Of course the compressed double race weekend format pushed teams and drivers to the limit physically and mentally and with Sunday’s race featuring more car accidents we shall have to wait and see if team owners will be happy to keep this race weekend format for 2014 onwards?
The circuit’s revised layout, widened and lengthened, also helped to make the course more racy. Looking back at the weekend two things come immediately to mind. This was another weekend where popular team and driver wins were achieved and secondly, after seven races this season, neither Team Penske nor Chip Ganassi Racing two of IndyCar’s traditional powerhouse teams have won any races so far which just goes to show the improving quality of the field.
This coming weekend we have Formula 1’s Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, Detroit’s Belle Isle Circuit has a somewhat similar look and feel. So imagine if you can, if F1 hosted a doubleheader race weekend in Montreal and Jules Bianchi and Marussia dominated fair and square the first race and Nico Hulkenberg and Sauber won the second, this was the type of giant killing performance we saw in Detroit.
French star Simon Pagenaud became the sixth different winner in seven races this year when he drove his No. 77 Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports car to a 5.6-second victory in the second race of the weekend at the Chevrolet Indy Dual in Detroit presented by Quicken Loans.
This was the first win for both team and driver and a very popular one as well and every bit as well received at Saturday’s win by Mike Conway and Dale Coyne Racing. This also marked the 100th victory for Honda in IndyCar and provided the Japanese manufacturer with some satisfaction after their defeat to Chevrolet at the Indy 500. The Detroit race also being heavily supported by Chevrolet and held in GM’s backyard only added to the satisfaction felt by Honda at their domination this weekend.
“It’s unbelievable. I don’t know how we did it,” said Pagenaud, who had started sixth in the 70-lap race on the 2.346-mile, 13-turn street course. “It’s a great feeling. One I hope of more to come. I started karting when I was 8 so it’s been 21 years of hard work to finally win an IndyCar race.”
The UK was well represented on the podium this weekend with James Jakes, who started second, finishing a career-best second for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing by holding off Race 1 winner and fellow Brit Mike Conway by a scant .4342 of a second. Conway pulled-off some of the most committed and spectacular overtaking moves in the race that I have seen for a long time. Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammates Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti were next to cross the start-finish line.
Helio Castroneves overtook Graham Rahal on the final laps for eighth place, gaining the extra point to retain the championship lead. He’s now tied at 206 points with Marco Andretti, who finished sixth, heading to this weekend’s oval race, the Firestone 550 at Texas Motor Speedway.
In Saturday’s first race, Mike Conway overtook reigning champion Ryan Hunter-Reay for the lead on Lap 44, built a 20-second gap leading into the final round of pit stops and went on to easily claim his second series victory. Because the British driver narrowly missed winning both races the prize fund for the SONAX Perfect Finish Award now jumps to $100,000 for the Honda Toronto Indy in mid-July.
Full race results from Sunday’s race two can be seen here: http://www.imscdn.com/indycar_media/documents/2013-06-02/Chevrolet%20Indy%20Dual%20in%20Detroit%202%20Box%20Score.pdf
Video highlights from Saturday’s race 1 can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=285WowKZunU&feature=share&list=UUy1F61QvUUQXAXi2Voa_fUw
Video highlights from Sunday’s race 2 can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8gB_NEzwMdg&feature=share&list=UUy1F61QvUUQXAXi2Voa_fUw
Select post race quotes.
SIMON PAGENAUD – Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports Honda:
“There were a lot of things going on in the cockpit in the last two laps, I can tell you that. It’s unbelievable. I don’t know how we did it. The car was mega fast. The HP team did a fantastic job. Honda has been amazing. I certainly had more horsepower than anyone else out there right now. Thanks to everybody. I want to thank my family and everybody around me. This wouldn’t have happened without them. Man, it’s a great feeling. One I hope of more to come.”
JUSTIN WILSON – Dale Coyne Racing Honda:
“Something happened up ahead, and I was going into the corner on the outside of Charlie (Kimball), and I couldn’t see because the rear wing is so big and everyone just stopped. And it was just a road block. The complete track was blocked from where I was. I hit the wall trying not to run into anyone. It’s a disappointing day. Had a good race car. Seems like everyone is getting a little crazy today. Yesterday was nice and calm, but today was crazy.”
