Indy 500

2017 Indy 500 Preview Part 1

The 101st Indianapolis 500 should prove to be one for the ages, with its reputation as a landmark race only reinforced this year.

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Fernando Alonso News A Throwback

It’s not often the motorsport world is collectively left in shock by a piece of news, but that’s exactly what happened this week. Formula One legend Fernando Alonso announced he would miss the Monaco Grand Prix to instead contest the Indianapolis 500. Both races are prestige events in the world of motorsport, and this exciting news shows Alonso is in touch with the history of this sport.

One of the key reasons Alonso gave for wanting to do the race is so he can attempt to win the triple crown of motorsport. He has already won the Monaco GP twice, in 2006 and 2007, and has already made his intention to try to win the Le Mans 24 Hours in the future widely known, therefore the Indianapolis 500 was the only race left to win.

It appears that the initial idea for contesting the race came as a light hearted joke from McLaren executive director Zak Brown about doing Indy together. It appears from here the idea settled and began to grow in the mind of Alonso, before crunch talks at last weekends Chinese Grand Prix solidified the idea.

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Alonso and McLaren exec director Zak Brown at his Indy 500 announcement. Can the Spaniard win first time out? Photo: LAT.

 

Within the Indycar series there appears to have been a lot of support for the idea, with Stefan Wilson parking his own Indy 500 plans to accommodate Alonso, along with huge support from Indycar, Honda and the Andretti Autosport team that will run Alonso on behalf of McLaren. A weird coincidence is that Andretti Autosport team principal Michael Andretti drove for McLaren during the 1993 season.

The reason why this news was so shocking to many motorsport fans is because of the speciality of modern drivers.  In the modern age drivers are usually regimented in one series, especially at the top levels of racing. Whilst it’s not uncommon for drivers to do on-off races like this in other series, that is largely true in Sportscar or American racing rather than F1.

Alonso taking part in this years Indy 500 will make him the first driver to compete in the race and F1 in the same season since Brit cult hero Nigel Mansell halted his Indycar campaign for a late part-season at Williams in 1994. Whilst German driver Nico Hulkenberg surprised the racing world by first confirming and then winning the 2015 Le Mans 24 Hours with Porsche, this did not generate as much headlines as Alonso.

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Nico Hulkenberg celebrating with teams mates Nick Tandy and Earl Bamber in 2015. Photo: Motorsport.com

 

Whilst Indycar has risen in popularity and prestige since the American open wheel reunification in 2008, the series is still no where near its previous popularity of the early 1990’s when Mansell was racing in the series. A lot of shock will have likely been the fact that a lot of people would not have thought Alonso would want to compete in the race. He has not mentioned his dreams of winning the triple crown a lot and no body would have predicted he would miss the Monaco GP to compete in the race.

A big reason why a lot of F1 drivers in the modern era do not compete in other races is because their teams are very regimented in what they allow them to do. Teams worry about another disaster situation such as what happened to Robert Kubica in 2011, where a big rally crash badly injured his hand and effectively forced a early retirement from F1. Many would have thought McLaren would have prevented Alonso from skipping the Monaco race for Indianapolis, but perhaps this is an attempt to appease a man unhappy with the current performance of his McLaren-Honda package.

This news is very exciting for motorsport fans because its a chance to see someone many people call the benchmark driver in F1 compete against the best American open wheel racers. The news will also remind many fans of a bygone era in F1. From the beginning of F1 in 1950 right up until the early 1990’s drivers would routinely add races such as the Le Mans 24 Hours to their F1 schedule.

It was not uncommon for drivers to compete in several different types of car throughout the season, and this diversification with F1 drivers is what fans loved to see. This is why the news is so exciting, as for the first time in a long while we will get to see a F1 world champion competing with the heroes from another series.

All fans of motorsport are winners with this latest news, with the announcement undoubtedly raising the profile of both Indycar and the Indianapolis 500 internationally. Hopefully the buzz surrounding this announcement and his performance in the race will convince some more F1 drivers to branch out and try the big events such as the Indy 500 or the Le Mans 24 Hours in the future. One thing is for certain however, as a fan I cannot wait to see how Alonso fares next month.

Any thoughts on this article? Please feel free to give your opinion in the comments section below and a huge thank you for reading. Follow me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

2016 Indianapolis 500 Preview Part 3

Part three is my final roundup previewing the upcoming Indianapolis 500, one of the centre piece events in motorsport. Feel free to visit my other preview pages on my blog, with this entry previewing the final thirteen entries on the grid. The race will undoubtedly provide plenty of action and drama throughout the 500 miles of racing, so let’s take a look at the final batch of contenders.

#25 KVSH Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Stefan Wilson

The #25 entry is a very special one, as it’s being run in honour of the popular Brit Justin Wilson, who was tragically killed last August by debris at Pocono. This is why his brother Stefan is making his Indy 500 debut this year, with the KVSH racing team.

Whilst Stefan is a rookie and his on track performance is of course important, unlike any other car on the grid this one has another purpose. To raise money for charities linked with Justin. Whilst it’s fitting that it’s his brother who keeps the Wilson name on the Indycar grid this year, it will be tough to produce any headlines on track.

He has only competed in one other Indycar race, making this his first Indy 500 and first Indycar event since 2013. He’s qualified 30th and will find it tough to make up places, despite a strong KVSH team behind him. To claim a top twenty spot would be a result for Stefan, although the wider goal of money raised will be irrespective from his on track performance.

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#26 United Fire Data Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Carlos Munoz

Carlos Munoz is a young Colombian who is making a name for himself in Indycar as a very solid young driver. He started the season off well with eighth, but since then a string of finishes outside the top ten have hampered his progress.

Andretti Autosport and Honda appear to be hooked up here in Indianapolis, with three of the Andretti entries in the top five of qualifying. Munoz was the third of the entries in fifth, a great starting position for the race. Although he will have to race hard to remain in the top five, Munoz has put himself in a perfect position to claim a great result this Sunday.

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#27 Snapple Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Marco Andretti

The most famous name in the race is likely to be considered Marco Andretti. The latest in the Andretti has shared his father and grandfather’s bad luck at the Brickyard. While similarly talented names have multiple wins, Marco has yet to win the 500.

Whilst he seemingly always manages to run well at Indianapolis, he has struggled to convert this into a good result here. So far it’s been a tough start to the season for him, with no top ten finishes and a 14th qualifying spot for the 500. Whilst a big result at the 500 can easily turn a season around, on current form and considering his bad luck here simply a top ten finish would be an improvement for Marco Andretti.

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#28 DHL Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Ryan Hunter-Reay

Ryan Hunter Reay has been a mainstay both at Andretti Autosport and at the front of the grid in Indycar for the past five years. He has proven his talent with both the Indycar title in 2012 and Indy 500 victory in 2014.

This year has plateaued slightly in the last few rounds, something Hunter-Reay will want to rectify in the biggest race of the year. He’s qualified on the outside of the front row in third, showing just how well he can run around here.

With his Andretti team seemingly on top of the circuit, Hunter-Reay will surely go into the race as one of the select few of serious contenders. Whilst a good haul of points would be good for Hunter-Reay, based on his practice speed surely anything other than a win will be met with a tinge of disappointment.

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#29 Robert Graham Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Townsend Bell

American sportscar and open wheel racer Townsend Bell returns for another crack at the Indy 500, after switching his full season focus to sportscars several years ago. Bell always seems to perform well at Indianapolis, and this year a one-off deal with Andretti Autosport it a great fit for him.

With little running before the event Bell has shown how strong the Andretti team is by placing his car fourth on the grid in qualifying. For a one-off entry, this is a remarkable result and should it be repeated in the race would surely be one of the main talking points. Bell is capable of causing an upset and from fourth on the grid anything is possible for the experienced American.

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#35 Alfe A.J Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Honda: Alex Tagliani

Alex Tagliani is a mainstay of Indycar and the Indy 500, returning with another one-off entry with the A.J Foyt Enterprises team. The experienced Canadian is capable of a good result here, despite spending the majority of the season racing GT’s in Europe.

