2013 Grand Prix of Alabama Preview 2013 Grand Prix of Alabama Preview 2013 Grand Prix of Alabama Preview

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…

The Circuit

Barber Motorsports Park Circuit Map

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 USA Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet
2. A.J. Allmendinger NZL Team Penske – Chevrolet
3. Hélio Castroneves BRA Team Penske – Chevrolet
4. JR Hildebrand USA 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 NZL Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda
10. Dario Franchitti Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda
11. Tony Kanaan BRA KV Racing Technology – Chevrolet
12. Will Power AUS Team Penske – Chevrolet
14. Takuma Sato AJ Foyt Enterprises – Honda
15. Graham Rahal USA Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – Honda
16. James Jakes Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – Honda
17. Mike Conway Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – Honda
18. Ana Beatriz BRA Dale Coyne Racing – Honda
19. Justin Wilson Dale Coyne Racing – Honda
20. Ed Carpenter USA Ed Carpenter Racing – Chevrolet
22. Oriol Servià Panther Dreyer & Reinbold Racing – Chevrolet
25. Marco Andretti USA Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet
27. James Hinchcliffe CAN Andretti Autosport – Chevrolet
55. Tristan Vautier Schmidt Peterson Hamilton HP Motorsports – Honda
67. Josef Newgarden USA 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 USA Chip Ganassi Racing – Honda
98. Alex Tagliani CAN 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.

Power kept Scott Dixon at arm's length to win last year's raceBarber 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.

Simona de Silvestro was the star of last fortnight's season-opener at St PetersburgUndoubtedly 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.

Matthew Lennon
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Richard Bailey

Founder & Chief Editor at MotorsportM8
Hasn't missed a Grand Prix since 1989. Has a soft spot for Minardi. Tattooed with 35+ Grand Prix circuits.