The IZOD Indycar circus returns to the United States for all but one of the 8 remaining rounds of the 2011 season this weekend, resuming its annual residence at the picturesque Mid-Ohio Sportscar course in the mid-west. Our resident IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon takes a look at this weekend’s event and makes a few cursory predictions as the battle between Will Power and Dario Franchitti heats up…
Two weeks ago in Edmonton, Will Power’s victory made a small dent, but a dent nonetheless, in Dario Franchitti’s championship lead, reducing it down to 38-points. Team Penske and Power know they must strategise from an attacking perspective in the championship chase this year. This was not the case last year, as Will Power secured the Mario Andretti road-course championship at this race 12 months ago simply by taking the start.
Mid-Ohio has been a staple on the American open-wheel landscape since its debut in 1980, and with the exception of a short hiatus between 2004-2006, remains one of the best attended permanent road-course events on the series. Always a challenge to set a car up for, ride-height and grip are paramount in order to navigate the undulating curves and constantly changing elevation levels.
An interesting occurrence worth noting is that Mid-Ohio has a history of delivering consecutive wins to the same driver. Winning in both 1985 and 1986 was Bobby Rahal, with Michael Andretti, Emerson Fittipaldi, Al Unser Jnr and Alex Zanardi each taking two consecutive victories here over eight runnings of the event between 1990 and 1997, with Helio Castroneves doing the double in 2000 and 2001. Dario Franchitti will be holding this in good stead and hoping the hoodoo holds true as he defends his 2010 win this weekend.
In paddock movements, Sam Schmidt Motorsports welcomes a new driver to its stable, as Indy Lights race-winner Martin Plowman makes his debut in the top-flight this weekend for the next three road courses, piloting the Magnum Boots entry. Ed Carpenter returns to the field this weekend in his Sarah Fisher Racing entry.
The Lexington circuit never fails to deliver close, exciting racing, so expect no different this weekend. The next instalment of Season 2011 has all the makings of a classic.