Whilst it’s always difficult to jump into the series for one race, especially the blue riband event, but that’s not been an issue for Tagliani in the past. This year things have been difficult however, with a crash in his qualifying run relegating Tagliani to the back of the grid, having not completed a run.

His hopes for the 500 are unknown, but if he’s at this best then a top ten result is still attainable for Tagliani. With the pressure of running a full season off, he can charge from the back without thinking about the championship.

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#41 ABC Supply Co A.J Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Honda: Jack Hawksworth

For Brit Jack Hawksworth this is his second season with the A.J Foyt team, and so far it’s been a tough season for him. He has yet to record a top ten finish in the first five races, and things have not improved so far at Indy.

He qualified on the final row in 31st position, and in the race this is only going to make getting to the front that bit harder for him. He can still salvage a result in such a long race, but he has not made things easy for himself. The Honda engine appears to be running well here, therefore it will be up to Hawksworth and his talent to drag the car into the top ten, of course dependent on if he can keep out of trouble as he rises through the field.

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#42 Tresiba Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Charlie Kimball

Charlie Kimball is one of those drivers who appears to be underrated amongst the Indycar community, and he’s proved himself whilst at Chip Ganassi racing for the past few years. This year has been mixed for Kimball, with a top five in the last round showing what he can do when he get’s the opportunity.

It appears here at Indianapolis that the Chip Ganassi team are struggling slightly for pace, with none of their four cars in the top twelve. For a team that won the title last year this is a tough pill to take, and something they will no doubt be working on flat out until the race start on Sunday afternoon. If they can improve the car during the race Kimball has a chance of a top ten result, if not he may struggle to move through the field from his 16th starting spot.

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#61 Pirtek Team Murray Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Matthew Brabham

The world famous Brabham name returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with Matthew the third generation of Brabham to race in the 500. It’s an ambitious effort from the rookie, as he is being run by Team Murray, who are also making their step up to Indycar in the biggest race of the year.

The team is receiving support from KVSH racing, and this will prove invaluable to their preparations for the race. So far Brabham has settled in well, qualifying a respectable 26th on the grid for his debut race. For his first ever Indycar race simply finishing it would be a good result for Brabham, although with so many unknowns surrounding the team anything is possible for them.

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#63 Susan G. Komen Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda: Pippa Mann

British racer Pippa Mann has once again found a one-off entry for the Indy 500, with support from Susan G. Komen and Dale Coyne Racing. She has shown pace in previous Indy Lights and Indycar races, and this is something she will want to show once again this Sunday.

So far it’s been a under the radar month, as she’s qualified 25th for the race. This is a respectable effort considering she has had little time to get back up to speed in these cars. For one-off entries it’s always difficult to achieve a good result, although for Pippa if things run smoothly she can easily score a top seven result in the 500, and potentially earning the opportunity to run further races later in the year.

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#77 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Dallara DW12-Honda: Oriol Servia

Oriol Servia has seemingly emerged as a specialist in the one-off Indianapolis 500 entry. He is a proven talent at this level and his results surely warrant a full season ride in the series, despite his lack of funds.

This year he has teamed up with Schmidt Peterson motorsports, as he looks to have a good result in the 500, which could help him earn more races in the series in the future. After running in the season opener, he has acquitted himself with the very different oval aero kit on these spec Dallara chassis, as he qualified a very good tenth on the grid. This puts him in a great position to maintain his place in the top ten come the finish, which would surely be considered a good result by the team considering his entry is a one-off.

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#88 Jonathan Byrd’s Racing Dallara DW12-Honda: Bryan Clauson

After several attempts at the Indy 500, American sprint and midget car racer Bryan Clauson is back once again this year with the one car Jonathan Byrd racing team. His two previous attempts at the 500 have not ended well, so this year Clauson will be hoping to improve upon his current best result of 30th in 2012.

In qualifying Clauson produced a good result to secure 28th on the grid. In the race he will have plenty of time to improve on 28th, although with a one car team their data is limited, therefore making it difficult to make in race adjustments to the changing track conditions. For Clauson the Indy 500 is part of a plan to take part in 200 races this year, and this is definitely the most high profile. A good result would be a top 15 result, although this may be just out of reach for the team.

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NAPA Auto Parts Andretti Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda: Alex Rossi

American Alex Rossi returns to the American racing scene this year, for the first time since his Formula BMW Americas title victory in 2008. After reaching F1 at the tail end of last season, Rossi has chose to move into the Indycar series this year.

The promise he showed in F1 has translated into Indycar so far, as he currently is the highest placed rookie in the standings after the first five races. After spending the majority of his career racing in Europe, his adjustment to ovals will prove crucial to how he fares in the centre piece Indy 500.

Taking advantage of a strong Andretti Autosport car he’s qualified a very respectable 11th for the 500, and from here he could easily push on and score a top five or top eight finish come the end. Watch out for Rossi as one of the surprises of the race.

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That not only wraps up part three, but is the finale for my preview of this Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. The race will be one not to miss, and anyone can watch it in the UK on BT Sport I believe. I would like to thank Motorsport.com again for their incredible quality photos which you see in this article, I really urge everyone to visit their site for the latest in motorsport news.

I would also like to thank you for reading these previews, and any comments at all would be greatly appreciated. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

 

 

2016 Indianapolis 500 Preview Part 2

This is part two of my preview for this Sunday’s blue riband Indianapolis 500, one of the three triple crown races which carry the most prestige in motorsport. If you missed the first part of my preview, you can view it here. Part 1 preview . For now let’s move onto the second part of my preview, enjoy.

#12 Verizon Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Will Power

Will Power has proved himself one of the fastest and most consistent drivers in Indycar over the past five years. The Australian’s season has been up and down so far, with podiums teamed with missing the first race because of a practice crash, which caused concussion.

He is now back to his best and starts sixth for the 500. With other rivals further down the field, Power is in a great position to fight for the victory all through the race. He has never won in the Indy 500, but with his skills and great pit work from Team Penske he may well find his 2016 turns around with a momentous victory in the centre piece 500. A win or even a top five finish would also really help kick start his potential title challenge after missing the first round.

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#14 ABC Supply Co A.J Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Honda: Takuma Sato

Takuma Sato has become a staple of the legendary A.J Foyt’s team, and this familiarity may breed a good result for the popular Japanese racer. Despite making a name for himself in F1, Sato has adjusted well to oval racing.

He came very close to winning the 2012 Indy 500, and he may become a surprise contender once again come race day. So far his season has been uneventful, with two top six results his best after five rounds. He qualified twelfth for the 500, well ahead of his team mate. It seems Sato is most likely to lead the A.J Foyt team, and he can easily achieve a top ten or even top five result. Sato can be considered in the second group of contenders, ready to capitalize on any mistakes to ensure a good result.

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#15 Steak & Shake Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda: Graham Rahal

Graham Rahal surprised everyone in Indycar with his stellar 2015 season. Both Rahal and his team were underrated, and they proved everyone wrong with a title challenge which came very close to succeeding.

This year it seems this combination was initially struggling to find it’s feet, although with two podiums in the past two races Rahal is seemingly hitting the right form going into the 500. It appears the team have been usurped as one of the top running Honda teams, with Rahal really struggling in qualifying. He will start from 26th and this leaves him a lot of work to do in the race. It also means he’s more likely to be caught up in accidents which could prematurely end his day.

If Rahal can keep his nose clean expect him to rise up the field throughout the race, with a top five result surely a huge result for Rahal considering his lack of qualifying pace. Clearly the team have some work to do with the car, with time running out before the race.

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#16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Dallara DW12-Honda: Spencer Pigot

Rahal Letterman Lanigan have taken on reigning Indy Lights champion Spencer Pigot for a partial campaign this year, as he makes his debut in the Indy 500. So far Pigot has done his best to adjust to Indycar, with only two races experience going into the 500.

With a rookie running a partial schedule it’s very difficult to come in and do well from the start, with so much to learn and not enough track time to do it. So far Pigot has stayed under the radar and got on with his programme, which is the perfect thing for a rookie to do. He starts 29th on the grid for the race, but he’s a talented young racer so will make up places. Finishing the race with a top 10 or 15 finish would be a good result for Pigot, as he continues to gain experience in Indycar.

