Saturday will mark the seventh GMR Grand Prix (12 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It will also mark the second race of the NTT INDYCAR Series season too.
But, this years race on the 2.439-mile IMS road course will be like nothing like ever before. Yes, fans won’t be there with this thing taking place behind closed doors.
But, the way we race the 85 Lap event will be vastly different too.
Between the Aeroscreen, the hot temperatures and lack of practice, this is going to be a learning weekend.
The Aeroscreen is almost 50 pounds in weight and completely changes the way that these cars drive. The setups are vastly different as a result. The added weight means that things have to shift in other directions in terms of the car. So, all the prior GMR Grand Prix notebooks, well you can throw them out the window.
“Yeah, it’s a great question because Texas was an eye-opener for a lot of us, I think,” Simon Pagenaud said of the Aeroscreen. “We realized after the race there was a lot of improvement to be made, but not enough time to really think about what we could do on-site.
“Obviously, it’s the same for the road course in Indy. We don’t really know yet what’s going to need change. Certainly, that hour and 20 minutes of practice is not that much. We’re going into qualifying after that, then it’s race day the next day.
“I think it’s going to take a few races to adjust and figure out what we need for each track. Each track is different. No matter what, this is going to be a year of adjustments. I think that might allow driver and engineer combinations to show strength.”
His teammate and defending series champion Josef Newgarden spoke on the difference in setups from it in Texas.
“Yeah, definitely,” Newgarden said if the new device altered their setups from the past. “Temperature-wise the tires are reacting differently with the weight, not just having more weight but having the weight forward. It’s actually a very big shift for the tires.
“I think controlling the temperatures, trying to keep the balance in check in traffic, is going to be probably the biggest difference for us compared to last year. I think that’s where we’ve had the least experience. It will be tough.
“But it’s different. It require as different setup, requires you to take care of the tires. Yes, the answer to your question is different setups.”
Ryan Hunter-Reay agreed last month too.
“It’s basically different everywhere we go. There’s a bit of an offset and you adjust to that. It’s not miles off. The drivers really just have to I think at times adjust their driving style to it.”
The guy that Pagenaud beat in last year’s ‘500, Alexander Rossi, notes that this is going to be a challenging weekend as well when you think about all of the elements involved too. Temperatures will soar into the 90s on Saturday and with a screen over their heads, it can make it hot inside the cars again.
“This is quite a challenging track to get right, so our work will certainly be cut out for us with the expected heat, as well as the variable of the Aeroscreen,” said the Andretti Autosport driver.
The third place finisher in last May’s Indy 500, Takuma Sato said that with just one practice session on Friday, it’s going to be tough on the teams to get everything steered in the right direction due to these changes.
“I think the biggest challenge of the GMR Grand Prix will be how we deal with just a single practice session before qualifying,” said the 2017 Indy 500 champion. “It’s a 90-minute session, but we don’t have time for analyzing data between sessions, and if you need to change a suspension geometry or make some big change, then we lose a lot of time.
“It’s very limited on-track time. It’s challenging, for sure, not to have had on-track testing, as well as very limited access to the sim.”
Sato, also agreed with Rossi that the heat and conditions inside of the race car could be a little bit of an unknown too.
“Driver cooling on a road course is a little unknown for a hot day, but everyone seemed impressed with the cooling at the (Texas) oval so hopefully, we will have similar performance,” Sato contined. |The team is preparing everything they can, and we hope all the analysis we’ve done leads to a great performance on the track.”
Sato’s teammate, Graham Rahal agrees as well.
“I imagine it will be a lot hotter now than it would have been in May,” said Rahal. “It will test the drivers with everything we’ve had going on, limited to no time on track in these cars with the Aeroscreen and everything else. It will be a challenge for us all, and the Fifth Third Bank team hopes to rise to the occasion.”
So, this is going to be a challenging race to say the least.