Thursday, July 24, 2008

Edmonton Preview

Rexall Edmonton Indy logoHistory:
The Edmonton airport circuit at the Edmonton City Centre Airport has only been in existence for just a few years, although the city of Edmonton has a history of racing dating back to the Can-Am days of the late 60's and early 70's. Roger Penske himself has won at the Edmonton International Speedway circuit in a Porsche 917 against stiff competition from Mark Donohue, Sir Jackie Stewart, and Bruce McLaren. He's not the only big name to have enjoyed racing at this too often overlooked city. During the early days of Formula Atlantics, the greatest Canadian racer to have ever put their right foot down, Gille Villenuve won twice at EIS.

The airport circuit, although not as richly steeped as its older sibling EIS, still holds amongst its list of competitors a significant number of stout drivers. The three races at this circuit, beginning in 2005, were held by the Champ Car World Series, many of whose drivers are now with us in the IndyCar Series. Those drivers returning for a fourth visit to the Edmonton Indy event are Justin Wilson (who won this event in 2006), Paul Tracy, Oriol Servia, and Mario Dominguez. Ryan Hunter-Reay competed in the 2005 event, but was out of an open-wheel ride for 2006 before his being hired by Rahal-Letterman Racing before the 2007 Mid-Ohio event. Other notable drivers from that race are its inaugural pole setter, A. J. Allmendinger who now runs in Sprint Cup, Jimmy Vasser, now part owner of KV Racing Technologies, and Sebastian Bourdais and Timo Glock who are both in Formula 1. Other drivers who will be driving this Saturday who have visited this circuit before are Bruno Junquiera, Graham Rahal, and Will Power.

Edmonton aerial view.

Visit the official site for the Rexall Edmonton Indy for a detail facility and track map.

Thursday Practice:
Unfortunately, there was no video feed for the first session, so we have no information other than lap times, but the surprise of the afternoon has been Paul Tracy. The Thrill from West Hill has never driven a Dallara, yet he spent most of the first session among the top 10 on the speed charts. Not surprisingly, many of the new drivers to the series who have had experience at this track also put up good times with circuit veterans making up half of the top ten in Session 1.

Video is back for Session 2, and there's been a lot of spins. Bruno suffered the most with a very expensive off after a suspension failure. Danica continues to struggle on the road courses. Her best lap still can't bring her in the top 20. By the end of the session, many of the new teams and drivers had figured out the subtle differences in how the Dallara gets around the track and took 7 of the top 10 spots.

Here's the top 5 for the day:
Will Power - 1:02.3404
Oriol Servia - 1:02.3900
Helio Castroneves - 1:02.5365
Ryan Briscoe - 1:02.5831
Justin Wilson - 1:02.6220

What to Watch:
The 14-turn circuit is different than most airport circuits in that its hybrid in design. Most of the course is run on the airport's concrete runways, but a purpose-build section of asphalt road course was layed down to form turns 2 through 7. The road course section is not only a different compound, but also much narrower. This is where many of the less skilled drivers will lose time, and the great drivers will pull away. The airport part of the track, like most airport circuits, offers a very wide racing line that rewards aggressive driving styles. Because of this, look for drivers like Ryan Briscoe, and the infamous Paul Tracy to do quite well. That isn't to say that patient and precise drivers like Will Power, and Justin Wilson won't do well. The road course section is where the precise drivers will shine as opposed to the high-speed airport section.

Corners to watch for bold moves and spectacular passes are turns 1, 9, 10, 11, and 13. Turn 1 will see drivers fighting to gain a positional advantage going into turn 2 and the road course section. Many passes may start in turn 1, but not be fully complete until the exit of turn 2. Turn 9 is another competition for position corner. Drivers will be trying to maximize their exit speed in turn 9, so if two cars are close, they may end up trying to occupy the same racing line if neither driver backs down. The reason why the exit of turn 9 is so important is because of turn 10. This is a perfect corner for drivers to make a pass by braking later and going deeper into the turn than their competitors. Turns 11 and 12 are really one long double-apex right-hander that sets up similar to the turns 9 and 10 sequence. Drivers can make a pass going into 11, but the important part of the 11/12 complex is getting a good exit to make the run down to turn 13 which will be another prime location for overtaking.

No comments: