: First Drive
What started with the slightly predictable 12C has now become the wonderfully bonkers 720S.
BY CHRIS CHILTON - Road & Track - MAY 2, 2017

"They got hit over the head. We all know it, that the car didn't demonstrate enough energy, creative energy – passion, you could call it. It never looked wrong, it just looked ho-hum. It's like an athlete with an incredible figure wearing a sack."

That's what McLaren Automotive's Design Director Frank Stephenson had to say about the company's original supercar, the MP4-12C, a car that had its design finalized before he even started.

The front end of the McLaren Automotive MP4-12C as it was debuted in Southern California. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2011)

In approaching its comeback supercar with a race team's focus, McLaren made a crucial miscalculation. The 12C lacked the one thing that you can't put a number on: wow factor. And that was something the Band-Aid 650S rebranding could never fully fix. The 720S doesn't have that problem. Not close. This car is all wow.

The 720S is as polarizing as the 12C was bland, as innovative as its ancestor was predictable. Take the eye-socket headlamps, which cleverly, but controversially, take a tip from the tuner world, turning the headlamp hole into air intakes, and use slim LED lamps bridging the chasm for illumination. You might not like the way they look, but you'll admire them a whole lot more once you appreciate the science behind the styling.

Same with the rear quarter panels. The gaping air intakes convention says all mid-engined cars need between the rear wheel and the door are gone. They're hidden behind a fake door skin, the McLaren 570S's door 'tendon' bar taken to the next level.

If the visual effect is striking from the outside, revealing the long wheelbase in all its glory, like a drag motorcycle with its extended swing arm, it's no less jarring from beneath the bubble canopy. From the driver's seat I can see the division between the inner and outer body panels as I power down the start finish straight at Rome's Vallelunga race circuit. I've driven here a couple of times before, most recently in an Audi RS3, and before that for the launch of the original Lamborghini Aventador. So, basically never in anything that actually wanted to turn. Consider that remedied.

The McLaren 720S turning in high-speed corners is enhanced with an airbrake effects articulating spoiler. Image Credit: McLaren Automotive (2017)

The 720S loves to turn. The steering is weightier this time because of geometry changes that increase the castor, but that only adds confidence as you nudge the wheel away from center, feeling the tires filtering the vital messages back to your hands.
Who'd have believed, even 15 years ago, that a supercar this powerful could be so forgiving? Driving the 720 hard feels entirely natural from the first corner as you push to the front tire's limits, feel the wheel lighten as you brush the brakes, then ease back on the gas to gently load up the rear tires. 
Only a few weeks before this I drove the Bugatti Chiron, a car whose acceleration is so freakish it feels like it could sieve your internal organs through the pores of the skin on your back. A car that wants to convince you that trick's enough to forgive a gargantuan curb weight. Driving the 720S reminds you that it's never forgivable to let a sports car knock on the door of 4500lb, no matter how much performance it offers in payback.

The 720S weighs 3128lb full of fuel and a driver, and no doubt could have come in even lighter if McLaren had used the conventional sway bars it gave the 570S rather than the hydraulic roll control system the more senior cars get. 
Gadget fans will also appreciate the telemetry option that shows sector and lap times for the circuit, plus a trace that rises and falls to show braking and acceleration. 
Airbrake mode as the McLaren 720S settles into the track. Image Credit: McLaren Automotive (2017)

Taking the jink right after the pits with your foot buried deep into the carpet, pulling the car left again then standing on the middle pedal with all your might, marveling at stability the 650S never had, and catching a glimpse in the rear view mirror of the now-full-width rear deck spoiler hurling itself into the slipstream in airbrake mode: hot lapping the 720S an absolute scream. The only thing it can't do is scream back.
A longer stroke takes it [the engine] from 3.8-liters to 4.0. Power is up from the 641hp of the 650S to 710hp, or 720PS. Even the P1 only made 727hp before you factor in its hybrid add-on, and that car cost four times as much. This is proper next-level performance, taking the ordinary mid-range supercar to hypercar levels of go.

On paper, it's a monster, dispatching 62mph in 2.8sec and 124mph (200kmh) in 7.8sec. A Ferrari 488 GTB needs 3.0 and 8.3sec respectively. On pavement, it's no less impressive, spinning to 8000rpm, and feeling noticeably less laggy in this incarnation thanks to some new low-inertia twin-scroll turbos.
There's no flamboyant fanfare when you push the start button. Push the gas pedal and there are no sonic fireworks. If you want crazy noise, opt for the sport exhaust, which McLaren says is 30 percent louder and has a feature called 'loud start.' 
The carbon chassis, which, along with the dihedral doors is unique in this sector, is now a 'monocage' including an integrated central roof bar, rather than a simple tub.
That's the surprise about the 720S: it looks like a nightmare to live with but is anything but. The visibility is excellent, both forward, past the A-pillars with their exposed carbon weave, a nice show-off touch–and more surprisingly, at the back.
Factor in the generous 5.3cu ft space in the nose that swallowed two rolling bags full of camera gear on our way to the airport and you're looking at a supercar that thinks it's a GT.

