After a long off-season full of reinvention and reflection, the IndyCar series fraternity gathers again to go racing over a new season, beginning this weekend at the Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg. In what was his adopted home with his family in America, the memory of the late Dan Wheldon has been immortalised with a local street renamed in his honour. Appropriately also, the street forms part of the race circuit, at Turn 10.
While the field will be racing with heavy hearts and the threat of wounds reopening, the first race of the 2012 season will get people back thinking of racing in a more positive light, and with new cars, engines and drivers, the series sports a whole new identity this time around, as we outlined extensively in our season preview, which you can read here.
|Date:||23-25 March 2012|
|Lap Length:||1.8 miles / 2.9km|
|Race Lap Record:||1:00.928, Sébastien Bourdais (Lola B02/00 Cosworth) – 2003 (ChampCar)|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 11:50-12:50|
|Free Practice Session 2||Sat 14:50-15:50|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 09:55-10:55|
|Qualifying Session||Sat 13:55-15:15|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 08:35-09:05|
|Race 1 (100 laps, 180mi)||Sun 12:30-15:00|
|Past Winners:||Paul Tracy (Forsythe Racing Lola Ford Cosworth)||2003*|
|Dan Wheldon (Andretti Green Racing Dallara Honda)||2005|
|Hélio Castroneves (Team Penske Dallara Honda)||2006|
|Hélio Castroneves (Team Penske Dallara Honda)||2007|
|Graham Rahal (Newman/Haas Dallara Honda)||2008|
|Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske Dallara Honda)||2009|
|Will Power (Team Penske Dallara Honda)||2010|
|Dario Franchitti (Chip Ganassi Dallara Honda)||2011|
* Denotes CART Championship event
St Petersburg is a challenging course, and the first corner last year can be held as testament to its unpredictability. A first corner accident, which many say was triggered by Helio Castroneves, caused multiple retirements and even saw Marco Andretti’s car on its roof at the end of the melee, although Andretti calmly slid out unharmed.
There are multiple overtaking opportunities available, incidentally the best one can be said is now at Turn 10 where Dan Wheldon Way now begins. It was the corner where Wheldon overtook Ryan Briscoe to win the inaugural IRL event at the track. Wheldon celebrated that win by jumping into the Tampa Bay.
The Players & Form Guide
2012 IndyCar Series Championship Entry List (Honda Grand Prix of St Petersburg):
(R) Denotes ‘Rookie Class’ driver. Entry list is subject to final confirmation.
It is difficult to say whether Penske, Ganassi or another will have the upper hand here until we start to see some practice times come in. Everyone has a new car, many have new engines, and almost all have new drivers. It makes writing a preview rather difficult, but we all must wait and see what might happen.
Bring on the new season! Let’s go racing again!
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