Harding Racing’s Gabby Chaves: “There are still big leaps to make to be truly competitive”

Credit: Shawn Gritzmacher / Courtesy of IndyCar

Verizon IndyCar Series driver Gabby Chaves has praised the work of his team Harding Racing after the first race of their first full-time campaign but has also said that the team have a long way to go to be where they want to be on pace.

The Colombian said that the team performed great on their first race on a street circuit, but he believes that the gap between Harding and the top teams, such as Chip Ganassi Racing and Team Penske, will get larger in upcoming races.

Chaves took Harding Racing to fourteenth place at the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg earlier this month. He was right in the mix with drivers such as 2016 series champion Simon Pagenaud and reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato. The result was fantastic considering that the team had only taken part in three oval races before committing to a full-time IndyCar season for this year:

“We were very proud of how we went in St. Pete,” Chaves told Motorsport.com, “but we are not fooling ourselves. That’s not going to happen every week. There are still big leaps to make to be truly competitive with those guys.”

“We’ve cut our gap to the top teams by half – more than half, actually – so that’s strong, and we need to keep taking big steps like that,” he commented. “It’s so tight, after that, it’s about finding the details.

“I think it will be on smoother road courses that we will find there is a bigger gap between the more inexperienced teams and the top-tier teams. There’s so much less that the driver can make up for. On a street course, there’s less of a performance gap between the cars anyway and so if you have a good balanced car, a driver can hustle a bit, make up the gap. On a road course, if you hustle and slide the car around, you’re losing time, not gaining, and it comes down to how much a team has put into its damping programs and mechanical developments.

“So a team just getting started is obviously going to be at a disadvantage in those areas. But again, we expected that. We’ll just work at it.”

Chaves also went on to say that he also had room to improve as a driver; specifically citing that he needed to improve on his ability to adapt to a car’s specific requirements at any given event:

“To be completely honest, the really fast guys, the best of the best, are going to be able to adapt to whatever a car requires,” Chaves added, “so that’s what I’m trying to achieve – to be regarded as one of those guys. That’s my job.

“It just so happens that this car is a bit more lively and maybe some drivers prefer that, some drivers don’t. And I kinda enjoy it. But whatever, the best drivers will make the car work and that’s what we all need to do.”

Chaves and Harding Racing will have some experience under their belts when they head to the next round of the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series. The Desert Diamond West Valley Casino Phoenix Grand Prix will take place at ISM Raceway, the site of one of the pre-season tests that took place back in February. The race will take place on April 7.