COMMENT 2/3 June 2018: Double Detroit IndyCar

These are some of the races I’ve been watching.

  • IndyCar – 2x Detroit Grands Prix (Saturday & Sunday) from Belle Isle;

It was a gloriously sunny and hot weekend here in the South West of England so I was outside for all of it. No regrets at all.

I watched these races after work from Monday to Wednesday.

I haven’t found time for the IMSA race at Belle Isle – or Mid-Ohio. Having prioritised IndyCar I haven’t had time to watch the MotoGP yet either!


IndyCar: Dual in Detroit

Belle Isle, Detroit, Michigan, USA

Two street races in two days, just a week after a 500-miler on an oval and a few short days before a Saturday night race back on another oval. IndyCar is a tough championship just by the scheduling, let alone anything else. Swapping cars back and forth between configurations, hoping not to get damaged.

Both races were a battle between those on a two-stop strategy and those pushing hard and making three stops. A dangerous gamble on a street track where Safety Car periods are likely.

And frankly with the current ‘international’ graphics package which doesn’t show how many pit stops people have made, really quite hard to follow. A key part of why some say this is boring. The sooner IndyCar understands the need to move to a ‘tower’ graphics set similar to F1, DTM, MotoGP, the better they’ll show position changes and pit stops. This wasn’t helped by my DVR picking up delayed highlights rather than the live showing – the highlights cutting a good 20 laps out of each race.

I was very impressed to see so much green flag running in both races, allowing the strategies to play out the way they should. They even held back the caution while cars cleared themselves out of the way, something lacking in IndyCar for years and a pleasure to see.

Saturday’s race was relatively benign, drivers working out the same thing any F2, F3, BTCC or even any A1GP driver circa 2005 could tell you:  Save the car in race 1, keep it in good condition for race 2. The last thing you need is to force your guys to work overnight to fix it. Unfortunately Saturday night Graham Rahal’s guys had to work until 1am to prepare the backup car for Sunday after a parts failure sent him into the wall in the first race.

Great to see Marco Andretti on pole and at a tough track. He’s making genuine progress this year. He finished the race 4th, his best since Toronto last year.

Scott Dixon and Ryan Hunter-Reay each laid down the gauntlet in race 1, both laying down mid-race qualifying laps to jump Andretti. Rahal was on an opposite tyre strategy to everyone else, Hunter-Reay chasing him down hard when Rahal’s car failed.

Good passing and repassing on restarts.

Alexander Rossi put a stout move on team-mate Andretti to take the final podium spot on Saturday. Debutant Santino Ferucci got rammed out of the race by Charlie Kimball who either got caught out by Ferucci slowing early, or misjudged his own braking, getting himself a penalty.

Sunday’s race had more action, including that crazy pace car crash as it led the field off pitlane for the formation laps!

40 minutes late, the race got going with Ed Jones and Will Power dicing for 3rd before a quick yellow for a stalled Pigot (who’d been hit). Bourdais went to the back with a puncture – then after a jump in highlights he was suddenly 10th. I have no idea how.

Rossi on pole, he made the two-stop strategy work best for much of the day. Three-stopping RHR was chasing him hard throughout, a quick middle stint, then at the end he was considerably faster.

Can’t say enough about Hunter-Reay. He closed down a 15-second lead, pressured Rossi for a couple laps until Alexander outbraked himself on older tyres. It would’ve been a just result if he’d resumed 2nd, sadly he had a puncture and wound up 12th. Easy to get the braking wrong on worn rubber, but the team did tell him to think of the big picture -if he’d let Ryan go he’d be sitting pretty in the points. Still, win some, lose some.

Will Power also drove well, Team Penske having improved the Chevy to be competitive among the hordes of Hondas up front. The Honda seems more driveable on this type of course, while the Chevy has better top end so is good at Indy and places like Road America. I like these traits, they provide a point of difference.

A shout for Ed Jones who started 4th, harried Power, dropped back and somehow got up to 3rd at the end with Dixon on his tail. Not bad at all. And to Rahal in his rebuilt car finishing 5th. And finally to Charlie Kimball, bouncing back from Saturday to finish 8th, Carlin’s best result so far in their debut IndyCar season.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was the star of the weekend. You have to drive qualifying laps to make a three-stop strategy work and it looked like he drove them every lap of both races. A phenomenal performance which net him 92 points this weekend. Only he and Dixon scored good results in both races.

And it was goodbye to ABC / ESPN. Much improved coverage since I started watching in 2006, though still missing that something at times, despite a lot of promise. I hope some of their best people such as Alan Bestwick and Jon Beekhuis find new homes in motorsport broadcasting.

Oh and I forgot to thank BT Sport for their Indy 500 coverage which was tremendous this year! They really honoured the race the way it should be done.

Result Detroit 1
1  Scott Dixon (Ganassi Honda)  54
2  Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Honda)  41
3  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Honda)  35
4  Marco Andretti (Andretti Honda)  34
5  Takuma Sato (RLL Honda)  30

Result Detroit 2
1  Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Honda) 51
2  Will Power (Penske Chevy)  40
3  Ed Jones (Ganassi Honda)  35
4  Scott Dixon (Ganassi Honda)  32
5  Graham Rahal (RLL Honda)  30

Points

309  Will Power (Penske Chevy)   2 wins
304  Scott Dixon (Ganassi Honda)  [+2]  1 win
298  Alexander Rossi (Andretti Honda)  [-1]  1 win
278  Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Honda)  [+1]  1 win
270  Josef Newgarden (Penske Chevy)  [-2]  2 wins
232  Robert Wickens (SPM Honda)  [+1]
221  Graham Rahal (RLL Honda)  [-1]
197  Marco Andretti (Andretti Honda)  [+]
194  Sebastian Bourdais (Dale Coyne Honda)  [-1]
188  Simon Pagenaud (Penske Chevy)  [-1]

The winners are breaking away from the field.

Next Round

600km oval race at Texas Motor Speedway. New aero kits will be interesting and might, like Indy, reward those who focus on mechanical grip.


Coming Up

A mix of single-seaters, GTs and Superbikes.

F1 and FE are are on the same day, yes that’s Sunday for Formula E, just before the F1 starts… Utterly stupid.

  • F1 in Montreal.
  • IndyCar at Texas.
  • Formula E with the first ever Zurich ePrix – the first major street race in Switzerland for decades.
  • NASCAR at Michigan.
  • BTCC at Oulton Park.
  • British GT with the Silverstone 500.
  • ADAC GT at Red Bull Ring.
  • GT Open and TCR Europe at Spa.
  • World Superbike at Brno.
  • Isle of Man Senior TT (Friday).
  • World Rally with Rally Italy in Sardinia.
  • World Rallycross in Norway.

Now that’s a busy one with nearly everybody trying to avoid Le Mans.

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