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#18 Shirts for America Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda: Conor Daly

Conor Daly is another rookie looking to gain experience in Indycar, after a few years trying to climb the European single seater racing ladder. In his first full season Daly is another racer who is flying under the radar, although a sixth in the most recent round suggests Daly is improving with every race. The fact he is currently the second best rookie shows also his impressive switch to Indycar.

He struggled slightly in qualifying, as he starts 24th for the 500. In the race gaining as much track time as possible will be important to Daly, with a top 15 finish surely a good result for Daly in his first Indy 500, against such a high quality field also. Don’t be at all surprised if Daly finishes as the best rookie in the race.

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#19 Boy Scout’s of America Dale Coyne Racing DallaraDW12-Honda: Gabby Chaves

Colombian Gabby Chaves is looking to maintain his Indycar career after an impressive rookie season last year. The 2014 Indy Lights champion showed plenty of pace and won the rookie of the year honour, but despite this he has not found a full season ride this year.

After missing the opening rounds he’s been handed this lifeline by the Dale Coyne racing team, something he will surely want to turn into a good result. Coming into the biggest Indycar race of the year with a small team, having missed races is always a very difficult task.

He starts 21st in the race and will be looking to turn this into a top ten finish. A big result could put him in the shop window for next year, but this will be very tough for Chaves. Should he pull it off he will surely be deserving of a full time Indycar drive next year.

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#20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Ed Carpenter

Ed Carpenter returns once again for another crack at the 500 with his own team, as he aims to finally turn the promise he’s shown into a good result. Carpenter always runs well on ovals, and this year should be no different.

He’s only competed in one race so far this year, and this appeared to show as he qualified 20th for the 500. Carpenter always manages to be a thorn in the side of the much bigger teams, and watch for him to rise up the field into victory contention by the end of the race. A top five finish would be a good result for this small team, and would finally ensure a reward for Carpenter after years of near misses.

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#21 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Josef Newgarden

Josef Newgarden has emerged as one of the best young racers in Indycar, having already secured a podium this year for the relatively small Ed Carpenter Racing team. The team have always performed well on ovals, especially Indianapolis. This is usually shown by team owner Ed Carpenter, but this year it appears Newgarden has usurped him for this honour.

After a good start to the season Newgarden has carried this on by qualifying a very close second for this Sunday’s race, missing out on pole by only 0.060mph. Both car and driver are clearly performing well, and barring any dramas watch out for him as one of the outside contenders for victory. A win in the Indy 500 would be a surprise by well deserved honour for this young American.

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#22 Menard’s Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Simon Pagenaud

After a difficult first season with Team Penske, Simon Pagenaud is now taking Indycar by storm in his second year with the team. He has emerged as the dominant driver this year with three wins for five races, and will be aiming to make it four from six this Sunday.

He has never been primarily known for his oval prowess, but with a solid eighth qualifying spot showing his car has pace here. Watch out for Pagenaud to rise to the front, with form from this season suggesting he is the man to beat going into the biggest race of the year.

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#24 Gas Monkey Garage Energy Dreyer & Reinbold Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Sage Karam

Sage Karam is a young driver looking to rebuild his reputation, after a difficult 2015 season. The young American clearly has pace, having won the Indy Lights title as a rookie in 2013. Since then he’s shown flashes of pace in Indycar, but has garnered a reputation as a reckless and sometimes dangerous driver.

Despite having previous Chip Ganassi Racing support, this year he’s entering the 500 in a one off Dreyer & Reinbold entry. For a young driver in a one car, one off entry this is a very hard situation to produce a good result. He qualified 23rd and therefore will have the opportunity to rise through the field if he and the car are running well. He performs well on ovals so may be an outside bet for a top ten maybe top twelve finish, but for this entry gaining attention and support for further outings this year is the primary goal.

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That wraps up the second part of my preview for this weekend’s Indianapolis 500. I would like to say a huge thank you to Motorsport.com for the high quality photos which adorn this article, everyone should check out their website for the latest motorsport news. I would also like to thank you for reading this article, with any comments being greatly appreciated. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

 

2016 Indianapolis 500 Preview Part 1

The last weekend of May is always a special weekend for motorsport fans. The most prestigious grand prix on the calendar takes place, the Monaco Grand Prix. Famous the world over it always provides excitement and celebrities flock to watch the on track action. Fans from across the world will be tuning in this weekend, eagerly anticipating the next stage of the Nico Rosberg vs Lewis Hamilton battle.

After the champagne has been sprayed on Sunday, many motorsport fans will be switching their attentions stateside, as another of the motorsport triple crown takes place only hours after the action in Monte Carlo. The 100th Indianapolis 500 is something any self respecting motorsport fan will not want to miss, with furious high speed on track action guaranteed.

The Indycar series has no where near the profile of F1, but in America the Indy 500 is still a major sporting event and will garner a further international audience. With speeds topping 225mph the action could not be more different to that in Monte Carlo. Both are equally considered races that form the triple crown of motorsport, the other being the Le Mans 24 Hours in several weeks time. Let’s take a look at the contenders in this years Indy 500.

#2 Verizon Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Juan Pablo Montoya

The reigning champion will want to add a third Indy 500 victory resume, and with Penske he has the perfect opportunity to achieve this. The most high profile name in the series has shown himself to be the front runner in the series for the past season and a half, despite narrowly missing out on the title at the final round last year.

At 40 years old Montoya has lost none of his speed or hunger, which explains why he is such a formidable competitor for his rivals. Despite a good start to the season,  Montoya suffered from a plastic bag getting stuck in his radiator on his qualifying run. After this bizarre problem ruined his qualifying he only managed to qualify 17th.

The good thing for Montoya is that the race is 500 miles long, giving him plenty of time to move up the field and back into leading contention. With the knous of Team Penske behind him he will have a great chance to win a second consecutive and third overall Indy 500, ensuring he will be added to the list of Indycar greats. Despite qualifying Montoya is still arguably the favourite.

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#3 Pennzoil Team Penske Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Helio Castroneves

The experienced Brazilian prepares for his 16th Indy 500, and is every bit as much a contender for victory as in his previous fifteen. The 41 year old knows the track arguably better than anyone else on the grid, and is in good form going into this Sunday centre piece race.

With two podiums in the first five races he sits third in the points standings, and a win here from ninth on the grid  would really give his title challenge serious momentum. Castroneves is another member of the four car Team Penske fleet, something that only enhances his bid for victory. He is a three winner of this event, although his last victory in the 500 came in 2009.

With Castroneves in good form and the might of Team Penske behind him a fourth victory is very much possible for him. His competition will likely come from his team mates and rivals at Chip Ganassi and Andretti Autosport, but Castroneves could overcome them all if things fall his way on Sunday. Don’t be surprised if Castroneves is drinking the milk in winners circle come Sunday evening.

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#4 Lazier Burns Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Buddy Lazier

Buddy Lazier returns this year with his annual effort with his family run Lazier Burns racing team. Whilst this is a small one car team with limited resources compared to the bigger teams, this team could spring a surprise come race day.

The team struggled in qualifying with Lazier set to start 32nd, with a speed over 1mph down on anyone else. Whilst it doesn’t seem much, at Indianapolis this is a large difference. It also cannot be discounted the fact Lazier is one of six former winners in this race.

Lazier was one of the original drivers in the Indycar series, winning the 1996 Indy 500 and 2000 Indycar series title. For the past ten years Lazier has focused on one-off entries in the Indy 500, and this will surely hamper him going into the race. Without the experience of the regular series drivers, this will only hamper his preparations for the race. For Lazier a top ten or top fifteen result will be a good effort for this small one car team.

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#5 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Dallara DW12-Honda: James Hinchcliffe

Canadian James Hinchcliffe provided a great pre-race story by claiming pole position, only a year after a huge accident here ended his season prematurely.  Hinchcliffe has lost none of his speed and overcame the traditional big teams with his Schmidt Peterson motorsport entry.

