May 17, 2012  |   By Dave Lewandowski

Day 6 At IMS

Following six days of practice totaling 35 sun-splashed hours on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, it’s time for teams to literally switch gears.

INDYCAR, the sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series, approved an increase in the turbocharger boost level for “Fast Friday” on May 18 and the May 19-20 time trials for the Indianapolis 500 from 130 kPa (kilopascals) to 140 kPa. The increase will add 40-50 horsepower to the 2.2-lter, turbocharged V-6 engines supplied by Chevrolet, Honda and Lotus, resulting in an increase of 4-5 mph per lap.

The 2.5-mile oval is open for practice from noon-6 p.m. May 18, with Pole Day qualifying featuring the top-nine shootout commencing at noon May 19. 

“It’s kind of like starting over,” said Bill Pappas, lead engineer for the Honda-powered No. 18 Sonny’s BBQ car driven by Justin Wilson. “With the speed going up, the set-up we have at this (practice) speed may not even work. First thing we’ll do is go out and do a baseline run with what we think is a good package.

“Then it might be shuffling springs to change the balance of the car and deciding how much downforce you’re able to take off and run flat still with higher speeds. It will be an exciting day.”
Selecting the correct gearing for the new Dallara chassis is another issue, according to Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports lead engineer Ben Bretzman.

“Unfortunately, we’re not going to have a lot of running on it,” he said. “It’s up to simulations and what information Honda can give us on how fast they think we might go based on just general power. From a chassis standpoint, it’s a bit of an unknown.”

The boost level will be returned to 130 kPa for the 200-lap race May 27. Teams/drivers continued to work on race set-ups and simulations May 17 (the session was delayed an hour at the start for Katherine Legge to start her Rookie Orientation Program). Scott Dixon, the 2008 race winner, was quickest on the day with a lap of 40.3428 seconds (223.088 mph; second-quickest of the month) in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car.

Twenty-nine drivers recorded 1,391 laps without incident. Josef Newgarden, who was quickest a day earlier, was second on the speed chart (40.1115 seconds, 222.709 mph) in the No. 67 Sarah Fisher Hartman/Dollar General car. Graham Rahal jumped to third late in the session with a month-best 222.080 mph, and IZOD IndyCar Series championship points leader Will Power (221.932) was fourth.

“Today was our last chance until Sunday – and I hope the weather stays good until Sunday – to try race set-ups and understand what the car does in traffic," Power said. "I think you can run closer with this car than with the old car. It punches a massive hole in the air, so the tow effect is huge. You could be leading doing a 217 and the guy behind you could be 5 mph quicker.”
Wilson finished fifth at 221.715 mph.

“Everything we’ve learned to now has been at a certain speed and now you’re going to go 6 mph quicker, so do you need more downforce?” said Wilson, who ran more of a qualifying set-up for part of the session “to see what it’s like so we have more of a reference point before we get more power."
There's 90 minutes of practice time available before qualifications, too.

“The general rule of thumb is the better the car is the more it can take,” said Wilson, who has a best finish of seventh in four Indy 500 starts. “We’ve been generally happy with the car so far, but there’s always room to get better.”