FRANCHITTI HITS 216.7 AT FONTANA
INDYCAR: Franchitti Hits 216.7 MPH At Fontana
Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti set what's believed to be the fastest lap in testing on Thursday at Fontana as teams worked on aero packages.
Marshall Pruett September 06, 2012
Dario Franchitti left Fontana with a strong feeling on what's needed to put on the best show. (Photo: Steve Shunck/LAT)
Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti set what's believed to be the fastest lap in testing on Thursday at Fontana as teams worked with the IZOD IndyCar Series to determine the final aero package to be used in the race.
The Scot's lap of 216.7 mph around the slippery 2-mile southern California oval was set early in the day, with the rest of the runners, including his Target teammate Scott Dixon, Team Penske's Will Power and Helio Castroneves, Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay, KV Racing's Tony Kanaan and Dragon Racing's Katherine Legge--posting their best laps in the 214-216 mph range.
Beyond Franchitti's impressive solo lap speeds, the biggest development to come out of the day's test was whether teams will use strakes on the Dallara DW12's underwing when they return to race for 500 miles on Saturday night, September 15th.
With the strakes installed, drivers have extra downforce to utilize, but based on the success of the aerodynamic setup that was used earlier in the year at Texas, the best show at Fontana could be produced with lower downforce levels.
"I'm a strakes-off kind of guy," said Franchitti when asked which option he preferred. "When the track cools down at night and the track rubbers up, it will be acceptable to run with the strakes off.
By removing the strake in the middle of the underwing's tunnel, a significant amount of downforce is lost while with more turbulent air is dispatched behind the car. (Photo: Marshall Pruett)
"With the strakes on, I'm afraid it's just enough extra downforce to give us pack racing again. The bottom line, though, is that it's bloody hard to drive the cars without strakes. Not easy at all."
Will Power is locked in a championship battle with Ryan Hunter-Reay that will be decided at Fontana, and the two also have differing views on the strakes debate.
"Strakes off!" Power said emphatically after turning his first-ever laps on the track. "It's just gotta be that way. I think most guys would want them off.
"The first time I did a qualifying simulation, I took the racing line and had to lift in the middle [of the corners]. It was great. That's what Helio said it was like when he raced CART there. When we put the strakes on, we were wide open right away."
Both drivers from the Andretti camp came away with alternate outlooks, with Hunter-Reay telling SPEED.com "I'd like to see them on" and Hinchcliffe saying he'd prefer to reserve judgement until the series runs its next test at Fontana.
Scheduled for Wednesday the 12th, most of the IZOD IndyCar Series teams will test into the night at Fontana just two days ahead of opening practice, and based on the consensus on strakes, the series is expected to release its aero specifications for the season finale.