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INDYCAR: The Art of The Start

Competition within the IZOD IndyCar Series has become so close in recent years, taking advantage of starts and restarts to gain positions is critical for each driver’s progress.

Rather than work away for numerous laps trying to make a single pass, a properly timed move as the field comes to the green flag can improve multiple positions, but as you’ll see in this compare from the Indy Sao Paulo 300, nailing a start/restart isn’t guaranteed.

(00:00:09) KV Racing Technology’s Tony Kanaan, who qualified fourth, comes off the final hairpin for the start of the 75-lap race and has every intention of passing Dario Franchitti to the left and Andretti Autosport teammates Ryan Hunter-Reay and E.J. Viso on the front row.

But if you listen to Kanaan’s engine, he’s getting too close to the 12,000-rpm redline in the gear he’s chosen to use. When the green flag waves, the Brazilian pegs the throttle, but with so little acceleration left in that gear, he hits the limiter and is forced to shift as Franchitti and the front row get the jump they were looking for.

Franchitti, by comparison, started in a higher gear and had plenty of revs to use when the race went green, passing Viso for second into Turn 1. Had Kanaan been in the same gear, he and Franchitti might have passed Viso on both sides.

(00:00:46) Kanaan’s teammate, Simona de Silvestro, starting eighth next to four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, falls prey to the problem many drivers face at the start of a race. With the first three rows having accelerated before she rounded the hairpin to enter the front straight, the Swiss ace was left behind.

While Kanaan and those ahead of her formed proper rows and built speed on the way to the green flag, de Silvestro could only mash the throttle and hope to catch up in the braking zone. Once there, and making good use of the push-to-pass button, de Silvestro catches Bourdais and makes a lovely pass under braking into Turn 4.

(00:01:22) Panther Racing’s JR Hildebrand makes a strong start from 11th and passes 10th-place Marco Andretti around the outside into Turn 1. He also has his sights on passing ninth-place Justin Wilson in Turn 1…but gets a heck of surprise from 12th-place Takuma Sato, who blasts through into Turn 3.

Interesting to see JR get overtaken while trying to do some overtaking of his own…

(00:02:00) Schmidt Hamilton Racing’s Simon Pagenaud is one of the fastest drivers in the series but had a poor day in qualifying and started 24th. I expected him to pick off a bunch of cars at the start—drivers that are normally well behind the Frenchman—but a little bit of extra throttle killed his chances in an instant.

Without traction control, a technology banned in IndyCar, Pagenaud was left spinning his tires for a brief moment, but it was enough to let the field get away.

(00:02:25) A similar situation for Graham Rahal in 19th. A bit of wheelspin, a slight correction to catch the oversteer, and Rahal Letterman Lanigan driver Rahal is banging away on the rev limiter and trying to make up for lost ground. He pushes deep into the braking zone, locking the right front tire, but managed to hold his ground.

Start in the wrong gear, get left behind, pass but get passed or give it too much gas, and an IndyCar driver’s work becomes much harder once the action begins.

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INDYCAR: The Art of The Start
INDYCAR: The Art of The Start
Competition within the IZOD IndyCar Series has become so close in recent years, taking advantage of starts and restarts to gain positions is critical for each driver’s progress.
Read More
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