There are just four races left in this ultra-compact IndyCar Series championship campaign, and this weekend sees the field head to Lexington, Mid-Ohio, to contest the Honda Indy 200.
|2014 HONDA INDY 200 AT MID-OHIO
||Date||01-03 August 2014|
|Free Practice Session 1||Fri 10:00-10:45|
|Free Practice Session 2||Fri 14:00-14:45|
|Free Practice Session 3||Sat 10:00-10:45|
|Sunday Warm-Up||Sun 10:00-10:30|
|Race (90 laps)||Sun 15:50-17:45|
|2013 Winner||Charlie Kimball|
* All session times are quoted in Eastern Daylight Time (GMT -04:00 hrs)
Tucked away in the forests near Lexington, Ohio, the Mid-Ohio has been a staple on the IndyCar calendar since 1980 and it traditionally comes at a crucial part of the season with fans.
Car setup is a challenge here, with a good ride height and suspension crucial in order to manage the many elevation changes which, through the slower corners towards the end of the lap, can be quite undulating.
Lots of run-off area allows for recovery from any small off-track excursions in the slower regions, but – as Justin Wilson will attest – it will punish any overzealousness if leaving the track on the fast corners (Wilson suffered a season-ending back injury after going over some off-course bumps at high speed in 2011 while trying to return to the course).
The long straight at the back of the circuit invites overtaking moves into the subsequent right-hand hairpin, which is by far the number one place for position changes to occur.
Mid-Ohio Talking Points
After a wet and wild double-header in Toronto a fortnight ago, the weather forecasters are predicting another damp one this weekend.
Rain and the IndyCar Series are historically strange bedfellows, and as the last hit-out in Toronto showed, it also produces unpredictable behaviour from series officials and event organisers. Overcast conditions and a heavy shower before Saturday’s race made on-track conditions too difficult and ultimately the weekend’s two races were squeezed onto a tight Sunday schedule.
Race 2 – an absolute thriller won by Mike Conway – featured a cloudburst that threw many teams’ strategies off the rails. Funnily enough, the rain was heavier than what was witnessed on Saturday, but the cars still kept racing…
It’s the fourth-last round of the championship and the penultimate road/street course event, so it goes without saying that this will be a crucial weekend for any championship contenders who are perhaps less-favoured on the two remaining oval events, particularly when one of them (the season-ending MAVTV 500 at Fontana) carries double points.
Series leader Hélio Castroneves comes into this weekend’s race with a slender 13-points advantage over Penske teammate, while third-placed Ryan Hunter-Reay lies a further 56 points in arrears, two points clear of fourth-placed Simon Pagenaud.
The battle for the 2014 Drivers’ Championship crown looks like being a four-man race to the chequered flag in Fontana, but the man to watch out for might well be defending champion Scott Dixon.
The New Zealander is a record four-time winner here (2007, 2009, 2010 and 2011) and is finally enjoying a run of consistency that has seen him vault up the points table with three top-five finishes in the last four races. The Kiwi and his Chip Ganassi Racing stable are yet to taste victory this year, but if ever there’s a circuit where one team has utterly dominated, then this is it: the Ganassi team has won here in all but one of the races since the IndyCar Series made its return to the twisty circuit in 2007.
It will be a Hurculean recovery from the Kiwi, who lies 147 points adrift of Castroneves with a theoretical maximum of 262 points up for grabs. Dixon’s surge towards last year’s Drivers’ Championship crown happened in somewhat similar fashion, and lightning certainly can strike twice.
Images via XPB Images