The next chapter in the evolving story of the 2013 season will be written this week as the teams reach the Barber Motorsports Park for Round 2 of the IZOD IndyCar Series.
And as we head into this weekend’s racing activity at Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama, our resident IndyCar correspondent Matt Lennon casts his eye over the field and makes a few predictions of potential heroes and zeroes…
|Date:||5-7 April 2013|
|Venue:||Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham, Alabama, USA|
|Lap Length:||2.38 miles / 3.83km|
|Race Lap Record:||1:10.1060, Will Power (Dallara Honda) – 2010|
|Event Schedule:||Free Practice Session 1||Fri 12:45-13:45|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 15:45-16:30|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 08:00-08:30|
|Qualifying Session||Sat 10:25-11:35|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 11:00-11:30|
|Race (90 laps, 214mi)||Sun 14:40-16:45|
|Past Winners:||Will Power (Team Penske Dallara DW12 Chevrolet)||2012|
|Will Power (Team Penske Dallara Honda)||2011|
|Hélio Castroneves (Team Penske Dallara Honda)||2010|
Considerably faster and with many changes in elevation through each lap, the layout on the outskirts of Birmingham, Alabama takes remastering with each visit.
The range of sweeping medium to high- speed corners and some of the tightest chicanes on the calendar make no man or woman an expert, and as always, a car set up to ride the circuit as it flows is vital and will be one of the determining factors to seeing the name of the man or woman standing highest on Sunday afternoon.
The Players & Form Guide
2013 IndyCar Series Championship Entry List (Indy Grand Prix of Alabama):
|No.||Driver||Entry / Team|
|1.||Ryan Hunter-Reay||Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet|
|2.||A.J. Allmendinger||Team Penske – Chevrolet|
|3.||Hélio Castroneves||Team Penske – Chevrolet|
|4.||JR Hildebrand||Panther Racing – Chevrolet|
|5.||E.J. Viso||Team Venzuela – Chevrolet|
|6.||Sebastián Saavedra||Dragon Racing – Chevrolet|
|7.||Sébastien Bourdais||Dragon Racing – Chevrolet|
|9.||Scott Dixon||Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda|
|10.||Dario Franchitti||Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda|
|11.||Tony Kanaan||KV Racing Technology – Chevrolet|
|12.||Will Power||Team Penske – Chevrolet|
|14.||Takuma Sato||AJ Foyt Enterprises – Honda|
|15.||Graham Rahal||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – Honda|
|16.||James Jakes||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – Honda|
|17.||Mike Conway||Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – Honda|
|18.||Ana Beatriz||Dale Coyne Racing – Honda|
|19.||Justin Wilson||Dale Coyne Racing – Honda|
|20.||Ed Carpenter||Ed Carpenter Racing – Chevrolet|
|22.||Oriol Servià||Panther Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – Chevrolet|
|25.||Marco Andretti||Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet|
|27.||James Hinchcliffe||Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet|
|55.||Tristan Vautier||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton HP Motorsports – Honda|
|67.||Josef Newgarden||Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing – Honda|
|77.||Simon Pagenaud||Schmidt Peterson Hamilton HP Motorsports – Honda|
|78.||Simona de Silvestro||KV Racing Technology – Chevrolet|
|83.||Charlie Kimball||Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda|
|98.||Alex Tagliani||Barracuda Racing – Honda|
Entry list is subject to final confirmation.
James Hinchcliffe put all of the pieces together at St Pete two weeks ago to take the win in Round 1 of the IZOD Indycar Series, and now the question is… can he go on with it? Based on talent alone, he can go on with it and run all the way. But whether all of the planets align on a consistent basis to enable him to do so is another matter.
Barber is a circuit the teams know very well, as it is a proven and popular testing ground for all. At the last testing visit just before St Pete, Will Power unsurprisingly was the quickest. Power has built himself up into an position where he is almost expected to be quickest in the practice and qualifying sessions, and more often than not he turns that into a race win, which has often been the case at this circuit in recent years.
Undoubtedly though, the star of the show two weeks ago was Simona de Silvestro. In the Top 6 through qualifying and the race, De Silvestro gave the ultimate “don’t come back” to the woeful Lotus engine she was saddled with all of last year and reminded everyone she was back. Barber is the kind of permanent road course she grew up racing on in Europe and now with a renewed fire kick-starting her career back into life, she instantly vaults herself up the contender ranks for this weekend.
Making his debut in a third car for Team Penske in his return to open-wheel competition this weekend is AJ Allmendinger. The five-time Champ Car race winner so nearly took the championship in 2006 but was trumped by Sébastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson in a close-fought battle in which Allmendinger took three straight wins in Portland, Cleveland and Toronto that year. So AJ’s abilities in open-wheel are proven and it will be interesting to see how quickly he re-establishes himself and whether Roger Penske is able to get him bankrolled for more than just two races this year.
Despite the teams’ familiarity with the circuit, it doesn’t make Barber easy to set a car up for. Frequent changes in elevation make ride height critical, as well as tyre selection. With the surface being a lot smoother than the streets of St Pete, a harder compound will likely be on offer by Firestone, making a two-stop strategy the most likely option. Expect the majority of the field to start on the red-sidewalled Firestones to try and make up as many positions as possible early on, helped along by several slow corners which offer excellent overtaking opportunities.
Tune in to the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama this weekend. Check your local guides for broadcast information in your area.