MIKE CONWAY – Dale Coyne Racing Honda:
(On strategy after last pit stop) “Just driving flat out. As fast as it would go. I pushed really hard at the beginning and that may have taken a little bit out of the tires but it was still good towards the end. I was catching James [Jakes], I could see he was on reds, so he started to pull away to start with when he came out to start with from that last pit stop. I thought they may go out until the end, and they were, and I used my overtake, the one I had left, maybe a lap to early. And that was enough. I couldn’t quite get close enough.”
(On the physicality of the track) “Yeah, it was tough. You’re pushing maximum effort all the time. Especially on the restarts. You have no time to relax. And even with the breaks with the safety car, you know of need that little breather to get your heart rate back down. But you know, I feel good. Adrenaline is pumping. But I’m sure I’ll be shattered tonight.”
Roger Griffiths – Technical Director, Honda Performance Development:
“Two wins, two poles and a podium sweep in today’s race … After yesterday’s win by Mike [Conway] to think we could do it again today in such emphatic style is unbelievable. I’m so pleased to be here and see Simon [Pagenaud] get his first win, and the fantastic results for [second-place] James [Jakes] and [thirdplace] Mike as well. It’s a fitting tribute to all the hard work everyone at HPD has put forth since Indy.”
Firestone Tire Performance Recap:
“We saw a number of different tire strategies over the weekend, with first-time winner Simon Pagenaud taking the checkered flag on the primary tires. James Jakes, used a different tire strategy, opting to finish on the alternates and held off Mike Conway to take second place. Conway, winner from Dual 1 on Saturday, again ran a very strong race to take third place on the primaries.”
Finally, during the race weekend IndyCar also held a press conference to discuss the future of the series and how they would like to see improved competition and development. IndyCar bosses state they want to “open the door” to increased technical innovation in its cars and further their efforts to improve safety. The timeline begins immediately and runs through to the 2021 season.
Immediate initiatives include IndyCar and chassis supplier Dallara looking to reduce the surface area of the underbody of the current car to reduce the potential for lift in preparation for the addition of various aerodynamic packages coming in 2015. The project is underway and will conclude this fall.
Aero kits will be introduced and used for all races on the 2015 calendar and include specifications for superspeedway and road/street/short oval circuits.
Areas open for development by IndyCar-approved aero kit manufacturers could include sidepods, engine cover and front and rear wing end plates. Mainplane inclusion in aero kits is dependent on underwing development and will be determined at a later date. IndyCar expects to announce manufacturer participation in July.
“This is the first step in making the incremental changes to our cars toward further enhancing speed, innovation and safety,” said Derrick Walker, IndyCar’s recently announced president of competition and operations. “As we continue to look at all methods of advancing safety and competition, our initial task it to prepare our current chassis for the further increases of speed we hope to see with the addition of new aero configurations in 2015.”
Initiatives outlined as part of the series long-term strategy include:
- 2013 – INDYCAR and Dallara look to reduce the surface area of the underbody of thechassis to reduce the potential for lift in preparation for the addition of various aerodynamic configurations in 2015.
- 2014 – Engine upgrades as part of the current homologation process;adjustments to enhance racing, overtaking as well as safety at various racetrack configurations, as needed.
- 2015 – Aero configuration components introduced for the full IZOD IndyCar Series seasonconjunction with potential enhancements to the underbody.
- 2016 – Opportunity for tire development, if needed, with Firestone, as well as engineenhancements as required.
- 2017 – Possible aero configuration kits and engine upgrades. Potential for areas on car toopened for team development.
- 2018 – Competition enhancements made based on performance of 2017 package.
- 2019 – Potential introduction of new body style and engine formula.
- 2020 – Competition enhancements made based on performance of 2019 package.
- 2021 – Possible aero configuration upgrade.
“Our long-term competition strategy is designed to build on the foundation of our current package with progressive and methodical enhancements in conjunction with our manufacturers, teams and drivers,” added Walker. “Always with an eye towards safety, our timeline will build on our already exciting product and create opportunities for us to move the performance barrier forward through enhancements designed to balance the longevity of our current car-engine platform as we build toward the next generation IndyCar package.”
Video highlights from this press conference can be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Js3j7lp7TZ4&feature=share&list=UUy1F61QvUUQXAXi2Voa_fUw By James Foreman