QUALIFYING LAP WILL POWER
The track walk on the Thursday is
helpful on street circuits. Because it’s
a temporary circuit, you’re looking for
repositioning of curbs, walls and changes
to the surface compared to the year
before. On a road course, you might find
new bumps and undulations caused by a
harsh winter, but to be honest, they’re hard to see, and
you learn far more on your first out lap in Friday morning
practice. Throughout practice you’re trying different
things in the three sectors, because you want to link your
best sectors together for your ideal lap time in qualifying.
There are three parts to IndyCar qualifying. Back in
2010, you could risk using black [hard] tires if you had
enough pace advantage to carry you through to the next
round, depending on who was in your group of 13, but the
field closed up in 2011 so you had to go with reds. But we
only have two sets, so by the time you get to Q3 now, you
have to run used reds. It’s therefore important to lay down
a strong time with the minimal amount of laps in Q1 and
Q2 so your tires in Q3 are as fresh as possible. So you
have to make sure you don’t get blocked. My Verizon
Team Penske crew are good at finding me a gap in traffic.
So, our Q2 times are usually our quickest because we’ve
learned from Q1 and made adjustments, and we’re on fresh
tires. Q3 is a bit more compromised. Having said that, there
are times on street tracks when the tires last six or seven
laps and, combined with 26 cars laying down rubber on the
track, we end up as quick or quicker than on new tires.
With the computer working out your ideal time – the
one that combines each of your best three sectors through
practice and qualifying – the idea is obviously to try and
recreate that for real. It’s the part of the weekend where
you’re closest to the walls and you clip curbs and launch
through chicanes a bit harder. But I’m not revealing
more than that; I know who reads your magazine!
Loeb could make a case for having had a perfect career: he’s won the last eight World Rally Championship titles. (TOP) Matra V12s won three times at Le Mans, powered Ligier to several Formula 1 wins and seduced a generation of fans with a heavenly sound.
The apparently limitless nature of most aspects of the Can-Am series
extended to aural pleasure. The 1967 McLaren M6A of Denny Hulme
posted a DNF at this race in Riverside, but the sound of its 359cu.in.
( 5.9-liter) small block Chevy is still echoing in the SoCal hillsides.
will be planned beforehand, but the most
exciting ones are “off the wall” and come
to people like Ross Brawn or Tim Cindric
in response to what their chief rival is
doing. That keeps the fans guessing, too.
So many candidates, but we can rule out
anything that has the parp-farp of
traction control interrupting it. Our
main contenders: the straight-eight of
the 1950s Mercedes F1 and sports cars; the
Matra V12 (F1 and sports cars) of the ’70s;
the whooping turbos and spit-back on
the overrun in Group B rally cars of the
mid-’80s; the turbocharged V8 Cosworths
of early ’90s Indy cars; the 3.5-liter V12 F1
engines from Lamborghini and Ferrari;
the Chevy V8s in Can-Am cars of the early
’70s and the throaty blat of Novi Indy cars.
But for sheer sonic thump, as opposed
to melody, absolutely nothing comes close
to an NHRA Nitro Top Fuel/Funny Car.
He has balls of steel, eyes on stalks and
extra sensory perception to know when
that vital grip change is coming. He has
Spa (in sunshine for this moment) provides
some of the greatest corners, few better
than the downhill left-hander of Pouhon.
(RIGHT) Berger and Alboreto take a Ferrari
1-2 at Monza in 1988, less than a month
after Enzo Ferrari dies. Sometimes racing
really does find the perfect scriptwriter.
the ability to put a car on the limit and
hold it there, while being ready for
anything. Multi-tasking is a must:
pace-note calls must be processed, acted
on in a nano-second, and possibly even
But, above all, perfection commands
bravery and complete faith that, when
asked, the car will do precisely what’s
required in braking and turning in and
exiting. And, if the car doesn’t do what’s
expected, the driver should be able to react
accordingly before giving faultless feedback
to the team in order to right the wrong.
At the track, the “perfect driver” is the
fastest, most error-free, smartest and
best at providing feedback. Away from
the track, he’s the one who is eloquent,
ambassadorial, fan- and sponsor-friendly. So if you find him, make sure
he remains loyal to your team!