The Firestone test on Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had two objectives: get a read on the compound for next May, and hope the aero changes made by IndyCar and given to Will Power, Scott Dixon, Alexander Rossi, Tony Kanaan, Ed Carpenter and Graham Rahal were a step towards better racing.
In both cases, it sounds like it was a success.
“The 2018 tire we had, had a pretty strong issue in the way it worked,” said Dixon, a month removed from capturing his fifth IndyCar title for Chip Ganassi. “Some guys like Will [Power] and Penske were able to work it out, but it was a peaky tire, it had grip then take-off.
“The 2019 tire we tested today is much more consistent, it’s easier to feel what it’s doing and the grip level is up. Firestone did a good job. I think it will play well across the board at Pocono and Iowa, and it’s definitely a good construction and compound.”
The Speedway underwent seal-coating last month, and combined with Firestone’s new tire and the aero changes, it felt grippier to the defending Indy 500 champion.
“IndyCar is trying to tick off some items – new tire, aero changes and a new surface here – and they were all better,” said Power.
“They added some downforce and the track surface has more grip. We’re definitely more stuck.”
After some of the best racing ever from 2014-2017, last May’s race was more processional except for some daring passes by 2016 winner Rossi and Oriol Servia. Part of it due to the high temperatures, and part was having less downforce than in years past.
“The tire and aero we came here with certainly are a step better than year,” said Rossi, who is preparing for his first go in the Baja 1000 off-road race with Honda.
“How it equates in May when ambient and track temp a lot different is a mystery to all of us, but something good now won’t be bad. Everyone wants to make sure the 103rd running is more of what the fans and drivers can be happy with, and more of what we’re used to.”
Tony Kanaan had one of the fastest cars a year ago before cutting down a tire and losing a lap, and he wants a return to good racing in 2019.
“It’s the biggest race in the world and we’re trying to make it more exciting, not that it hasn’t been, but we’re trying to find a better package,” said the 2013 Indy victor, who was driving A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply Chevrolet. “We tried a couple of different packages and new pieces that Dallara made with IndyCar to see if we can gain some more downforce and bring the race closer together.
“We can’t make a decision yet, but IndyCar has all the information.”