Takuma Sato crashes during wind-affected tyre test at Texas


Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Heavy wind gusts seriously affected a Verizon IndyCar Series group test held earlier this week at Texas Motor Speedway. Ten drivers competing in the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series were in Texas on Thursday for the mid-season test in order for the teams to continue to learn about the new-for-2018 aero kit and for tyre-suppliers Firestone to decide which compound they will bring to the race held at the venue in June.

Whilst Firestone was still able to get the information that they needed, many of the teams and drivers did not conduct as much running as they would hope. The heavy with made the track conditions difficult and unrepresentative of what would normally be expected.

In fact, conditions were so difficult, reigning Indianapolis 500 champion Takuma Sato was caught out and crashed heavily in his #30 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda. According to a spectator at the circuit, Sato lost control of his car in turn two and hit the wall hard. His car came to rest at turn three, before thankfully emerging from the car unscathed. Shortly after this, several teams elected to cease running, curtailing plans for group running later in the day.

“A tough day for us as I had a massive shunt at Texas Motor Speedway.” said Sato on Twitter, “But UAK18 [the 2018 universal aero kit]‘s new sidepod crash structure protected me well. I’m unhurt. Thank you, IndyCar and Dallara. We will be back strong in June!”

Other drivers in action during the Texas test included Dale Coyne Racing team-mates Sebastien Bourdais and Pietro Fittipaldi. It was Fittipaldi’s first taste of Texas and only his second time running an IndyCar on an oval. Pietro shared the #18 car with Bourdais, who was on hand to offer help for the rookie.

“It was fast, man,” Fittipaldi said regarding his first running at TMS, “It was really fast in the beginning, very different to Phoenix.”

“It feels really light down the straight, especially with the gusty winds. That’s why we ended up stopping because the car was sort of moving around down the straights, and then the steering wheel gets really heavy in the corners once you get banked. It’s a strange feeling.

“You sort of lose confidence when the steering gets light and then it grips back up when you get to the banking. It was a good experience.”

 Marco AndrettiEd CarpenterScott DixonTony KanaanJosef Newgarden and the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports duo of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens. Like Fittipaldi, it was also Wickens’ first running at Texas:

“It’s interesting,” Wickens said. “So far [in] my INDYCAR career, every time I’m in the car I feel like I’m learning a lot. I did my first oval test period in Phoenix [last month], then first INDYCAR race, then now first superspeedway, so it’s all a work in motion.

“Today, I think the conditions weren’t phenomenal. The wind wasn’t too kind to us. It was really gusty and made things pretty difficult, but I learned the track and learned a thing or two about superspeedways, and am looking forward to coming back here in June.”

The Verizon IndyCar Series will head to Texas Motor Speedway for their ninth round of the season, the DXC Technology 600, that takes place on June 9.