The Racing Capital
of the World
March 31, 2013 | By Marshall Pruett
Take a 1600-pound Indy car, insert a driver with unparalleled skill, attach Firestone's stickiest tires, pile on aerodynamic downforce that's about equal to the weight of a Chevy Cruze and pull the pin on a wild lap of qualifying within the narrow, concrete-lined walls of downtown St. Petersburg, FL.
Ride on-board with Chevy-powered Team Penske driver Will Power for a lap of IndyCar qualifying at St. Petersburg last weekend as the Aussie does a masterful job of living on the limit around the 14-turn, 1.8-mile circuit.
In typical Power fashion, this lap includes a few corrections with the steering wheel, including a catch as he exits Turn 10 and the wall on the right--which juts out and loves to rips wheels clean off--draws ever closer. His lightning fast hands perform those corrections in a few tenths of s second.
When he's done, Power's on pole position, breaking the IndyCar Series lap record at St. Pete...he's also a ahead of the second-place qualifier by a staggering .376 seconds. On a lap that only laps 61 seconds, it's a monster performance.
Asked which section are toughest to conquer, Power told IMS.com "It's like threading the needle through 4-5-6-7. It's a tight go around the back section."
On his powerslide exiting Turn 10 and the approaching exit wall, he says "If you're thinking you're going to hit it, there's no question you will. It's governed by what you do on the way into the corner--whether you're catching the car on the way out. It's the kind of corner where you always think, 'Aaah, I could have done more.' You're never game enough to try it, though, but for maybe one lap. There's a big penalty if you get it wrong, obviously..."
And Power's thoughts on chassis setup and the right mindset for qualifying?
"You don't find big chunks in qualifying today. You've got to get it right so you're not fighting oversteering or understeering. I just love going out there and giving it everything I have. I believe it's a personality thing. You either have it or you don't."
Contrast Power's leave-nothing-on-the-table qualifying run with that of Swiss driver Simona de Silvestro as she nears the halfway point in the 110-lap race. De Silvestro's instructions in her Chevy-powered KV Racing car involve saving fuel and trying to save her tires for as long as possible.
But as her footage shows, despite a silky touch on the steering wheel and with her right foot, the rear tires are starting to give up. She qualified third and was running fourth at the time--behind Will Power, actually--and pushes as hard as she can, but the calm in her voice when communicating with Gerald Tyler, her engineer, is remarkable.
Despite the numerous constraints--go fast, but save fuel...and go fast while taking it easy on the tires--she seems wholly unfazed by it all. It's another window into what makes her one of the most talented IndyCar drivers in the series today.