If you’ve always wanted to see what sideway driving looks like in an Indy car, make your way to WeatherTech Race Laguna Seca. Through two days of testing and practice, NTT IndyCar Series drivers have been captured flying through corners at obscene angles, and according to some of the fastest and bravest pilots in the paddock, it’s only going to get better — or worse, depending on your perspective — in the race.
The combination of a well-worn track surface that offers minimal grip, Chevy and Honda twin-turbo V6 engines pumping out almost 750hp, and an overall reduction in aerodynamic downforce has resulted in crossed-up moments galore as IndyCar’s drivers navigate the 2.3-mile slip-and-slide.
“It’s like ‘Laguna Seca Drift’ out there,” Meyer Shank Racing’s Jack Harvey told RACER. “‘Laguna Drifting’ is such a nice way to describe it because honestly it’s so low grip, you’re hustling trying to find every little piece of time and then the tires are working hard out there. It’s going to be the most exciting race I think of the season in terms of just watching the cars move. Portland, it’s quite high grip, pretty stable, and they were just impressively fast. Here, they’re fast and there’s drifting.”
Team Penske’s Will Power has encountered his fair share of sideways moments so far in Monterey and hopes it never changes.
“The thing I’m seeing that I love about this is a super low-grip track,” he said. “The cars aren’t super gripped up to begin with. I was actually disappointed when I heard they are going to resurface the track sometime soon, because it’s about a perfect grip level right now. You’re constantly on the (steering) wheel and it’s really hard to get the balance.”
The 2014 IndyCar champion predicts Sunday’s 90-lap race will be plenty of fun to watch due to the little wiggles and drifts that cost time and often lead to off-track excursions.
“If you tip it over too much and the back of the car is nervous, it gives up a lot, so you’re cranking opposite lock into the thing all the time to keep it on the tarmac,” Power continued. “It’s hard to put a lap together without making a mistake. There’s a lot of high-commitment corners here, so it’s definitely going to be an interesting race. I’d say the way the tires go off, it was really hard to do a full stint without a mistake or running off, so if it’s like that for everyone, it’s going to be an unpredictable race.”