Circuit Of The Americas IndyCar Test Reveals DW12 Platform Performance Insights
On October 29th, 2018, the sole tire manufacturer for the IndyCar Series held a day long test of its primary compound tire used for road courses in advance of the Circuit Of The Americas (CoTA) being added to the schedule, Sunday, March 24, making this the second race venue of the 2019 season.
There have been previous tests by an IndyCar team with this universal aerodynamics body work but none with the intensity and discovery for the benefit of the IndyCar series as a whole.
The two teams that suited up were Andretti Autosport for Honda and AJ Foyt Enterprises for Chevrolet with Alexander Rossi and Tony Kanaan respectively. The test was comprehensive and allowed for 90 laps to be completed on the 20-turn 3.426-mile purpose-built F1 racing facility in Austin, TX.
Between the two drivers, Tony Kanaan has the greatest experience in IndyCar but these were the first laps taken at serious speeds in the DW12, whereas Alexander Rossi was the first American driver to take to the track as a test driver for F1 (2013 driving for Caterham) and later raced as an end of 2015 season replacement for Marussia Ferrari where he posted his highest finish in a Formula 1 race at P12.
REMARKS - Tony Kanaan - Excerpted and edited from Autoweek & Racer ...
[TK] admits he was “caught out” by a few things on the 20-turn, 3.427-mile road course.
“The blind corners, and going up the hill caught me out,” Kanaan said. “I was here and from the outside it looks steep, but in the car, it looks even steeper. To try to find my way there in the first couple of laps, where is the apex? After you get used to it, it’s a lot of fun.”
The track also features some tremendous elevation changes that make a lap around the facility feel like a roller-coaster ride.
“It is a cool thing because the first few laps, you are backing off the brakes but then you realize, you are going up the hill, so the inertia is helping you stop so you go deeper and deeper,” Kanaan explained. “Then, it gets to the point where there is a limit there and I found it. I went straight a couple of times. It’s a fun corner because it’s that type of braking zone where sometimes you go through there you think you could go a little quicker, but then you try a little harder and it’s too much. It’s fun.”
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“The track was awesome. It’s a proper race track, and the facility is beautiful,” Kanaan told RACER. “It’s a mix of Road America, Laguna Seca, and a little bit of Sonoma. We did more than 100 laps and it was badass.”
The 2013 Indy 500 winner believes the field of Chevy-powered and Honda-powered Dallara DW12s will put on a quality show featuring close racing.
“It’s a road course, so I don’t want to give the wrong impression that we will always be passing there, but there are two places that will be easier to pass and some others to try,” he said. “And I think our racing will be exciting because there’s less discrepancy on lap times with our grid, and 20 cars have a chance to win the race.”
Renowned for his extreme fitness and muscle mass, Kanaan admitted there’s more work to do before his next visit to COTA.
“The neck, for sure,” he said with a laugh. “Turns 16, 17, and 18, the carousel before the pits, it’s like Elkhart Lake – really long. We did a lot of new-tire runs. By the end of the day, it was like, ‘OK, we’ve got some work to do on the neck…’”
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REMARKS - Alexander Rossi - Excerpted and edited from Motorsport, Autoweek & Racer ...
Rossi was testing a variety of tire compounds and also turbo boost levels, and both he and the teams have agreed with IndyCar to not disclose lap times.
“With the various programs Tony and I were doing, it was hard to tell where we were at comparatively,” Rossi told Motorsport.com. “But I can tell you that our car around that track is awesome! I had a smile on my face for the entire 90 laps and the package is great.
“It’s challenging, it’s technical, but there’s also a lot of high-speed corners. It’s a perfect circuit for us.
“From Turn 1 to Turn 9 is just mega. The first bit of it is pretty close to flat and each one subsequently gets tighter so you kind of decelerate as you go through them and if you’re a little bit off on the first one, you pay a big penalty six corners later! So it’s definitely a drivers’ track.”
Rossi said today’s test was primarily focused on providing information to Firestone, so he did not, for example, try drafting the other two cars nor push-to-pass boost.
“I literally didn’t see the other two all day when I was out on track,” he said. “Firestone wanted data and feedback on the tires on a variety of length of runs, so they didn’t want external influences, in order to get a true comparison between compounds.
