A handful of drivers took to Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday to test tyre and aerodynamic options for the 2019 Indianapolis 500 and the other oval races on the 2019 IndyCar Series calendar. Six drivers made laps on the famous oval, with signs so far pointing toward an improvement in the overall oval package that should hopefully encourage better racing on the speedways than we saw earlier this year.
The recently re-crowned IndyCar champion, Scott Dixon was joined by three other drivers who have also won the Indianapolis 500. Alexander Rossi, Will Power and Tony Kanaan were out on the track with the Chip Ganassi Racing driver and were also joined by Graham Rahal and Ed Carpenter.
The key focus of the test was to enable the series’ tyre suppliers, Firestone, to select the tyre compounds that they would be providing for the race at the end of May next year. IndyCar also opted to use the test to trial some tweaks to the aerodynamic package for the oval races in order to try and improve the racing, as there had been some complaints from drivers this year that the previous package was hindering their ability to overtake and to closely follow other cars.
The six drivers were out on the track for six hours on Wednesday. Following the conclusion of the session, IndyCar officials commented that they were happy with the proposed changes following the successful test.
“I think everything went well,” said Bill Pappas, INDYCAR vice president of competition/race engineering. “The test went very smoothly and efficiently. Everybody worked well together. Again, it shows the effort that Firestone, INDYCAR and the teams are making to make the series better. We’re very, very happy with the way the day turned out.”
“The ’19 tyre that we tested in August [and in Wednesday’s test] was overwhelmingly the biggest factor to improve the competitiveness of the pack from second back to sixth.”
It was not just the officials who were happy with the progress made in the test. Reigning series champion Dixon led the praise for the work done by Firestone to improve the tyre compounds for next season:
“The ’19 [tyre] is much more consistent, it’s much easier to feel what it’s doing, the grip level is up, which we need mechanical grip,” said Scott, who would later go on to comment that the improvements at Indy could also help at the other oval races on the calendar. “Firestone, to be honest, has done a very, very good job.”
Dixon’s closest 2018 championship rival, Alexander Rossi, was also happy with how the changes felt on the day. However, the Andretti Autosport driver would go on to tell reporters after the session that there was still a doubt as to how the proposed changes will feel in May when the conditions at Indianapolis are different.
“The 2019 options – tyre and aero – that we came here with were certainly a step better than last year, so that’s obviously a positive thing,” said Rossi, “How that equates in May, when ambient and track temperatures are a lot different, is going to be a mystery for all of us. But something good now won’t be bad [in May], it just won’t be as good.
“Everyone’s working hard to make sure that the 103rd Running is definitely kind of more of what we’re used to and something that all the teams, drivers and fans can be happy with.”
For Team Penske‘s Will Power, Wednesday’s test was an opportunity for him to return to the site of his emotional victory a few months ago. The Australian stated that the test had been an enjoyable one and that he was already excited to return to Indianapolis next year, where he is hoping to once again win on both the Grand Prix circuit and the on the oval.
“It was actually fun,” Power said. “It’s easy to follow [other cars in traffic] and I was enjoying myself there. I kind of wanted to keep going. It’s good to get a bit of offseason practice in for the 500.”
“I can’t wait to come back here and defend the crown, both crowns – the road course and the 500. I love driving into this place, man. Just love it, love it.”
The 2019 IndyCar Series will kick-off with the season-opening race, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, on Sunday, March 10. The 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place later in the season on Sunday, May 26.