TURBOCHARGER TO PROVIDE BOOST ON FAST FRIDAY
Turbocharger could provide boost at Indy 500 Fast Friday
By Curt Cavin
May 18, 2012
IndyCar drivers expect more excitement today as engines get more oomph for the weekend.
That could be good or bad.
Speeds at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will climb, for sure, after Izod IndyCar Series officials approved turbocharger boost increases that should be worth 4-5 mph. But that might come at a price.
Scott Dixon, who ran the quickest lap Thursday at 223.088 mph (second- fastest of the month), said there will be less tire grip and more opportunity for trouble.
"The next level after this is going to be a big (step)," he said.
Fast Friday is always about anticipation as teams and their stars focus on going as fast as possible in single-car runs to simulate weekend qualifying. Most of this week, efforts have been made to run in packs that simulate race conditions.
Drafting in packs is quicker because these new cars punch big holes in the air for trailers to slip into. Engines that don't have to work as hard to break the wind can churn harder, zipping the car along quicker.
The combination of the extra horsepower and all 33 drivers trying to practice in the same six-hour window should make this pop.
Hopefully, it's not against the wall. So far, only one driver has made wall contact — rookie Josef Newgarden had light contact with the pit wall after losing control off Turn 4 in Wednesday's practice.
That could change.
"You're going to be going into the corners 10 mph faster," Graham Rahal said. "Hopefully everyone will handle it, but it shouldn't change too much ….. but it will be a little different."
Chevrolet and Honda have been operating with about 520 horsepower. Series points leader Will Power would like even more. In general terms, a gain of 10 horsepower is worth a gain of 1 mph. He'd take a gain of 100 horsepower.
"When you've got more grip and less horsepower, the (cars) are pretty stuck to the road," he said.
Dixon doesn't think the boost is necessary, either to put on a good show or to keep the drivers happy.
"For us that are driving around, you're not so set on the overall speed, you're more set on trying to make the balance (of the car) good," he said. "The car's 8going to be difficult to drive no matter what speed you're going. It's going to be on the edge."
Once cars are out of the draft, Dixon projects laps in the 224-mph bracket.
"We're not going to be doing the 228s we were doing last year," he said. "For me personally, I think (the speed) is a little irrelevant, but on the other hand I think it's a little exciting. It breaks up the week. You might have to manage the car a little different as far as setup and downforce levels.
"The fans are going to love to see the speeds go up. ….. It's just a number for us, but I think people see 225 as more attractive than 221."
But will the engine manufacturers? They have had virtually no reliability 8issues in the six days of open practice. Only Rahal's Honda has exploded, and that was attributed to being at the end of the 1,850-mile performance limit.
More horsepower could challenge the limits, and it could create separation in performance.
Honda has had the upper hand most of the week and put four drivers in the top five Thursday, representing three teams.
Power was the only Chevrolet driver in that mix.
Lotus is a distant third. Its two drivers — rookie Jean Alesi and Simona De Silvestro — ran 207.489 mph and 205.690.mph, respectively. They've already practiced with the extra boost thanks to an allowance from IndyCar earlier in the week. But that oomph only got them to 211 mph, which still would be the slowest.
The separation from front to back is about 17 mph.
Boost levels will return to Thursday levels after qualifications.
View this USA Today article here.