A functional and artful design that is anything but boring. Image Credit: McLaren Automotive (2017)

And rides like one. Italy's roads are as rough as Germany's are smooth. The pavement is frequently broken and uneven and strewn with irritating little Fiats that we swat away with a squirt of right foot. The McLaren doesn't care. No, it's not an S-Class, but for a supercar like this, the McLaren is exceptionally comfortable.
Last time the sticking point was the 12C looked too boring. This time, the only real gripe is that the 720S sounds a bit dull, and the sport exhaust doesn't put the 720S on par with a naturally aspirated note. 
What McLaren has built is what we always knew the 12C and 650S could and should be.
[Reference Here]

There is very little to have to settle for with the purchase of this supercar splurge ... except for maybe a little more change in one's pocket to spend on lodging as one joyfully travels about the countryside, or to the track, for some of the highest level of art and engineering placed into one enjoyable and affordable high-performance driving platform - welcome to the McLaren Automotive 720S!

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: McLaren Automotive, Frank Stephenson, MP4-12C, 650S, 720S, Road & Track, Chris Chilton, The Drive, Lawrence Ulrich, airbrake mode, The EDJE

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

McLaren/Andretti Autosport Tests With F1 Champion Fernando Alonso At INDY

F1 Champion Fernando Alonso checks his mirrors as he goes out for another session after the lunchtime break. Image Credit VICS (2017)

McLaren/Andretti Autosport Tests With F1 Champion Fernando Alonso At INDY

Marco Andretti, Michael Andretti, and Gil de Ferran are on hand to give the "oval rookie" some pointers after Marco was through with the car set-up laps in the orange liveried No. 29 McLaren Honda Andretti Autosport prepared Dallara DW12.

Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso needed about one hour of track time today to pass his rookie orientation test for the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil.

“It was fun,” Alonso said during a break on pit road after his No. 29 McLaren-Honda-Andretti car had completed 51 laps just before noon ET. “At this moment, everything looks good. Now it’s time to start the real thing.”

Alonso made quick work of the three rookie orientation phases with 10 laps at 205-210 mph, 15 laps at 210-215 mph and 15 laps at 215-plus mph.

Andretti Autosport teammate Marco Andretti shook down the car, which is painted in classic Team McLaren papaya orange. McLaren is returning to the Indy 500 on May 28 for the first time in 38 years.

Practice for the Indianapolis 500 begins May 15 with qualifying on May 20-21, so the 35-year-old Spaniard has a lot to learn in a short time. He’s still had to juggle F1 commitments, which has meant an overabundance of travel. Alonso was unable to start Sunday’s Russian Grand Prix due to engine issues and will compete in the Spanish Grand Prix next week.

Although he ranks sixth on F1’s all-time win list with 32 victories and celebrated world championships in 2005 and 2006, Alonso hasn’t won a race since 2013 and his interest in enhancing his racing resume will require him to drive faster than ever before at 230 mph down the front straightaway at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

A day after preparing in a racing simulator, Alonso said his confidence grew with each passing lap. When the test concluded, shortly after 3 p.m. ET, he had completed 110 laps with a top speed of 222.548 mph.

“I think it’s a good way to start, to build speed,” he said. “It was difficult at (the) beginning to reach the minimum speed. The next stages felt good, not because of the speed but because of the laps. You’re able to fine-tune the lines; upshift, downshift, which gears to use in the corner.

“The simulator is quite realistic. You have the first impression of how it’s going to be. But the real car is a unique feeling. When you have to go flat out in the corner, it’s not the same in the simulator as in the real car.”

Andretti Autosport CEO Michael Andretti, who will field six cars in the race including defending champion Alexander Rossi, liked what he saw from Alonso’s initial experience.

“That was great,” Andretti said. “He did everything he was supposed to do. Now it's time to go play a bit. So far, everything is really perfect. We had one trim we started with, so we have a reference of where we need to go.

“He gets it. He's one of the best in the world and you can see why. He had a little bit of understeer in that run and he adjusted his line because of the understeer. He's the real deal. I think he's going to be really strong this month.”

