Indianapolis 500 2012 Preview
This Sunday, 27th of May, one of the largest races, and one of the prized Triple Crown of Motorsport, takes place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The world famous 2.5 mile oval is the scene, and the race promises to be an interesting one, for many reasons.
The new regulations for instance have already livened up the competition. The new chassis by Dallara, the DW12, is slightly slower in straight line than the last incarnation, but in the corners it seems more than up to the challenge. In practise last week, the top cars were at first just hitting 223mph, but it came together later, with the top cars hitting 226 mph or more.
Then came the qualifying. After the field was watered down to the top 9, the fastest cars went all out. Ryan Briscoe went out early, and set a lap time of 226.484 mph. As the session progressed, one attempt got close. James Hinchcliffe produced a 226.481 mph lap, the times are so close, Indycar is said to have worked out the difference as being 9.168 inches. Over 4 laps of qualifying, or 10 miles, the difference at those speeds could have been, to quote Hinchcliffe, “a gust of wind, or a shadow on the track”.
But to the race, and this is where it could get interesting. For the first time in many years, the Indy 500 race will have different engine competitors. So far this year, the Chevrolet engines have won every race, while the Honda powerplants are keeping up on the road courses, but it seems they fall short on ovals. Then comes Lotus. The engines are really quite disappointingly slow, around 15mph down on the Penske Chevy cars around Indy. If the front runners are driving at 220mph, as would be normal without the qualifying boost, the Lotus cars at best will be lapping in the 205mph range, which means they will pretty quickly become “mobile chicanes”. At 220mph, thats not something you want to think of.
Lastly, the race is the first for a number of drivers, namely Rubens Barrichello and Jean Alesi of the F1 fold. Rubens Barrichello made motorsport headlines by switching over, and the fact he has the powerful Chevy engine is good. He will start 10th in his first ever oval race. Meanwhile Jean Alesi too will start, from 33rd and last. This is because he is one of two Lotus powered entrants. For him and Simona de Silvestro, the chances of them being allowed to finish by Indycar are slim.
So, there are only really 2 teams to watch out for. Penske, 4 wins from 4 races, with Briscoe on pole, Castroneves who is a past winner, and Power who, although weak on ovals, has the speed to surprise. Then there is Andretti, who have their 3 main drivers in the top 4. KV Racing start 8th, 9th and 10th, with Tony Kanaan leading their charge. Chip Ganassi just lacked power in their Honda engines, and so start in 12th, 14th, 15th and Franchitti in 16th. This could be the turning point for Team Penske, the moment they drop Ganassi.
Considering the final turn antics of last year, the 96th Indianapolis 500 makes the perfect race to follow the 2012 Monaco Grand Prix
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