The RACER Mailbag, July 13

The RACER Mailbag, July 13

Insights & Analysis

The RACER Mailbag, July 13

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Q: During the Indy Lights race at Road America when the car went into the catch fencing, it looked like the AMR guys did most of the repairs. Seems to me that other tracks have employees to do this job. I doubt the AMR crews are trained to do repairs.

Jim Davis, Tucson, AZ

MP: I was in the area when the repairs were going on and didn’t count who was from where, but with an IndyCar race to run and a fixed TV window, getting the fixes done ASAP was needed. As for training, we’re talking the same type of poles and fencing you might install in your backyard, so I’m confident anyone could have helped by following instructions from those in charge at the track. If anything, I’d think the track would have thanked the AMR team for the quick turnaround.

Q: I’ve watched IndyCar at least since Nigel Mansell came in, and have successfully converted my daughter and sister into fans, but I’m still having trouble explaining why the pits are closed sometimes and other times not during a yellow flag. I’m not the only one, having heard Bell, Hinch, and Diffey talk about it on the broadcasts. At the risk of this becoming as common as wanting Cleveland and Milwaukee back on the schedule (which I do), can you please explain again, once and for all again, race control’s logic behind when the pits are open or closed during cautions?

I’ve read and 7.2.2 in the rulebook, but they don’t address specifics, so I have to wonder if they decide by rock paper scissors, a coin flip, or odds and evens.

Also: how is a driver’s place determined during a yellow pit stop? If the pits are open, Driver A pits. Does he keep his same position as before he pitted (P13, then pits, can he go back to P13, or does he go to the back of the field)? I get that the rules say overtaking isn’t permitted, but that implies he can’t advance his position (from P13 to P3). Where does a driver in P13 end up and why there?

A suggestion for NBC/IndyCar: Add the team name to the driver’s info onscreen. The way it is now, you see the car number, driver’s name, and major sponsor (“12 Will Power Verizon” with a picture of the car). That’s fine, but it’s very confusing keeping teams and drivers straight when drivers change teams at the end of each season, rookies come into the series, and when one driver subs for another. Change it to: “12 Will Power Verizon Team Penske,” or “51 Takuma Sato Nurtec Dale Coyne Racing w/RWR” or “30 Christan Lundgaard Shield Cleansers Rahal Letterman Lanigan”.

Yeah, commentators might give that information during the broadcast, and sure, it’s on the IndyCar website’s driver’s page, and it might crowd a small graphic, but c’mon, when they show an in-car shot, it’d make things easier for the more casual fan to keep track of who’s where. Plus, it’s even more exposure for the smaller teams (Paretta, D&R, Dragonspeed, etc.).

Rich McGuigan, KY

MP: The only place where competition is allowed during a yellow is on pit lane, just as you’ll find in pretty much every series I can think of. If you’ve watched an IndyCar race where the pits were closed under a yellow, then opened for the field to pit as desired, I have to believe you’ve seen exactly what takes place.

As for why IndyCar closes the pits, I’ll see if race director Kyle Novak will share his thoughts the next time we speak.

Pitlane’s a pretty straightforward place – until you start adding yellows into the mix. Gavin Baker/Motorsport Images

Q: I’m interested to get your thoughts on a slight variation of IndyCar’s caution and pit open/closed procedures. I realize that this comparison is going to be apples and oranges, but on road and street courses, why doesn’t IndyCar look at implementing a Virtual Safety Car procedure like F1 uses? You had a great point around local yellows which F1 also throws, so wouldn’t the logic be to utilize a similar system?

Chris in Alexandria

MP: We won’t see it this year, but I’d expect IndyCar to use its EM Marshaling System to bring VSCs to bear in the near future.

Q: In IndyCar, drivers control the use of Push to Pass. Each car given so many seconds of PTP depending on the track and number of laps in the race, correct? In F1, who controls the use of DRS? It seems to me the driver is not in control of when DRS is activated. Can you clarify for me?

Fred in Oregon

CHRIS MEDLAND: DRS can only be used in certain zones (marked out by the FIA ahead of each race weekend). They’re usually on the track’s main straights, so in Austria there were three zones — one on the pit straight, one on the run from Turn 1 up to Turn 3, and one from the run from Turn 3 down to Turn 4. Each zone has a detection point that is usually one corner before, and if a car is less than one second behind the car in front, it will be able to use DRS in the next zone. If a car is more than a second behind at the detection point, it can’t use DRS in the next zone (even if it closes up through the corner).

So the FIA controls when DRS is available to a driver through the automated detection points, and then the drivers activate it themselves inside the car when it is available. Theoretically, a driver could choose not to activate it if they didn’t want to.

Q: I’d like to know how “American” America’s F1 team is. What, if anything, does Haas do in the North Carolina facility, and are there any key American personal within the team?

IndyCar (and Buffalo Bills) fan in western NY

CM: Kannapolis only houses a Haas machine shop and some HR/finance departments, with the rest of the team based either in Banbury in the UK or at Maranello and Dallara in Italy for logistical reasons. There is a very good American in a senior engineering position, though, with the voice you hear on Mick Schumacher’s radio being Gary Gannon. Gannon is Mick’s race engineer, and was born in Nebraska. As a Cornell graduate he worked at HPD before moving to the UK, eventually joining Marussia and then Haas.

The team’s head of reliability, Scott Vizniowski, is also from the U.S. and now works at Maranello, while the team has hired from IndyCar too as Trevor Green-Smith – who was Alexander Rossi‘s assistant engineer at Andretti – joined as a performance engineer this season. But don’t forget that regardless of where it’s based, the money behind it all is very much American — the team wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for Gene Haas.

From Robin Miller’s Mailbag, 15 July, 2015

Q: I read that back in 1986 in CART’s heyday, Ferrari had a car all put together and ready to race and then changed their mind. Is this true, and if so, what happened? That would have been interesting.

Doug Ferguson

ROBIN MILLER: Yes sir, there was a Ferrari IndyCar designed, built and tested but never raced, and many figured it was just a ploy by Enzo Ferrari to get his way with Formula 1. Ferrari was mad at F1’s engine regulations so he commissioned an IndyCar. Ferrari talked to Goodyear about a CART program and it suggested Truesports. Bobby Rahal gave a demonstration run in his ’85 March at Fiorano along with Michele Alboreto (who would ironically end up in the IRL one day) and Gustav Brunner – who would designed the ’87-’88 Ferrari F1 cars – first penned the Ferrari IndyCar, which was unveiled to the media in ’86. Alboreto tested it but never raced it and it was handed down to the Alfa-Romeo boys who came to Indy in 1990 (with disastrous results).

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