Three generations of Andretti racers – Mario, Michael and Marco – as well as Rossi and 2003 Indy 500 winner Gil de Ferran were among those giving Alonso advice. Mario won the 1969 Indy 500, Michael has celebrated four Indy 500 victories as an owner in addition to leading the most laps (431) without winning as a driver and Marco was a rookie runner-up in 2006 and is in his 12th season as a Verizon IndyCar Series regular.

“The team has been amazingly helpful,” Alonso said. “Running alone is quite OK. We'll see in the next weeks. So far a good experience. Now is the real deal.”

Marco Andretti said cooler track conditions, with ambient temperatures in the low 50s, combined with Alonso the only driver on track provided an ideal setting for the initiation. Alonso kept churning out laps amid a threat of afternoon showers as darker clouds drifted over the speedway.

“With this level of downforce, this is like race downforce, when there’s no traffic and you’re by yourself, it’s just stuck,” Marco Andretti said. “The front and rear are stuck right now, which is what you want for the first run.”

And what of sorting out the input from so many voices?

“He’ll have to learn by fire from a lot of it,” Marco said. “But he’s asking the right questions.

“He’ll be fine. He’s a race car driver. He’ll leave today pretty confident.”
[ht: IndyCar]

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: #INDYCAR, #INDY500, #AlonsoRunsIndy, @IndyCar, @McLarenIndy, #Alonso, #F1, #McLarenHonda, #AndrettiAutosport, @MarcoAndretti, The EDJE

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

IndyCar Interrupted At Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix

With the help of Phoenix Raceway's "Speed King" Helio Castroneves, Phoenix Raceway officially broke ground on the Phoenix Raceway Project Powered by DC Solar during a special ceremony at its second annual Verizon IndyCar Series "Prix View" Testing event. Among the many highlights of the Phoenix Raceway Project Powered by DC Solar is a completely redesigned infield featuring a first-of-its-kind garage viewing experience, placing fans face-to-face with the superstars of the sport. Phoenix Raceway's start/finish line will also be re-positioned in Turn 2 just before the track's well-known dog leg. Image Credit: PIR (2010)

IndyCar Interrupted At Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix

Just as in the 1999 Hollywood film named, "Girl Interrupted", this last chapter in a 17 race/chapter season can be titled "IndyCar Interrupted" because of the less than entertaining display that was allowed to take place for the 250 laps that were scheduled. The folks making the competition decisions should be checked into a disorder establishment.

The previous three races/chapters were held at twisty and winding Temporary Street/Dedicated Road courses/tracks. All three races had passing and strategy that left the fan with a fulfilling story of events upon which their entertainment satisfaction was rewarded ... not so with the first oval race of the 2017 season.

A post shared by At A Racetrack (@josh_farmer77) on

Cars moving along at fast speeds, nose-to-tail, without any chance at these drivers using their skills to pass for position is pretty much a parade for the better part of two hours. Kind of like attending a historic race car event where the cars are worth more than any random fifty cars that are parked in the spectator parking lot.

Until the race/competition management makes a commitment to the "Mushroom Busting" aerodynamics - a concept first introduced by Swift Engineering and used by Dallara in the DW12 -  that brought everyone 80 passes for the lead at the MAVTv500 - Auto Club Speedway's last race - open wheel oval races are boring to witness ... even at 50 mph faster than NASCAR.

No truer thoughts have been expressed in opposition to Hulman & Co. managed racing, especially when everyone knew better, than what's articulated in this piece by Robin Miller.

Fan favorite Robin Miller (L) with friend, Jimi Lehner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Image Credit: Jimi Lehner

This excerpted and edited from Racer Magazine -

MILLER: IndyCar's desert debacle
By Robin Miller, Racer Magazine - Monday, 01 May 2017

If the IndyCar paddock could send a message to the few thousand souls who showed up at Phoenix International Raceway or the people trying to watch Saturday night's race on NBCSN, it would be brief and heartfelt:

We're sorry.

"They should refund everyone's money," one prominent driver said afterward.

Because the first oval-track show of 2017 was a 250-lap dud – 90 minutes of running in place where the leader couldn't lap last place because they were both running the same speed.

The only lead changes came on pit stops, and other than Josef Newgarden early and J.R. Hildebrand late, passing was passé. And an untimely caution removed any chance of drama, scrambled the front-runners and gave Simon Pagenaud a stress-free run to the checkered flag.

But the real downer is that it probably didn't have to be a snoozer.

Following IndyCar's return in 2016 after an 11-year absence, it was obvious something needed to be done about the aero package for this legendary, one-mile track that was built for Indy cars in 1964.

