Early praise for COTA after IndyCar tire test
Three teams took to Circuit of The Americas for testing on Monday as A.J. Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan, Andretti Autosport’s Alexander Rossi, and RC Enerson, who suited up for Carlin, turned laps at the 3.4-mile road course.
Rossi’s unofficial lap of 1m47.8s is said to be fastest of the two who spent the day working with Firestone to develop a primary tire for the March race. Enerson, who contested two races with Dale Coyne Racing in 2016, took part in an unaffiliated rookie test.
“The track was awesome. It’s a proper race track, and the facility is beautiful,” Kanaan told RACER. “It’s a mix of Road America, Laguna Seca, and a little bit of Sonoma. We did more than 100 laps and it was badass.”
The 2013 Indy 500 winner believes the field of Chevy- and Honda-powered Dallara DW12s will put on a quality show featuring close racing.
“It’s a road course, so I don’t want to give the wrong impression that we will always be passing there, but there are two places that will be easier to pass and some others to try,” he said. “And I think our racing will be exciting because there’s less discrepancy on lap times with our grid, and 20 cars have a chance to win the race.”
Renowned for his extreme fitness and muscle mass, Kanaan admitted there’s more work to do before his next visit to COTA.
“The neck, for sure,” he said with a laugh. “Turns 16, 17, and 18, the carousel before the pits, it’s like Elkhart Lake – really long. We did a lot of new-tire runs. By the end of the day, it was like, ‘OK, we’ve got some work to do on the neck…’”
On the engineering side, Andretti’s Jeremy Milless enjoyed learning with Rossi on Monday.
“We unloaded with a setup that we are familiar with,” Milless said. “Before we came here I asked Alex what he thought about the track, and he felt it was a lower grip surface, so we went toward one of our road course setups that was bland. And all we ended up doing was adjust rear ride height and we were smokin’ fast, so it was pretty awesome.”
Milless found COTA to be a unique challenge compared to other natural terrain road courses on the IndyCar calendar.
“I just went through and did a bunch of metrics looked at what COTA was like versus the other tracks we go to, and man it has like six Turn 11s from Sonoma,” he continued. “It’s actually a super-slow track. There’s one second-gear corner, five first-gear corners, and then the high-speed corners are really fast. There’s no medium-speed corners for us here. And the long straights are all fed by slow corners, so we just worked on slow-speed stuff and it was worth it.”
With the stickier Firestone alternate tires affixed for qualifying and more than one day to learn the setup needs at COTA, Milless believes the leading IndyCar drivers will be faster once the race weekend arrives.
“The primary focus today was on the primary tire, so there’s a second or more coming from the tires, and everyone was one practice power, so I would say we’ll be at least two seconds quicker when we come back,” Milless added. “But I’m not worried about it. We put on a pretty good race, and there’s such a huge difference to those [F1] cars that you can’t expect us to be the same.”
Carlin and Enerson tested under a veil of secrecy, declining to acknowledge who was driving, or to comment on its day at COTA.
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ABOUT MARSHALL PRUETT
The 2018 season marks Marshall Pruett's 32nd year working in the sport. In his role today for RACER, Pruett covers open-wheel and sports car racing as a writer, reporter, photographer, and filmmaker. In his previous career, he served as a mechanic, engineer, and team manager in a variety of series, including IndyCar, IMSA, and World Challenge.