Sitting on pole position puts Hinchcliffe in the best possible position to secure a remarkable victory come Sunday. He definitely has the talent to do it and is coming into the race after scoring his first podium of the season in the Indianapolis road course race only a few weeks ago.

To secure a Canadian victory in America’s premier motor race Hinchcliffe will have to put in a great drive, alongside fast pit work by his team. Both team and driver have the potential to win, they just need to execute under pressure, which is a lot easier said then done.

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#6 Preferred Freezer Services Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: JR Hildebrand

JR Hildebrand returns yet again to Indianapolis with a one-off entry with Ed Carpenter racing, after racing with CFH Racing last year. Both Hildebrand and Carpenter perform well on ovals and the team have shown the potential to score a great result in the 500.

Whilst he’s likely known for his last corner crash in his debut Indy 500 five years ago, the fact he was a few hundred meters away from winning his debut 500 shows how well he can run here.

Despite being inexperienced compared to his full season rivals, Hildebrand has two top ten finishes from the past two years. This is a huge achievement for a one-off entry with a smaller team. He lines up fifteenth on the grid, but during the race Hildebrand could very well improve from a top ten to top five finish.

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#7 DOOM Schmidt Peterson Motorsport Dallara DW12-Honda: Mikhail Aleshin

Mikhail Aleshin has returned to Indycar this year, after switching to sportscar racing last year with SMP Racing. The talented Russian’s season has been solid so far, with a top five finish in the opening round showing his potential once again.

Whilst he’s a European convert Indycar racing, qualifying seventh for the 500 shows Aleshin can become a good oval racer. The Schmidt Peterson team have produced good cars for Aleshin and team mate James Hinchcliffe, with both capable of shocking the major teams with a podium or victory this Sunday.

Whilst Aleshin does not have a wealth of experience in Indycar, he has enough to produce a great result in the 500 with his talent. Watch out for Aleshin as an outside bet for a top five, although even a top ten would be a good result for the Russian and his team.

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#8 Gallagher Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Max Chilton

Max Chilton prepares for his debut Indy 500, as he still adjusts to the Indycar series and it’s ovals in his rookie season. Despite some limited experience in the Indy Lights series last year, the former F1 racer is doing well adjusting to the series.

With his F1 experience a lot of people may expect him to immediately come in and be competitive, but that’s not realistic. Whilst his results so far have not been spectacular, he is improving with every race and the Indy 500 will only accelerate this.

He’s qualified a respectable 22nd on the grid, and he will likely improve as the race goes on. With the collective might of Chip Ganassi Racing supporting him, he could not be in a better place to become a very good Indycar driver with the likes of Dario Franchitti helping him. For Chilton a top fifteen finish would be a very good result for him, although simply finishing the race will only further his experience with the car and ovals in general.

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#9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Scott Dixon

The mild mannered Kiwi Scott Dixon arguably rivals Juan Pablo Montoya as the current series benchmark, with Dixon being the reigning series champion only enhancing this viewpoint.

He won on the series only oval round so far in Phoenix, and sits pretty in second as he looks to win back to back titles. He’s a four time champion and the winningest driver in the field, although he has only managed one Indy 500 win in 2008.

He starts out of position in thirteenth, but expect him to quickly rise through the field like the driver his livery emulates, legend Alex Zanardi. Discount Dixon at your peril, as he always manages to produce good results from nowhere, and this Sunday may be the latest example of this.

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#10 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Tony Kanaan

Another former winner amongst the Ganassi stable of entries is Brazilian Tony Kanaan, who has so far had an average start to his season. He was always the hard luck story before he won the 2013 Indy 500, with his old luck returning since.

With two successive 26th finishes in 2014 and 2015, it will be hard for Kanaan to do any worse this year. The 41 year old qualified eighteenth this year, and will surely move up the grid once the green flag is dropped.

Whilst he’s always suffered from bad luck at this circuit, he always runs well here and teamed with Ganassi he has the perfect package to win or even finish in the top five. Either would be a great result for Kanaan and would really kick start his season.

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#11 Hydroxycut KVSH Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet: Sebastien Bourdais

Sebastien Bourdais is well versed in the American Indycar scene, having made a name for himself stateside over the past decade. The Frenchman’s best finish in the Indy 500 is seventh in 2014, although he has plenty of Champ Car titles and wins to cement his reputation as a very quick Indycar driver.

It’s been a tough start to the year for Bourdais and his KVSH team, with a best finish so far of eighth in the opening five rounds. Qualifying for the 500 didn’t change his luck, as he posted the nineteenth fastest average speed.

Despite a bad start to the season Bourdais is the kind of driver you can never discount, as he could spring a surprise and produce a great result from nowhere. He will need his KVSH team to produce slick pitstops if he wants a good result, but certainly don’t discount the experienced Frenchman.

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That wraps up part one of my Indy 500 preview. I would urge everyone to visit  Motorsport.com for the latest news and high quality photos, some of which have been used in this article.  Part 2 will be coming in the next few days and finally, thank you for reading. Find me on Twitter @brfcjordan95.

 

Indycar rumour mill round-up

This week has already seen some interesting rumours develop relating to potential driver moves concerning the Indycar series. The American open wheel championship has become increasingly popular with drivers over the past few years, with plenty of European drivers now turning their back on the exorbitant costs needed to simply get close to Formula One, yet many of these racers spurn the well supported World Endurance Championship as they want to remain racing single seaters. This leaves the Indycar series as the only alternative prominent single seater championship outside of F1 or the junior categories such as GP2 or Formula Renault 3.5 series.

After Carlin announced earlier this week that they would be joining the rejuvenated Indy Lights series next year, with a view to moving up to the Indycar series in the future, this shows the increasingly appeal of Indycar to the European racing community. Firstly whilst it’s not a particularly new rumour it does seem Daniel Abt is looking to move away from GP2 for next year and join the Indycar grid for next year.

He tested for the Andretti Autosport team in late October at Barber Motorsports Park and Abt was quoted as saying about the test “I had a fantastic day with plenty of fun and learned a lot. I didn’t do this test out of boredom, but would like to explore options for next year. The test was a cool experience that definitely whets my appetite for more.” Whilst Abt has current commitments with the new Formula E series, it does appear Abt is keen to change his direction and leave GP2 for the Indycar series next year.

Another former GP2 rival could be joining him stateside, as the American Conor Daly has switched his attentions back to his homeland after running into budget problems during his second year of GP2 this year. Whilst this once again isn’t a revelation it does show how the series is attracting top line American talent not just European drivers for the series, and Daly would need less acclimatization as he finished the 2013 Indy 500 in 22nd position in a one-off deal for the iconic race.

Another top line American driver that is looking to join the Indycar grid in 2015 is Alex Rossi, formerly the Caterham and Marussia reserve driver seems to have given up on F1 after coming very close this year to making his race debut with the Marussia team. Rossi was set to make his debut at this years Belgian Grand Prix in place of Max Chilton, however Chilton was re-installed at the last minute. Rossi has now switched his attention to the Indycar series for next year. Rossi has spent the last few months talking with prospective teams, and hopes to announce a deal with a competitive team in the next few weeks and into the new year.

British racer and GP3 runner up Dean Stoneman is another driver looking to switch from Europe to the American open wheel racing scene, and hopes to secure himself a Indycar test this winter in preparation for a move stateside. Whilst Stoneman himself feels ready to join the Indycar series, he has also stated if needed to he will join the feeder Indy Lights series first to gain experience of the american road circuits and the ovals. Whilst nothing is concrete at the moment, it seems plenty of Indycar and Indy Lights teams will be interested in him joining them next year. Could a potential link up with British team Carlin work out for Stoneman next year?

The final and most exciting potential rumour surrounding the Indycar series recently has been the news former Scuderia Toro Rosso driver Jean Eric Vergne is very interested in joining the series, as his next move after being replaced in F1 for next year. The Frenchman has stated he very much is looking at the Indycar series and it seems likely he will have a string of offers to join the series next year. Whilst Vergne may take a season or two to learn the American ovals and road courses, once he gets comfortable Vergne would be a formidable competitor for anyone in the series. Nothing is planned at the moment in terms of tests or significant talks with teams, although it seems likely Vergne’s next stage of his career would be stateside.

