Off-season disputes with former promoters notwithstanding, the Baltimore Grand Prix is back, to the relief of all who attended an event dubbed “the Long Beach of the East.”
Please tell me he also found a new president of competition.
Yes, calm down. For 2012, it’s Brian Barnhart out, Beaux Barfield
in as president of competition and race director. The former
American Le Mans Series Race director will oversee but not
micromanage track and pit action with common sense, little
ego and no favoritism. He hated the “false racing” rules once
imposed, which in a two-car battle, forced the driver ahead to
take the racing line, holding the door open for his opponent to
dive up the inside. Now, a driver can take anticipatory defensive
action by holding the inside lane. What he can’t do is make a
reactionary move, if the car behind pulls out to pass him.
So will there be less passing?
There are two schools of thought. Ryan Hunter-Reay warns:
Who’s going to win the championship?
“IndyCar drivers could become very good at running in the middle
of the track and making their cars 40-feet wide,” but his Andretti
Autosport teammate Marco Andretti counters with: “A guy who
takes a defensive line is compromising himself. I want someone
defending against me because that means he’s not taken the
quickest line so I’ll get a run on him down to the next corner.”
Carbon brakes, new for this year, again provoke opposing
views. While some say the resultant shortened braking zones
will hurt the racing, others expect them to prompt a lot of
mistakes on street courses, where stopping power will exceed
front-end grip when the car enters a bumpy braking zone.
Turn to page 32 for our full predictions, but we expect a wider
variety of drivers visiting Victory Lane this year, partly through
engine attrition, partly because everyone is starting over with a
new car and because the best engine for road/street courses may
not be the best for the very different demands of oval racing.
With just a few days to go, we don’t know much, so celebrate
the fact that there may be 15 potential winners on a given weekend.
But above all, as we said earlier, expect the unexpected.
2010 and ’ 11 runner-up isn’t yet a fan of the new car
“If we ran Firestone reds [softs]
on the front and blacks [hard]
“but I think of what Dario [Franchitti]
said about the DW12’s original pedal
box being designed for left-foot brakers,
and that not being fair on him. I agree.
Team Penske driver Will Power of the
Dallara DW12. “As it stands now, it’s a
chronic understeerer in medium- and
low-speed turns, and it’s hard to find how
to transfer any weight forward to change
that. In high-speed stuff, it’s got loads
of downforce, and at high-grip tracks
like Mid-Ohio and Barber [Motorsports
Park] the fast corners should be much
faster this year. But on slower stuff,
there’s way too much front tire scrub.”
Well, making a car’s handling go so
strongly in one direction — the slowest
and easiest-to-drive direction! — but
making the tech rules so tight that we
can hardly change it: That’s just kinda
sad because it takes the emphasis off
the driver, which is supposed to be one
of IndyCar’s major strengths compared
with other series.”
The usual pole winner on any tracks
with right as well as left turns, Power likes
to drive his car “on the nose,” using a
sharp turn-in to speed up direction change
and is adamant that’s the fastest way.
Power’s glass-half-empty outlook is
“On the plus side, I guess that means
quite well known, so it’s no surprise when
he admits: “Me and Dave [Faustino, his
race engineer] haven’t been getting much
sleep as we think about ways to adjust
this. And…we’ve got one or two ideas.”
Now, he says, all those of similar driving
style (Ryan Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon
and Justin Wilson, for example) will have
to find their speed advantage by different
methods because an understeering car’s
limit is much easier to find, so more
drivers are going to be able to go fast.
the grid is closer-packed,” he shrugs,