“We weren’t really told [by HPD engineers] what the deal was with the extra boost, but there wasn’t a time when we changed a setting and suddenly found a huge bunch of laptime. It was active the whole time, didn’t use push to pass.
“Anyway, it was just good to get out on track – and that track in particular. Austin, COTA is a strong addition to the IndyCar schedule, and I think we’ll put on a good show for the fans, I really do.”
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Rossi is actually the first driver to ever run laps around the race course when he participated in the first practice session of the 2012 USGP when he was with Caterham F1. On Monday, he got to run laps at COTA in an Indy car.
“To be an American driver to be associated with it was here on day 1 and it was really cool,” Rossi said. “I know a lot of the people that work here at the track. It’s something cool to have part of my history. I’m very proud that IndyCar is here. It’s a representation of how the premier open-wheel series in the United States needs to be at one of the premier venues.”
Rossi said he cannot draw comparisons between his F1 experience with Monday’s run in an Indy car but the first practice session in 2012 was in the rain. But, the winner of the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016 believes there are some challenging areas of the race course for the Indy car.
“Probably, turns 3-7 because it’s very high speed,” Rossi said. “You have to be right in Turn 3 because if you are a quarter of a foot wide in turn 3, you are two feet wide in Turn 7. You have to be able to control yourself because of the entry speed you are carrying in the initial part of that sequence because if you overdrive it, it’s a pretty big penalty. If you underdrive it, it’s actually the way to go quicker.”
For the race fans that have attended the Formula 1 race at COTA, what can they expect to see that is different from IndyCar?
“You can expect a lot more fun and a lot more access,” Rossi said. “Formula One, you are watching some of the fastest race cars on the planet, which is great, but there is also a pretty big discrepancy between first and 20th as we saw last weekend. Here, the top 15 can be within seven-eighths tenths of a second of each other. That guarantees a great show, no matter what.
“And the fans can get up close and personal with the cars and drivers and be able to interact on a different level than told to go to turn 1, section 3, seat 4. You can go all around and get different perspectives and build a connection with the drivers and teams. That is unique and something IndyCar prides itself on.”
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On the engineering side, Andretti’s Jeremy Milless enjoyed learning with Rossi on Monday.
“We unloaded with a setup that we are familiar with,” Milless said. “Before we came here I asked Alex what he thought about the track, and he felt it was a lower grip surface, so we went toward one of our road course setups that was bland. And all we ended up doing was adjust rear ride height and we were smokin’ fast, so it was pretty awesome.”
Milless found COTA to be a unique challenge compared to other natural terrain road courses on the IndyCar calendar.
“I just went through and did a bunch of metrics looked at what COTA was like versus the other tracks we go to, and man it has like six Turn 11s from Sonoma,” he continued. “It’s actually a super-slow track. There’s one second-gear corner, five first-gear corners, and then the high-speed corners are really fast. There’s no medium-speed corners for us here. And the long straights are all fed by slow corners, so we just worked on slow-speed stuff and it was worth it.”
With the stickier Firestone alternate tires affixed for qualifying and more than one day to learn the setup needs at COTA, Milless believes the leading IndyCar drivers will be faster once the race weekend arrives.
“The primary focus today was on the primary tire, so there’s a second or more coming from the tires, and everyone was on practice power, so I would say we’ll be at least two seconds quicker when we come back,” Milless added. “But I’m not worried about it. We put on a pretty good race, and there’s such a huge difference to those [F1] cars that you can’t expect us to be the same.”
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Alexander Rossi registered an unofficial IndyCar CoTA lap time of 1:47.800 and this was said to be fastest of the test day working with Firestone to develop a primary tire for the March 2019 race [NOTE: Rossi's qualification lap time for the 2015 USGP race was 2:04.176 in the wet - fastest lap for the 2015 USGP race was set by Nico Rosberg at 1:40.666 - for perspective].
... notes from The EDJE
TAGS: AJ Foyt Enterprises, Alexander Rossi, Andretti Autosport, CoTA, Firestone, Tony Kanaan, IndyCar, Motorsport, David Malsher, Autoweek, Bruce Martin, Racer, Marshall Pruett, Motorsports Journal, Honda, Chevrolet, The EDJE