Indy Lights on upward trend

After years of struggling with a old car and a decreasing grid, the Indy Lights finally looks to have turned a corner next year with the announcement of a new Dallara race car which has sparked a resurgence in interest in the series. The feeder series to Indycar now appears to have restored itself as a haven for young North American open wheel racers, whilst simultaneously being a viable alternative for frustrated talented young European drivers.

It’s only the middle of October yet already the series has confirmed 10 teams have already agreed to run in the series next year, with likely two cars from each team producing a likely grid of 15-20 cars. This is easily an improvement over the past few years where then entries have been around 10-14 cars. Those already confirming their orders are powerhouse team Schmidt Peterson who have ordered two cars for their Indycar feeder team. Other existing teams to place orders are 2014 front runners Juncos and Belardi racing who have both ordered two cars also. New team McCormack racing have also confirmed their commitment to their series, whilst sportscar team 8star motorsport has confirmed one entry, with the potential for a second also.

Indycar racer Tristan Vautier developing the new Dallara IL15 racer in August.

Existing teams Andretti Autosport and Team Moore are some of the team likely to have placed orders but yet to go public with their intentions to run in the series next year. On the driving front, it appears the quality of the grid will be greatly improved next year. Championship runner up this year Jack Harvey is working on a deal to return to the series next year. He will be keen for the title but will face stiff competition from the likes of 2014 Pro Mazda champion Spencer Pigot, who is likely to move up to IndyLights . Others likely to be returning are 2014 front runners Zach Veach, Matthew Brabham and Luiz Razia. 8Star are also keen to run promising sportscar racer Sean Rayhall if they can find the budget, with young racers Alan Sciuto and Parker Kligerman potentially earning themselves a seat next year after impressive post-season tests so far.

Finally leading the European racing influx so far for next year is Puerto Rican racer Felix Serralles, the only confirmed driver for next year so far. He will join the 2014 champions Belardi racing for next year after some difficult years in the European F3 Championship. Serralles previously proved his considerable talent in the British racing scene, and expect several more racers abandon the cut and thrust money dependent European racing scene for a fresh start at stardom in Indycar.

The final rung on the Mazda Road to Indy scheme is already creating plenty of buzz around the series with an influx of new teams and a new Dallara racer for next year. From here the future looks bright for the Indy Lights series with the support from Mazda providing young drivers the support to move up from the bottom rungs to Indycar, such as with 2014 champion Gabby Chaves and for Spencer Pigot next year. The series will hopefully entice plenty of European racers across to the series with the promise of a part season in Indycar including the a chance at the Indy 500 for the champion surely enough to tempt those disillusioned with the funding required to step up the European single seater echelons below F1. I for one will be eagerly keeping track with the revamped Indy Lights series next year.

For more information on the series please visit the link below
http://www.indylights.com/about/2015-indy-lights

Interview with Indycar racer Pippa Mann

Today see’s a first for this site as we recently completed an interview with Indycar racer Pippa Mann. For the die-hard motorsport fans that don’t know of Pippa Mann, she is a British racer who rose up through the junior single-seater ranks in both Britain and Europe, eventually spending two years in the highly competitive Renault World Series. Despite becoming the first female pole sitter and points finisher in the series her two years in the series were largely frustrating with issues beyond her control.

This severely derailed her career momentum in Europe, before she embarked on a career in the American open-wheel racing scene. After rising through the ranks she began to show promise in her second year of  Indy Lights. 2010 saw her become the first female pole-sitter at the hallowed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, before picking up a debut win at Kentucky to finish 5th in the standings with a highly respectable 312 points.

From here she carried her career momentum over to the premier Indycar series, where she qualified for her debut Indianapolis 500, despite a competitive field and a small team. From here she has carried on her momentum with successive part-seasons in 2013 and this year, making the Indy 500 both years. She has yet to display her full potential in the Indycar series, although that is down to unfortunate circumstances rather than a lack of talent. Here is the interview in full.

What made you decide to switch your career to America?

In 2008, I was going into my second year in World Series by Renault, and I had really started to get to grips with the car and the formula towards the end of the previous season. I was strong in the off season testing, and everyone, myself included, expected me to have a very good year the following year. But the new car for 2009 and I just didn’t mesh at all. From ergonomic problems I had fitting into it, to the fact it just didn’t suit my driving style with the set-ups we were running on the old car.

It took me all year to start to get comfortable again, and that meant that I just didn’t bring home the results I wanted. I was frustrated. I knew I had probably lost my opportunity to continue racing single-seaters in Europe, and I started looking to potentially race sports cars in 2009. I started to race a Porsche in the UK Cup Championship, and by my second and third race weekends, I was up in the top 10 of that championship on pace on a regular basis and starting to have a lot of fun. I thought my future was probably set, but then I got a call, asking me to come to the US and meet with a team, who were looking for a female driver for one of their sponsors in Indy Lights for the following season.

They had looked at who was racing currently in the US, then decided to cast the net wider to include Europe, and when they did that, I was the only one at the time who was racing in any of the big open-wheel championships in Europe. Given at the time I was the only female driver to have a pole in World Series by Renault, to have scored points and top ten finishes in some of their races, they were interested. So I packed a bag, got on a plane, and I guess the rest is kind of history now!

What has been your racing highlight so far in your career?

I think it probably has to be qualifying for the 2011 Indy 500. It was my first ever IndyCar race, and I had just one day of testing before we started running at the speedway with everyone else. I was with a small team, expanding from one car to two cars, and my team mate was struggling in his first full-time season of IndyCar, leaving my team boss worried he might not make it into the race.

There were 42 cars competing for 33 slots, and my job was simple. I was there to make sure we got at least one of our team cars into those 33 spots however long the odds against us seemed… We made it. Just. I was the only one-off rookie attempting their first IndyCar race at that Indy 500 to make it in.

Several full-time drivers racing all season long, including my own team mate, did not make the show, and yet with our shoe string budget, and two to three guys only working on the car, we made it happen. It’s probably not a highlight that other people expect me to think of, they expect me to talk about my poles in 2010, or winning Kentucky in that year, or even my first Indy 500 itself maybe… But all of those pale into the fact I was not only in my first Indy 500, I earned my way in the hard way, and together we were the little team that could.

What has been the best race of your career so far?

This is a tough question! The easy answer is winning Kentucky in 2010 in Indy Lights, but actually, despite not being a race that many people outside the team would notice, I think the 2014 Indy 500 was pretty special too… We had an issue at one of the pit-stops that put us several laps down at my second pit stop, but the car was fantastic all day long, and I learned so much from the fact we got back out there, and I was able to run in dirty air for the entire rest of the 500 miles.

The guys I was racing against in the first two stints of the race finished 12-17th place, and our goal going in was to try and bring home a top 15 finish. Given our pace was on a par with theirs even after our stop issue, and I was actually still running with that group all afternoon long, just laps down and unable to play – it didn’t come away looking like much on paper, but we as a team were all really pleased with everything but that one bum pit stop during that race.

Then of course the 2011 race itself being my first Indy 500 was pretty special to me too. I actually didn’t have a working water bottle in that race, and was pretty badly dehydrated – I was having searing cramps all up and down my right arm, and particularly in my right shoulder from where you’re muscling the car around the track, but I was absolutely determined it wasn’t going to stop me, and I was going to finish the race in my rookie year. I came 20th.

Have you started looking at your 2015 plans yet? E.g talking with teams?

Yes, absolutely! I think it’s no secret to say that Dale would very much like me to come back in 2015, and I would love to drive for him again too. His team has been the most incredible home for me the past two years at the Indy 500, and I really enjoy working with the great group of people he has put together.

Susan G. Komen also had a great experience this year at their first Indy 500, and they want to come back with us too, so the plan is to bring the pink car back for it’s second Indy 500. Right now I am working hard on the business side of that equation, so that we can put the funding in place to make this all happen!

What inspired you to become a racing driver?

