Penultimate Event Presents Exciting Challenge for Race Engineers at IMS Road Course
Arrow McLaren SP is currently enjoying one of its most successful seasons to-date in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES. With a year that has presented many challenges due to the nature of the fluid schedule, the INDYCAR Harvest Grand Prix doubleheader will present a challenge of a different sort.
The team returns to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for the penultimate event of the season, the same configuration that hosted the GMR Grand Prix back in early July. Will Anderson, Race Engineer for Pato O’Ward’s No. 5 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet, walks us through some of the preparation that he and the team must consider as they look to cement O’Ward’s impressive third position in the championship standings.
“The Indy road course layout presents a couple of challenges for us as a team,” commented Anderson. “The track has long straights but a number of very slow corners, so you have this big tradeoff between what downforce and drag levels to run, and ultimately measuring how much time you gain on the straights versus how much you lose in the corners. On the mechanical side, the kerbing itself is quite aggressive, so that presents a challenge for us in terms of dampers, ride and various other factors. Isolated, the kerbing would point you towards running a softer set-up, but for the long straightaways you would rather run stiff with a low ride height, so finding the compromise between the two is always a challenge at this circuit.”
While the approach for the Harvest Grand Prix will be similar to the July race, weather conditions are expected to be vastly different, meaning the team must consider what impact this will have on performance.
“We are expecting it to be close to 40 degrees cooler compared with July, so how you activate the tires and manage your trim level will be a little bit different from previously, but the general approach for the weekend will be quite similar. We’ve historically had good cars on the road course, so we will be looking to learn as much as we can from the July race and apply towards these two races.”
With the team having worked with two young and relatively inexperienced drivers in Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew this season, Anderson is appreciative of how much progress both drivers have made throughout the season, especially when it comes to the technical side of their craft which naturally plays a huge role in the team’s approach to its engineering program.
“They’ve helped a lot in the engineering aspect as they’ve gained experience, in terms of being more in tune with the car, knowing what they want. That means they can now point towards the data a bit more and help us to help them in a way. It’s all about finding trends, and then being able to work with them both to help them optimize their performance.”
With the unfortunate news that Askew was not medically cleared to drive for this weekend’s doubleheader event in Indianapolis, the Arrow McLaren SP team has turned to series veteran Helio Castroneves to pilot the No. 7 Arrow McLaren SP Chevrolet. Castroneves brings a wealth of experience from his career in open wheel and sports car racing, and while Anderson is disappointed that Askew won’t be competing this weekend, he’s excited to see what the experienced Brazilian driver will be like to work with.
“I feel bad for Oliver and hopefully he can get healthy as soon as possible. In the interim, Helio is a great option to have step-in as he has a ton of experience with a very good organization, so having him around and being able to lean on him will impact us in many aspects. I know Oliver will be there watching and observing, and with Pato being able sit across from Helio in debriefs, it will be very interesting and no doubt a useful experience for all of us involved.”
O’Ward and Castroneves take to the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this coming weekend, October 2 – 3. Arrow McLaren SP fans can follow all of the action live on USA Network for Race 1 at 3:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, with Race 2 being aired live the following day on NBC at 2:30 p.m. ET.