Watkins Glen test proves fast

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WATKINS GLEN, New York: IndyCar drivers who participated in the one-day test for the Grand Prix at The Glen found the track fast and physical.

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A repaved track surface, combined with the speedy benefits of the Chevrolet and Honda aero kits on the Dallara IR-12 chassis, set the stage for lightning-quick lap times on the 3.4-mile (5.44-kilometer) historic permanent road course. Five drivers from four IndyCar teams took part in the session held on Monday (Tuesday in Manila).

The IndyCar Grand Prix at The Glen will be held in the first weekend of September.

During the tests, it was obvious the lap standard of 1:28.1322 (137.657 miles per hour/220.251 kilometers per hour) set in 2009 by Ryan Briscoe will be obliterated in the Verizon IndyCar Series’ return to The Glen after a six-year absence.

“I believe we are already three seconds faster than the track record,” said Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, one of two drivers testing new Firestone compounds and constructions to determine the race weekend tire specification.

“There will be track records set,” added James Hinchcliffe of Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, the other tire tester. “This car would have done it anyway on the old surface, but with the way it is now, I think we will be going pretty quick in qualifying.”

Hinchcliffe raced at The Glen in Indy Lights (2009-10) and was excited to try “the big car” on the notorious long circuit. He said the high track grip, high-downforce cars and lack of power steering are a recipe for a most demanding 60-lap race come Labor Day weekend.

“I think it’s going to be incredibly physical,” Hinchcliffe said. “You do have some long straights to rest, which helps, but you have some incredible high-G corners – and a lot of them. Turn 1’s really fast, the esses are really fast, the bus stop is fast, Turn 5 is fast, [Turn] 6 is fast, [Turn] 7’s pretty quick – actually pretty much other than Turn 9, they’re all fast corners here.”

“It beats you up, man. It’s going to be really physical, especially on reds [Firestone alternate tires],” he added.

IndyCars machines raced nine times previously at Watkins Glen, from 1979-81 and again from 2005-10. Reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing won three straight years and he’s looking forward to the competition on race weekend.

“I think with the repavement, it’s going to make the racing pretty good,” Dixon said.

THE TIMES

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