Actually it was pure chance. I got to drive a go-kart on an indoor kart track when I was around 12 years old, and absolutely loved it. That was it. Bitten by the bug, and I’ve never looked back since!

What are some of your earliest memories of motorsport?

Being taken to watch the British F1 race with my Dad at Silverstone, and watching the standing start from the grandstands opposite the front straight. I was a race fan long before I ever got to drive anything, or the thought that I could one day drive had even crossed my mind.

What advice would you give to aspiring drivers?

Be determined. Learn the business side, and be just as determined in that too. Don’t let people tell you you’re not going to be able to make it happen. Expect to work really hard, and expect it to be hard – for most of us this life is not easy, and you have to be prepared to bust a gut 24-7 on the business side, always put time and effort into being prepared physically for when the next opportunity comes your way, and you have to be very strong mentally too.

There may be times when you’re out of a race car for long periods of times in your career, but you just have to keep digging, keep adapting, and be prepared to take on other work and diversify (such as instructing, coaching, etc.) to survive.

Would you ever be tempted to race in other forms of motorsport e.g Sportscars?

Oh absolutely. I think I mentioned earlier on in this interview that I got to race a Porsche a few times in the UK before I moved to the US, and I have never had the chance to drive a GT car since, but I had an absolute blast in those races – it was so much fun. If the opportunity arose, I would love to do some sports car races alongside my commitment to the Indy 500 each year, however with the current licensing system, it’s very difficult for someone like me to get those opportunities.

In terms of license grade I am ranked the same as someone who races IndyCar full-time, and has multiple IndyCar wins under their belt… Yet I only get to race a couple of times a year in open-wheel, usually only on ovals at the moment, and I only have those few races in a GT car in the UK under my belt… So if you were looking at taking on someone with my high a grade of license, you probably wouldn’t pick me!

It’s something a lot of drivers in my position, or similar positions to me in the US are facing right now, and to be honest, it’s something even some of the guys who are coming up through the sports car ranks themselves are facing. I understand why there needs to be a licensing system to make it fairer to the AM drivers who fund a lot of sports car teams, but at the same time, I do wish there was a little more flexibility in the rules. There’s an awful lot of us who would love to race, and who could do a good job, falling through the cracks with this current system.

If you could compete in one motor race that you haven’t already which one would it be?

Ooooh. Good question. I guess I would love to compete in one of the big 24 hour sports car races one day – either Daytona, or Le Mans. That would be pretty special!

Why do you feel there has been a recent spike in European interest for Indycar/Road to Indy scheme?

Drawing from my personal experience, and from recent conversations I actually had with European drivers when I visited Monza to watch the F1 race a few weeks ago, I think that often there is a lot of fear surrounding the unknown that is racing in the US, and racing on ovals in particular.

In Europe, you seem to race a lot of the time thinking you’re in a bubble where sure, motor sport is dangerous, but nothing’s ever going to happen to you… In the US, with the speeds we race, so close to the walls, you can’t live inside that bubble any more, and you have to accept that our sport can be brutal at times. Not everyone can do that, and I think it takes a lot of people some time to get past that mentally.

We strive to make our racing as safe as it possibly can be, but when something goes wrong at 220+ mph next to a wall, it’s unfortunately just physics that sometimes it can go really wrong. So I think that scenario, plus the fact guys find it so hard to believe that we’re cornering faster than they often go in a straight line, makes it tough for Europeans to get their head around. Combine this then with the old thing that someone who hasn’t driven an oval, and doesn’t understand one, thinks “it’s just too corners, how hard can it be?” and you get this odd juxtaposition of opinion surrounding what they don’t really know, but what they think they know about our sport here in the US… For years I think these opinions have all contributed to lack of interest, and not many people being prepared to take the leap.

However recently I think there have been a number of European drivers who have come across and made the transition well, and whom are happy to talk about how much they love IndyCar. I think someone like Conor Daly running the Indy 500 last year, then going back and telling all of his fellow drivers in the series he was racing in Europe a) how much he loved the experience, and b) how hard it actually is to race a car for 500 miles at those speeds in constant dirty air, and how incredible the challenge is… I think that helps educate, and as people start to understand better, there’s less fear of the unknown.

Then right now in the US, we have something which does not exist anywhere else in the world in terms of a concise, direct open-wheel ladder, where every champion gets help towards his crack at the next rung on the ladder. With the new Indy Lights car coming out in 2015, a much needed upgrade on the previous car I raced, that chassis is suddenly much more in line with what European guys have been racing.

The costs are still cheaper than most comparable series in Europe, and with the new championship prize rules, if you win, you’re effectively guaranteed a shot at next year’s Indianapolis 500 in an IndyCar through the prize money scholarship scheme, and potentially a few more races tacked onto that depending on the team, and what other money you’re able to put together too. If you win the GP2 title, there are no guarantees of anything.

In fact most recently Kevin Magnussen came from World Series by Renault, which I used to race, and by passed GP2 altogether on his way to F1. The ladder in Europe is complex, expensive, and winning the title lacks giving you that final push you really want from it. Here, winning means more than getting to write it on your resume. It means that shot I was talking about at the biggest race of the IndyCar season.

That’s a pretty massive prize and incentive right there. I know this is a long answer, but I also want to touch on one final thing before I quit talking about the ladder series. I think it’s very important for people looking at coming over from Europe to IndyCar and the MRTI ladder to look at Indy Lights before IndyCar. My reasoning? Learning the ovals. Learning them in an IndyCar is very hard, and for many drivers who come across it’s a very difficult and tough transition.

However, a season of Indy Lights gives you the opportunity to really get your head around them, and start to get your teeth into them. For the record, as the girl who is currently the only female pole sitter ever at IMS, I certainly didn’t do that in my first year, and I didn’t win a race on them in my first year either.

It took me two years to get comfortable, to learn what I needed from the car, when to push, and when to understand that just doing what you could with what you had was going to be the best decision for your race result. And now, I’m in a position where ovals are viewed as my strong point, and it’s where most of my opportunities to drive an IndyCar come from. If I had tried to rush things, and get ahead of myself, I’m almost 100% certain I would not currently have the opportunities I do to get in the car each year, and so I will always be very grateful for everything Indy Lights has taught me!

That was an amazing interview with British Indycar racer Pippa Mann, she provided some brilliant answers and for more info on Pippa’s latest news and goings on please visit her website http://www.pippamann.com or Twitter account @PippaMann . Please enjoy these great answers!

The Future’s bright for Indycar racing

From the moment the Indycar series and the Champ Car World Series decided to merge again in 2008, after 12 years apart, the Indycar series has been on an upward trend. After over a decade of American open wheel racing being in the doldrums the series now finds itself in very rude health after a fascinating 2014 Verizon Indycar season. What has been the key to the series recent revival?

The first major point for the upturn in the Indycar series is the merger itself. Back in the day, before the hideous split in 1996, the series was arguably a rival for Formula One with a bevy of professional teams and drivers from across the world, including many with experience of F1. Whilst the series had yet to reach it’s peak of the mid-1990’s the combining of the two series has led to an upturn in grid sizes and the quality of those involved in Indycar.


The starting grid sets off earlier this year

For example from the 2007 Indycar there were less than 20 full season entries, and in Champ Car things weren’t much better with Champ Car having 18 full season entries. Now fast forward to the present moment and the Indycar grid has risen slightly from two grids of 18 to a regular full season grid of 23 cars this year.

A second factor behind the revival has been the introduction of a new Dallara DW12 car for the 2012 season. After extensive testing by Dallara in 2011 with the help of the late great Dan Wheldon, the series final introduced a new car to the series for 2012 for the first time in 9 years. The buzz around the impressive new Dallara DW12 car gave the series added impetus and momentum, something that was badly needed and subsequently further enhanced with the announcement of new engine packages for 2012 also.


The Dallara DW12 during it’s development period during the latter half of 2011.

Both Chevrolet and Lotus announced they were joining the series in 2012, and although Lotus quietly quit the series after a disappointing 2012 season, Chevrolet have proved stern competition for the previous Honda dominance. With talk of new aero kits being developed for next year the battle between these two manufactures is expected to heat up further.