Last year's race was a carbon copy of what transpired on Saturday night so IndyCar staged a test last October to come up with a possible solution.

And Ryan Hunter-Reay felt like it was a success. "We tested different downforce configurations while running together and we found a solution," the 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner said.

The eye of the storm, according to the drivers and teams, was the undertray on the Dallara DW12. Running one without a hole in it allowed the cars to get closer and make passing possible. (And the hole in the under tray is to keep the cars on the ground if they spin and go backward on a superspeedway).

Hunter-Reay lobbied hard for IndyCar to change, but because all of the teams would have had to spend money to fill in the hole, it was decided to remain with the status quo until the new aero kits arrive in 2018.

After last February's open test at PIR, most of the veteran drivers correctly predicted that Saturday night's Desert Diamond Grand Prix of Phoenix would be a stinker without making that change.

"It doesn't make any sense to come back and put on the same show," said Hunter-Reay.

To be fair, Jay Frye and his staff at IndyCar have been great at listening to the paddock, using common sense, thinking ahead and being proactive. Plus, car owners are always bitching about spending extra money with sponsorship dollars hard to secure, so maybe there wasn't a real push to make a change (except by the drivers).

But, looking at the big picture, IndyCar couldn't afford another stinker in Phoenix, and Saturday night could be the death knell to a destination that IndyCar needs to see succeed.

There were fewer people in attendance this year, and the ones who came were put off by 22 laps of caution (why not throw the red flag?) following a first-lap, five-car pileup and then by the drudgery of watching cars run in place. USAC’s Silver Crown prelim on Saturday afternoon was five times more entertaining.

Rookie Ed Jones is good racer doing a damn good job for Dale Coyne, but in his first-ever oval race he managed to keep Dixon, Tony Kanaan and three-fourths of the Team Penske armada behind him for 20 laps.

The magic of a mile oval is traffic and how the leaders deal with it. But that was non-existent again on Saturday night, and Firestone's tires seemed to be too good and too consistent, so there was no major grip loss.

There is one year left on the Phoenix contract. PIR's Bryan Sperber has embraced IndyCar like few ISC tracks ever have, and his relationship with Frye is a big reason why IndyCar is back in the desert where it belongs.

Talk of trying to run Long Beach and Phoenix back-to-back like the old days or possibly even make PIR the season finale is all good. And there's little doubt that next year's aero package will make the racing much better. It couldn't be any worse.

But the worry is, how do you get anybody who paid for Saturday night's abysmal show to come back in 2018?

"I think the fans deserve a better show than we gave them," said Tony Kanaan. "I hope they give us another chance."
[Reference Here]

The Sun pierces through the empty grand stands to splash Graham Rahal with a shaft of afternoon light during a warm-up run before qualifications at Phoenix International Raceway. Image Credit: Chris Jones via IndyCar (2017) 

Plus these edited and excerpted additional thoughts by Turnology's Thomas Stahler -

Tom’s Take: Is IndyCar Done with Ovals? They should be.
By Tom Stahler - Tuesday, 02 May 2017

In case you missed it over the weekend — and based on TV Ratings and the two thousand people in the stands: you did — there was IndyCar’s triumphant return of the series to Phoenix International Raceway — which was left wanting for a crowd and a race. Aside from the annual pilgrimage to the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, perhaps it is very sadly time to put the ovals to sleep like a cancerous dog. Put a fork in them. They are done — perhaps even overcooked! For the promoters at PIR who really did all they could to boost the event, I am heartbroken.

A first lap crash, then 22 laps behind a safety car followed by a single file high speed parade, with little or no dicing for the lead, made what could have been an event win for promoters, a total wash. But, chew on this: IndyCar may have a way of redeeming itself by eradicating the oval races. Easily, and for many, this could be seen as a statement of blaspheme as USAC and Champ Cars cut their teeth and have a deeply embedded history on the ovals. Unfortunately, this is not where the sweet spot for the series has maintained.

I have been to the last races at the Milwaukee Mile and Auto Club (California) Speedway, both ovals, in the last three years and can tell you, it has changed — and not for the better. The racing is usually great. The super speedways produce monstrous speed and three wide wheel to wheel racing. A one mile oval can produce some intense cat and mouse fights through traffic… For the 2017 Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, this was not to be.
Consider also, ovals — including the triangle shaped Pocono has produced the last two fatalities in the series: Dan Wheldon and Justin Wilson.

