The new tale of St. Petersburg's treacherous Turn 3

Marshall Pruett

The new tale of St. Petersburg's treacherous Turn 3


The new tale of St. Petersburg's treacherous Turn 3


Most repaving projects lead to an increase in traction, but as NTT IndyCar Series driver learned during Friday’s opening practice session on the streets of St. Petersburg, the new stretch of tarmac applied by the city between Turns 3 and 4 have radically altered the grip that’s available and the stability of the rocket-fast machines as they fire into the section. More unfortunate lessons were delivered Saturday morning as drivers clobbered the Turn 3 exit wall, bounced off the inside wall, and broke things while losing grip under braking into Turn 4.

Including the Indy NXT by Firestone, USF Championships presented by Cooper Tires, and the SRO Americas series which have all seen major crashes take place in Turn 3, not to mention the spins and incidents at Turn 4, it has been a punishing and costly weekend for some of the event’s participants.

With no significant improvements expected to the section prior to Sunday’s season-opening IndyCar race, drivers like Colton Herta, who was quickest of the 27 drivers leading into qualifying, say they’ll just have to deal with the slippery track surface and pray they keep their cars between the walls.

“They repaved from (Turns 3 to 4) and the grip is way down there; whatever they paved with isn’t integrating with our tires,” the Andretti Autosport driver told RACER. “And that’s why you’ve seen a lot of guys getting in trouble there. And there’s a big bump there that’s causing some issues. With the grip problems and the bump, you’re not seeing a lot of guys go as hard through there as we did before. It’s no longer flat (on the throttle) for us.”

Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin ran second behind Herta in the session, and according to his race engineer Ben Bretzman, windy conditions this weekend in St. Petersburg have exacerbated the traction inadequacies in Turns 3 and 4.

“Getting through Turn 3 is particularly difficult,” he said. “You have to really sacrifice some things to get through there, and as you’re going through it, it’s a combination of bottoming on the bump and the wind direction hasn’t helped either. It’s been a tailwind there a lot of times, and so it’s been difficult because if the car starts bouncing and the wind gets underneath your sail there; it makes it…difficult.”

On a positive note, Firestone’s alternate tires allowed Herta and the others who were able to complete strong qualifying simulation runs to push right away and be rewarded with lap times that weren’t far off of what was achieved last year.

“I went out and I had a clean out lap and a clean first flying lap, which is when I set my best time,” Herta said. “The tires are activating quickly.”