A third factor in the development of the Indycar series has been the upturn in driver talent on the grid. Whilst in the initial years of the series merging the driver line-up remained similar to the last years of both series, in the last few years this has changed dramatically. The 2012 season brought a new car and two faces more familiar to F1 fans than American Open wheel fans. The series generated some news headlines when it was announced F1 refugee Rubens Barrichello was join the series in 2012. Although he only raced 1 season in Indycar racing, Barrichello and Jean Alesi, ex-F1 veteran who raced in the Indy 500 that year, set the ball rolling with the F1 connection returning to Indycar.

After being left out in the cold by F1 the talented Paul Di Resta was linked with the vacant Chip Ganassi seat after cousin Dario Franchitti was forced to retire at the end of the 2013 season. Alongside this was a much improved grid in 2014 which contained ex-F1 Wildman Juan Pablo Montoya, who left Nascar to join Penske for the 2014 Indycar season. Alongside him were 5 ex-F1 drivers including Takuma Sato and Justin Wilson for this season. On top of the strong regular season grid, the grid for the centrepiece Indy 500 contained 1995 Indianapolis 500 winner and 1997 F1 World Champion Jacques Villeneuve alongside the highly popular controversial Nascar racer Kurt Busch.

Alongside the high profile faces the Indycar grid is being supplemented with an increasingly strong level of young European racers trying their hand at American open wheel racing. Alongside established runners such as the hugely impressive Simon Pagenaud, Sebastien Bourdais and Mike Conway there has been a recent influx of young talented drivers turning their backs on the European racing scene to pursue a career in Indycar.

Drivers such as Mikhail Aleshin, Luca Filippi and Jack Hawksworth have recently made the jump and their being joined by the likes of one time Marussia F1 driver Luiz Razia and 2012 British F3 champion Jack Harvey who both competed in the feeder Indy Lights series this year. A lot of talented European drivers facing budget problems are attracted to the Mazda Road to Indy feeder scheme, whereby the champions from the U.S Formula 2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights series gain funding and numerous tests to help them progress to the next rung on the ladder. A perfect example of it’s success is Sage Karam, who was the 2010 US Formula 2000 series champion and progressed to take the 2013 Indy Lights crown, guaranteeing him a 2014 Indy 500 drive at least.

http://www.sagekaram.com/files/2014/04/Sage-Actio-May-11.jpg?0d0003
Sage Karam in action during practice for this year’s Indy 500

Alongside the European influx there has been an increase in the amount of North American drivers getting their chance in the series, with drivers such as Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal becoming household names in the series over the last few years. Over the next few years many more young North American and European drivers will be making the jump to the Indy Lights series, with a new car and a much more expansive involvement from Indycar teams sure to attract many young hopefuls to the series.


New 2015 Dallara IL15 Indy Lights car going through testing in the hands of series graduate Tristan Vautier

With rumours of a more international calendar with races in Europe and the Middle East for next year, alongside possible new individual aero kits from some of the teams next season is already shaping up to be a classic Indycar season, whereby champions Penske, Will Power and Chevrolet will be aiming to defend their crown from the challenge coming from Chip Ganassi racing, Andretti Autosport and Honda. Further enhancing the series will be a number of talented new European and North American racers looking to push their way onto the Indycar grid, supplemented by a revived and much more relevant Indy Lights series for international young hotshoes to announce themselves to the Indycar paddock. I for one cannot wait for the new season already.

For more information on the Indycar series or Mazda Road to Indy scheme please visit their official websites below
http://www.indycar.com/
http://www.indylights.com/
http://www.promazdachampionship.com/
http://www.usf2000.com/
http://www.indycar.com/RoadToIndy

Photo credits go to –
Indycar starting grid photo – sourced from http://www.richardsf1.com credit goes to http://www.Motorsport.com

Dallara DW12 Testing photo – sourced from http://www.queers4gears.com credit goes to unknown

Sage Karam photo – sourced and credit goes to http://www.SageKaram.com

Dallara IL15 Testing photo – sourced from http://www.Autosport.com credit goes to unknown

2014 Indianapolis 500 Preview part 2

After looking at the potential fortunes of the top line teams going into this Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, now it’s time to look at the fortunes of the relatively “smaller” teams, some of whom are punching well above their weight so far in 2014.

Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport:
#5 Dollar General Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport/Team Pelfrey Dallara DW12-Honda – Jacques Villeneuve
Shortly after the attention was dying down from the announcement of Kurt Busch competing in this year’s Indy 500 the fans were treated to another shock announcement as high flying Schmidt Peterson Hamilton motorsport announced 1995 Indy 500 winner and 1997 F1 World champion Jacques Villeneuve would make a return to the 500 for the 1st time since his iconic victory in 1995.

A lot has changed since then yet Villeneuve will be hoping to roll back the years and claim a fairytale 2nd 500 victory. Whilst the odds appear stacked against him with the time needed to adjust to the current Indycar racer and the smaller nature of the Schmidt team yet this team has been punching well above it’s weight so far in 2014, and with the experience Villeneuve possesses this car could spring a surprise on Sunday.Qualifying was tough with a 27th starting spot yet there is plenty of potential for Villeneuve to create bigger shocks on Sunday afternoon.

#7 SMP Bank Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport/SMP Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Mikhail Aleshin
A stuttering career in the Formula Renault World Series Aleshin was handed a lifeline in 2014 as he made the switch to Indycar racing with the promising Schmidt team. A tough opening few races have been the result so far as Aleshin gets adjusted to Indycar racing yet he has shown promising flashes so far with a 15th starting slot on the grid definitely one of these moments.

The rookie will be hoping the practice runs will put him in good stead with a top 10 finish a realistic target from this grid slot. His only knock will be lack of experience his has with open wheel racing on ovals as this will be his first ever oval race.

#77 Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport Dallara DW12-Honda – Simon Pagenaud
By far the most impressive driver of the 2014 Indycar series so far has been Simon Pagenaud who has vaulted his Schmidt entry to four top 5 finishes from 4 races, including a win at the previous round last week on the Indianapolis road course.

Pagenaud appears to be flying high and in the groove right now with this confidence carrying over to the 500 so far with a solid 5th qualifying spot putting him on row 2 for the race, marking him out as someone to watch in the race as he appears to be the biggest challenger to those from more lucrative teams on the grid. A definite contender for a first Indy 500 victory this weekend.

Dale Coyne Racing:
#18 Sonny’s Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Carlos Huertas
Carlos Huertas swapped a promising Formula Renault World Series ride in 2013 for a change of scenery in 2014 with a late deal with Dale Coyne racing being announced very close to the start of the 2014 season. The late announcement of the deal prevented a lot of running for Huertas to get acclimatized with the current Dallara DW12 Indycar. Therefore the 2014 season so far has been character building for Huertas as he tries to cope admirably with a situation where he is learning the car every race whilst trying to improve with a underfunded team.

This situation could have buried Huertas yet has so far coped very well with a best finish of 10th so far. Going into the Indy 500 Huertas faces a struggle as he prepares for his first ever oval race. There appears to be very little expectation around Huertas yet he performed superbly to secure 21st on the grid and will surely hope to carry on this upturn in form in the 500 .

#19 Boy Scout’s of America Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Justin Wilson
Justin Wilson has proved himself a very talented and experienced Indycar racer, with a reputation for pulling off unexpected giant-killing performances for underfunded teams. Therefore it’s no surprise he’s very comfortable with the underfunded Dale Coyne team and hopes to improve on his 3 podiums for the team in 2013.

So far in 2014 his best result is 6th and whilst Wilson is known for being better on road courses than ovals never discount his ability to spring a surprise in Indycar’s. A 14th grid spot for the 500 leaves him some work to do yet alongside Pagenaud expect Wilson to challenge the better funded teams with a top 6 result being a realistic goal for this giant killing team.

#63 Susan G. Komen Dale Coyne Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Pippa Mann
After an impressive yet truncated 2013 season with Dale Coyne racing Brit Pippa Mann has secured a Indy 500 only deal so far with Dale Coyne racing thanks to support from the Susan G. Komen breast cancer awareness Foundation. Fans will certainly always see Mann’s car as the tie up has resulted in a distinctive pink livery for car and driver.