IndyCar has been the most embattled series in racing, going back almost 30 years. The politics and numerous bad choices have destroyed what was perhaps the best and most competitive series in the history of racing — and that includes Formula One and NASCAR! 
By 1991 Tony George, grandson of Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony Hullman, pulled the Speedway away from the CART series and started his own “Indy Racing League” in an effort to bring IndyCar racing back to its roots — while still a controversial topic, most enthusiasts still see this as the moment open wheel racing was destroyed in North America. NASCAR, who had only had their first nationally telecast race in 1979, flew to the front as the preeminent North American racing series in the 1990’s — on ovals!

By 2003, CART had gone bankrupt and the Indy Racing League, completely subsidized by the Hullman Family and strictly running on ovals, moved ahead with competing race teams — but sadly not in spectators. 
With the exception of last year’s 100th running, even the Indy 500 has had to flail to get 33 starters for the legendary race in the last two and a half decades. But the series has made strides in the last several years to become more like the racing varietals of its most popular era, where the cars ran on ovals, road and street circuits. But the cache of ovals seems to be dying — even at NASCAR, who has seen their attendance down nearly 50% in the last several years.

The road courses, however, are working — as are the street circuits. A visit to the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, three weeks ago, saw an enormous crowd, bolstered by being in a metropolitan city center with tons of excitement and activity. The racing and the show is still viable.
Sadly, oval racing has lost its luster despite what potentially produces great speed and maneuvering. 
The teams voted on it and decided they did not want to spend the money on the aero “fix”, opting instead to change this feature for next year when the new IndyCar is produced. This led to the 20-car field, which lost five cars in a first lap incident, being a long line, where the leaders couldn’t even catch the back markers. Bo-ring!

The real losers in this deal are the promoters of 2017 Desert Diamond West Valley Phoenix Grand Prix, who find the sponsors, put up the prize money and sell the tickets and hot dogs. Saturday night at the short track is still an American phenomenon, but IndyCars on any oval beyond the Indy 500 is just a dud. An unnamed driver suggested that the sub-5000 tickets that were sold should be refunded. That is just criminal!

There is much criticism out there for IndyCar, but in essence, the series has done much in the last several years to “work with what they have” and perpetuate the show. But if empty stands and a “Formula Sleeping Pill” parade is any indication, the series may want to rethink where it races. I have been told many years in business: “Know your customer.” Perhaps it is time for Indy car to go where the customers are and reach them properly.
[Reference Here]

Phoenix International Raceway is excited about the next round of changes and improvements scheduled for the track headed by DC Solar. Officials with International Speedway Corp., and Phoenix Raceway jointly announced plans for a $178 million facelift for the 1-mile facility that focuses on improving the fan experience while also including a competition twist that will see the relocation of the track’s start/finish line. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2017)

Track Improvement Video Here >>>

Best Comment - Philippe de Lespinay
There is nothing wrong with IndyCars racing on oval circuits, even one-mile jobs such as Phoenix. There is EVERYTHING WRONG with the CARS, that are built in exactly the opposite format of what they should be like. The IMS and IRL mantra of more down force, less power (to provide "close" racing, no doubt) is STUPID, just as in F1, also dying of lack of interest.

The true solution is LESS down force and MORE power. Designing better looking cars similar to the (old but gorgeous) Reynards and Lolas from the 1990s would also not hurt much. The mistake was made by Mr. George, that pathetic heir to what used to be great, by selecting HIS car builder (AKA Dallara of Italy) instead of the American Panoz chassis that was not only far better looking but also a far better and far less expensive option. 

Now what?

This confirms the other bone-headed attitudes that led to the demise of the most exciting oval venue, also owned by ICS, formally on the VICS schedule - Auto Club Speedway. Never placing a date equity and an insistence on ending the season before NFL Pro Football gets its declining popularity of a season in full gear (Hulman & Co. love and follow the Colts and do not wish to have this devotion interrupted by managing the closing the season of a racing series). These folks just love to do things that are counter to clear logic in the pursuit of personal interests.

Why are they even in the business of entertainment, on the large multi-venue scale, when everyone knows the only venue that matters to them is the one that consumes the Month Of May? We should probably count ourselves as lucky as fans, just to be able to have a dedicated road course event and the Indy 500 in May so as not to become bored with the whole thing that has become overly managed formula racing.

It's IndyCar Interrupted, and as with the 1999 movie ... management needs to be checked-in.

... notes from The EDJE

TAGS: Phoenix International Raceway, Auto Club Speedway, Hulman & Co., Month Of May, Mushroom Busting, Aerodynamics, Oval Racing, Temporary Street Courses, Dedicated Road Courses, Owners, Drivers, Jay Frye, Attendance, The EDJE