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Elite IMSA Prototype Drivers Pumped for IMS Race after Test

Thursday, April 6, 2023 Curt Cavin, Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Tom Blomqvist

Tom Blomqvist of Meyer Shank Racing with Curb-Agajanian and Filipe Albuquerque of Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport tested April 4 on the IMS road course.

Two years ago, veteran sports car driver Tom Blomqvist was in Indianapolis to challenge Honda Performance Development’s racing simulator, and he finished several hours ahead of his flight. The British-Swedish driver did what many race fans have done over the years: He visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum.

Until Tuesday, that was Blomqvist’s connection to IMS aside from watching the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on television. But in a two-car Honda test, the driver of the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing w/Curb-Agajanian Acura ARX-06 motored past the museum while driving on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. The sensation was certainly one to remember.

“Yeah, it’s a magnificent place,” Blomqvist said of IMS. “Even just being here for a lonely test day like today, you feel this energy in this place.”

Officially, the one-day session served as a shakedown for next week’s IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship race in Long Beach, California, but Blomqvist conceded it was an opportunity to familiarize himself with some of the nuances of the Racing Capital of the World.

His first order of business was to drive a passenger car around the 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. Then, despite a mist that lingered, he began to experience the five lefts and nine rights that he had only seen in simulation.

The next time Blomqvist expects to be on the track is in preparation for the Battle on the Bricks IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship event Sept. 15-17. He expects a good experience.

“I think racing will be quite good,” he said. “(There are) a couple of long-enough straights that will enable us to give us a slipstream and hopefully make passes into heavy braking zones, as well. That’s kind of what you need when you’re doing overtakes.

“What I’ve noticed so far is that the corner radiuses are actually quite challenging, and one corner leads to another. It’s not like you’re attacking one corner individually. You’re approaching a corner that kind of leads into two or three, and you have to really think ahead. Your approach to the first one sets you up for more. It’s actually going to be a challenging track. Luckily, I’m getting some laps today to find my way around the place.”

Blomqvist shares regular driving duties with Colin Braun, and they had Helio Castroneves and Simon Pagenaud with them in winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona in January. Blomqvist, Castroneves and Pagenaud were also in the winning car in the event in 2022.

As for a competitive event here, Blomqvist said IMSA’s first two races of the season illustrate the intensity that the series offers. After 783 laps on Daytona International Speedway’s road course, the top-finishing cars in the Rolex 24 ended within 4.2 seconds of one another. In last month’s Twelve Hours of Sebring, the overall margin of victory was 2.9 seconds after 322 laps.

The expectation is that the five classes will bring upward of 50 cars to IMS, and they will race at different speeds, which creates navigation points for the top class (GTP).

“It’s endurance racing and maybe it seems boring, but it definitely isn’t,” Blomqvist said. “We are flat out, non-stop, nose to tail it seems the whole race, and it’s just relentless. Definitely the action is packed, and yet we’re trying to navigate through a lot of cars.

“There are incidents at times, and you’ve really got to thread the needle. You’ve got to tame your aggression at times, but then there are moments when you’re getting down to the final laps of the race and there is no margin for error. You really have to put it all on the line, and sometimes it goes wrong.

“There was a nail-biting finish at the Sebring 12 Hour where three of the leaders basically ended up in the fence. So, it’s crazy racing, and I’m hoping we’ll bring that sort of action here in September.”

Like Blomqvist, Filipe Albuquerque tested his Acura ARX-06 on Tuesday at IMS – he drives for Wayne Taylor Racing with Andretti Autosport – but he had a slight advantage over his fellow Honda driver: He has racing experience at IMS, although that was in 2013 when a previous configuration of the road course was used.

“It was the bike circuit (designed for MotoGP), a little bit different,” the Portuguese driver said. “The track now, I needed to go see some videos yesterday to know where I was going.”

Albuquerque, who co-drives with Ricky Taylor and paired with Castroneves and Alexander Rossi to win the 2021 Rolex 24 At Daytona, said he has attended “probably four” Indianapolis 500s, and he saw his friend Castroneves win for the fourth time in 2021. He said it still takes getting used to going in the opposite direction of the iconic oval.

“(But the IMS road course) is pretty impressive,” Albuquerque said. “It’s how smooth the track is and all of the conditions to (make it) a traditional racetrack.

“From a European standpoint, it’s very safe – nice barriers, nice braking marks, nice curbs. So, everything matches a normal track, and it’s pretty neat because at same time you still come onto the banking and you still come to these long straights of Indianapolis.

“Braking is precise into Turn 1 (and) there is huge run-off, so if you have an issue, you can just go around and nothing will happen.”

Even amid a damp track, Albuquerque described an “amazing” grip level at IMS.

“I think what is interesting is definitely coming into the stadium (at Turn 14) and onto the main straight. It’s a flat corner, and I’m building up to it because even in the rain it’s pretty fast. It has a good rhythm, a good flow on the corners. It’s pretty good.”

Albuquerque also expects IMSA to put on a good show at IMS because that’s what the series does time and again at other venues.

“Racing is at its peak now in IMSA,” he said. “We have multiple manufacturers, and there are great driving lineups. We can expect great racing like we are having at other tracks.

“Here, with the long straight and the small hairpin before it, it will allow us to slipstream and eventually pass into (Turn) 1. I think that’s very positive for good racing. And then, typical for endurance racing, the (slower) GT (cars) have a huge play on the game, on the races. Let’s see how we can go around them and the overtaking maneuvers.

“I’m really curious to see the race because I think we’re going to have a good show.”

Tickets for IMSA’s Battle on the Bricks weekend can be purchased by clicking here.