Aside from that Mann has so far showed no race rustiness in her time off as she qualified an impressive 22nd as she hopes for an impressive run in the 500 with a top 10 result being a very realistic target for the team. Either way Mann will be hoping to impress in the 500 as she looks for further Indycar outings in 2014.
For anyone interested in finding out more about the Susan G. Komen Foundation or supporting this partnership with Pippa Mann please visit the link below.http://www.racewithpippa.com/

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara DW12-Honda:
#67 Klipsch Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Josef Newgarden
Josef Newgarden has quickly marked himself out as a rising star within the Indycar ranks with this being his 3rd season in the series. Things have been solid if unspectacular so far this year with two top 10 finishes so far meaning Newgarden will have to show his skills to improve his chances of a dream victory or top 5 finish come Sunday afternoon. He appeared to set this up almost perfectly with a nice 8th starting spot meaning he will be in the thick of the lead action for the 500 as he hopes to invigorate his 2014 season in style.

#68 Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Alex Tagliani
After a difficult 2013 Indycar season which saw fan favourite Alex Tagliani give up his drive he returns in 2014 with this one-off Indy 500 entry with Sarah Fisher Hartman racing. The team has a competitive package and Tagliani runs well at Indy, therefore this entry should be one to look out for as an outside bet for a good result. A 24th starting slot was not ideal for Tagliani yet watch out for him as the day goes on he may well spring a surprise.

Ed Carpenter Racing:
#20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – Ed Carpenter
This weekend’s Indianapolis 500 is the first race of the year for team owner Ed Carpenter as his unique deal with fellow driver Mike Conway see’s Ed doing the oval races in 2014 and Conway the road courses. It was likely assumed the long lay off period would hurt Carpenter come the 500 yet he struck back in emphatic style be clinching a second consecutive pole for the 500 with a stunning 231mph run, the fastest pole time since 2003. Carpenter is dynamite on ovals and expect him to in the lead pack all race long.

#21 Fuzzy’s Vodka Ed Carpenter Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – JR Hildebrand
JR Hildebrand is another driver hoping this one-off entry for the 500 will kick start new opportunities in Indycar after a bruising 2013 campaign which saw him leave the Panther racing team. Of the one-off entries for this race I would rate Hildebrand of having the biggest opportunity to grab a good result as the Ed Carpenter racing cars are always competitive on ovals and Hildebrand has showed a liking for this track despite the heartbreak of his rookie 500. Watch what happened to him here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1tFV-85gyzQ
Hildebrand starts 9th this Sunday and for him a top 3 result is well within his reach with a breakthrough victory well within the realms of possibilities for this talented Californian.

Bryan Herta Autosport:
#98 Charter Bryan Herta Autosport Dallara DW12-Honda – Jack Hawksworth
After a mixed season in Indy Lights for Jack Hawksworth in 2013 is was a slight surprise when he was first announced as the driver for Bryan Herta Autosport late on before the 2014 season began. Some questioned his readiness for Indycar’s, yet so far Hawksworth has proved everyone wrong by showing plenty of promise so far in 2014.

He’s marked himself out as a potential future talent within Indycar racing, showing this further with a strong 13th qualifying spot for the 500. Although he’s slightly inexperienced on ovals he will surely be looking for at the very least a top 10 finish.

KV Racing Technology:
#6 Robert Graham KV Racing Technology Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – Townsend Bell
Townsend Bell is very experienced in American open wheel racing and takes time out of his busy Tudor United Sportscar GT campaign to once again compete in the Indianapolis 500. He secured the #6 entry with KV racing and will be looking for a strong run this weekend . He starts 25th for the 500 yet he’s experienced enough to know the race is long and he will have plenty of opportunities to secure a decent result.

#11 HydroxyCut KV Racing Technology Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – Sebastien Bourdais
Sebastian Bourdais appears to be settling into his new team, KV racing recently as he took his best result of 2014 so far with 7th in the last round on the road course at Indianapolis. A 17th starting spot for the 500 is not a brilliant return for the 4 time Champ Car champion yet there will be plenty of opportunities for him to nab a good result in the famous race.

#17 KV Racing Technology/AFS Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – Sebastien Saavedra
Sebastien Saavedra has suffered a difficult start to his 2014 campaign with new team KV racing in conjunction with the Indy Lights team he drove for, AFS racing. The frustrating aspect for Saavedra will be the missed opportunities, most notably stalling from pole at the last round on the Indy road course. A 32nd starting slot for the 500 suggests his bad luck at Indy this month is continuing and he will be hoping his luck swings the other way in the 500 this Sunday.

#33 Always Evolving Racing KV Racing Technology Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – James Davison
This entry is one of perseverance as highly rated Australian James Davison showed initial promise in Indy Lights before running into funding issues which have prevented a step up into Indycar since his final year of Indy Lights in 2009. Whilst he’s raced regularly since then it’s been in a number of different cars and categories, therefore his will prove a steep learning curve to acclimatise to Indianapolis. He starts 28th which is a decent showing as he hopes to improve on that for the race.

#14 ABC Supply Co AJ Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Honda – Takuma Sato
So far 2014 has been a difficult season for the experienced Japanese man Takuma Sato, with a best result of 7th so far. Whilst it’s been disappointing so far for Sato he can take comfort from his form at this point last year which saw him fighting for the lead of the championship going into the 500. He will be hoping for the reverse of last year where he season faltered from the 500 onwards. A 23rd grid slot leaves him plenty to do yet Sato has more than enough ability to get the job done if things go right for him.

#41 ABC Supply Co AJ Foyt Enterprises Dallara DW12-Honda – Martin Plowman
British driver Martin Plowman makes a return to Indycar’s after spending the last few years gaining success in LMP2 Sportscar racing. Plowman showed promise in Indy Lights and his few Indycar outings before budget issues steered him towards his Sportscar years. 29th on the grid is a respectable result for someone still re-adjusting to Indycar’s yet expect him to get better as the race goes on.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing:
#15 National Guard Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Graham Rahal
Things have been frustrating for Graham Rahal after moving to his father’s team for the 2013 season. Despite showing flashes of promise the results haven’t come for the talented American, something he’ll be looking to rectify on Indycar’s biggest stage. 20th on the grid is a solid result for Rahal and if things hold together look for him to nab a good result.

#16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara DW12-Honda – Oriol Servia
Despite seeming almost never ending budget issues Oriol Servia has managed to secure himself a multiple race deal with Rahal Letterman Lanigan racing, concluding with this weekend’s Indy 500. Whilst he always seems to find himself with the lower funded teams he always manages to drag some good results from the car, always leaving the paddock questioning what he could do in a top line team. 18th on the grid is a good result and he’ll be gunning for a good result to keep him racing in 2014.

Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing:
#22 Comfort Revolution Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom Racing/Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – Sage Karam
After an impressive rookie campaign in 2013 which saw Sage Karam claim the Indy Lights title at his first attempt, it was no surprise that he was quickly snapped up to the Chip Ganassi racing development programme. Sadly for him the only drives the team could give him so far have been a few outings with the teams Daytona Prototype in the Tudor United Sportscar Championship. This combined effort from Dreyer & Reinbold Kingdom racing and Ganassi is a competitive package and Karam will be hoping to finish a lot higher than his current 31st on the grid.

Lazier Partners Racing:
#91 Advanced Auto Parts Lazier Partners Racing Dallara DW12-Chevrolet – Buddy Lazier
Buddy Lazier always managed to pull together a one-off deal for the Indy 500 and this year is no exception as he put together his own package. The winner of the 1996 Indy 500 he always seems to get the best he can out of the package at Indy, although the underfunded nature of the team limited Lazier to the 33rd and final grid slot this year. If things go right for him on race day expect him to gain a top 12 finish or maybe better depending on the attrition rate of the 2014 Indianapolis 500.

For anyone interested in finding out more about the famous Indy 500 please visit this link.
http://www.indy500.com/