Archive for March 25, 2015

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The Sportscar Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) today announced one of the greatest icons in the history of motor racing will serve as grand marshal for its June 11-14 Brickyard Invitational at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS). Four-time Indianapolis 500 champion Al Unser Sr. will return to the scene of his most legendary triumphs from a sterling career. Unser is one of only three drivers to win the “500” four times, and one of five to win the storied race in consecutive years, 1970-71. He narrowly missed becoming the only winner of three consecutive Indianapolis 500 races when he finished second to Mark Donohue in 1972.

1971VictoryLane-4438A three-time Indy car champion (1970, ’83, ’85) Unser was among the rare breed that could drive any type of car on any venue, including sports cars, stock cars, modifieds and dirt cars. The four-time Hoosier Hundred victor drove and won in sprints, midgets, Formula 5000 and stock cars to name a few. The Hall of Fame super star was USAC stock car rookie of the year in 1967 and IROC champion in 1978. In his final Indianapolis 500 (1987) win he broke Ralph De Palma’s 67-year-old record for most career laps led in the historic race.

“It will be great to return to the Brickyard in an atmosphere that is so focused on the track’s history,” Unser said. “I know from what Little Al told me from when he won last year how much the fans appreciated this event and that means everything to me.”

ic_al_chrisUnser, who in 2011 was voted by fans as number two to A.J. Foyt in the “Greatest 33” to ever compete in the Indianapolis 500, will drive the pace car for the feature race of the weekend – the second annual “Indy Legends” Charity Pro-Am. Like last year, the SVRA, America’s premier vintage racing organization, is creating a return to competition for veterans of the Indianapolis 500 with a 40-minute race of American muscle cars on the Speedway’s 2.43-mile Grand Prix road course on Saturday, June 13. The SVRA expects to attract a field of 33 Indianapolis 500 veterans.

Previously announced Pro-Am entries – 1992 Rookie-of-the Year Lyn St. James, Willy T. Ribbs and Mark Dismore – were joined today by four more veterans, all of which competed last year: Spike Gehlhausen, Billy Roe, Tom Bagley and Rick Treadway. Gehlhausen is a veteran of five Indianapolis 500s, finishing tenth in 1979 and starting fourth in 1980. Roe raced in 1997 and 1998 while Treadway made the big show in 2002. Bagley is a three-time Indianapolis 500 starter and captured the Indy car series Rookie-of-the-Year trophy in 1978. They, along with the other Indianapolis 500 veterans for the Pro-Am, will be in 1963 to 1972 vintage Corvettes, Camaros and Mustangs of “Group 6,” with an engine displacement limit of 355 cubic inches. The professionals will be paired with amateur drivers, splitting their stints at the wheel at their discretion.

The Indy Legends Pro-Am is the crowning event of the Brickyard Invitational but there is literally a festival of other activities. Like last year, the storied 2.5-mile oval will be utilized with exhibition runs by a wide variety of cars including several of the crowd-favorite 1950’s Indianapolis 500 “roadsters.”

This time around the weekend not only promises a huge gathering of race cars but also some of the finest collector cars. Motostalgia, with offices in Austin, Mexico City and Monaco will stage an auction showcasing select premier classic and rare automobiles from around the world on June 12. The Brickyard Invitational will also expand out onto the world-famous infield IMS golf course with car corrals for various organizations and clubs united by special marques and vintages.

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The SVRA has 11 groups of race cars spanning 100 years of vintage machines and all will be in action at IMS. The exciting array of entries include exquisite examples of select pre-war machines, classic sports cars, Formula One and Le Mans prototypes as current as 2009. Race fans can enjoy every minute of the action by taking advantage of overnight camping inside the Speedway.

The Pro-Am cars and drivers will also participate in a Fan Walk through the starting grid prior to the opening ceremonies allowing fans to see the cars up close, take photos and chat with the drivers. All entry fees will be donated to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum Foundation.

Brickyard Invitational ticket information: Fans can order Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational tickets for all or any one of the four days of the event online through the Speedway or by calling 800-822-INDY or 317-492-6700 between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday. Fans can also visit the ticket office at the IMS Administration Building at 4790 West 16th Street between 8 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) Monday through Friday. Tickets for groups of 20 or more also are available. Contact the IMS Group Sales Department at (866) 221-8775 for more information. Children 12 and under are admitted free each day when accompanied by an adult. Tent camping passes in the IMS infield start at $30 and are available all four days.

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Verizon IndyCar Series teams have had limited opportunities to evaluate the performance characteristics of the components and multitude of optional elements that increase downforce and reduce drag, so there is about as much driver and team personnel intrigue as there is by fans.

Underneath the Dallara IR-12 chassis, however, the primary and alternate Firestone Firehawk tires for the March 27-29 season opener are the same specification as last year.

“We’re confident that those specifications will be fine, but we’ll be watching closely — as we do at every race — how we could improve things for street courses later this season or next year,” said Dale Harrigle, chief engineer for Bridgestone America’s Motorsports and manager of race tire development.

Harrigle, like many Verizon IndyCar Series drivers, expects lower lap times at road/street courses on the Firestone Firehawk alternate tires. Each of the 24 drivers entered in the 110-lap race on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit won’t experience the effects of the alternate tires until qualifications March 28.

“There is no question that with the increased downforce that the alternate tire, with its increased grip, is going to lend itself well to the car and we expect to see a significant increase in speed on the alternate tire,” Harrigle said. “Where we’re going to all be learning – Firestone and the teams – is how the aero kits affect the gap between the primary and alternate tires in the race.

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For a look back at Firestone’s legacy in IndyCar — Click Here

“The teams are not allowed to test on the alternates; the alternates are designed to be a little bit of the unknown to teams so we’re all going to be learning during the race.”

Each entry, which will receive seven sets of primary and three sets of alternate tires for practice, qualifying and the race, has to run at least two green flag laps on both primary and alternate tires.

Firestone Racing has been collaborating with INDYCAR since the germination of aero kits, and was an active participant during all phases of manufacturer development.

“As INDYCAR resolved their volume boxes and it became apparent what Honda and Chevrolet were going to be able to do with the freedom that they were given to design their cars, we started working closely with Honda and Chevrolet to make sure that we watching the loads that were being developed and that they were sharing the simulation data,” Harrigle said.

“We were getting simulation data from INDYCAR, which was doing a parallel program. So we worked closely with the three groups. As they were providing us simulation data, we were running tires on our indoor testing to make sure that basically the tires could keep up with the loads and speeds that were being talked about with the aero kits.

“Ultimately, with all the decisions that were made, especially with the decision to put the hole in the floor (of chassis) for safety and a couple of other items, we determined that the current tire would be a good fit for the car with the aero kits.”

That’s a testament to the performance characteristics of the tires. Firestone Racing engineers and track support personnel attended all but one manufacturer test between Oct. 6, 2014, and Jan. 18.

“That’s when we used the 2014 spec and determined that yes in fact what we were providing was a good fit for the cars and we used that testing to help us move forward with our plans.”

Manufacturer tests were conducted on a variety of road courses and ovals. The road/street course aero platform also will be used on short ovals such as Iowa Speedway and The Milwaukee Mile. The speedway aero kits are scheduled to be delivered to teams by April 1.

“We ran on ovals with both manufacturers during their development phase and then at Texas Motor Speedway on March 14 with Ed Carpenter and Helio Castroneves (for a Chevrolet test session),” Harrigle said. “We use those tests to learn where the car is going to be with the aero kits relative to the ovals.”

Data & Image courtesy of IndyCar.com — By Dave Lewandowski

Firestone History – SpeedwaySightings.com 


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