Indycar Power strug­gles

The two Aussies lin­ing up for the new se­ries have had vastly dif­fer­ent prepa­ra­tions, writes STEPHEN OT­T­LEY

Herald Sun - Motoring - - Big Wheels -

AUS­TRALIA has two rep­re­sen­ta­tives in the newly uni­fied IRL Indycar Se­ries, but they could not be more dif­fer­ent.

Syd­ney’s Ryan Briscoe has joined the lead­ing Penske Rac­ing team, re­plac­ing for­mer cham­pion Sam Hor­nish Jr.

The team is the best out­fit in Amer­ica and has a strong rep­u­ta­tion for suc­cess. Briscoe has been one of the pace­set­ters in pre-sea­son test­ing and goes into the sea­son as a gen­uine ti­tle con­tender.

Toowoomba’s Will Power, by con­trast, is one of nine driv­ers mak­ing the tran­si­tion from the nowde­funct Champ Car World Se­ries.

In the switch he has also moved teams, from Walker Rac­ing to KV Race Tech­nolo­gies.

Go­ing into this week­end’s sea­sonopen­ing race at Home­stead-Mi­ami Speed­way, Power will have spent only four days test­ing his new Dal­lara-Honda.

He had his first run in the car last week at the Se­bring road course and was fastest on open­ing day.

‘‘They’re not that dif­fer­ent, to be hon­est,’’ Power says. ‘‘They have a bit less power, but the wheel­base is the same and the weight is the same.

‘‘But there was a lot of grip at Se­bring so it’s hard to tell ex­actly where we’re at. We need three more two-day tests to re­ally sort it out.’’

Power knows it is an up­hill bat­tle. KV Rac­ing has to get to grips with a car most of its ri­vals have spent the past few years per­fect­ing.

Added to that, Power spent five months out of the cock­pit be­tween the Champ Car finale in Mex­ico City and the Se­bring test.

‘‘I sur­prised my­self how quickly I got on it,’’ he says. ‘‘I thought I’d be re­ally rusty. This is the long­est time I’ve ever been out of a car in my ca­reer.’’

Hav­ing made only one oval-track start in his ca­reer, Power ex­pects his ex­pe­ri­ence on road cour­ses will be his big­gest as­set.

‘‘I think we can do good on the road cour­ses and the street cir­cuits. The ovals will be tough be­cause we don’t know enough about the car,’’ he says.

Af­ter this week­end’s race at Home­stead the se­ries stays in Florida for a street race in St Petersburg be­fore the IRL teams fly to Ja­pan on April 19. While the orig­i­nal IRL teams are there, the Champ Car teams will ful­fil their fi­nal com­mit­ment to that se­ries with a street race in Long Beach, Cal­i­for­nia.

That will be the last out­ing for the cat­e­gory’s Panoz chas­sis and Cos­worth tur­bocharged en­gine. Power has found mem­o­ries of the pack­age af­ter win­ning two races last sea­son.

As for the ri­valry be­tween the Aussies, Power isn’t ex­pect­ing a fight with Briscoe un­til the Gold Coast race in Oc­to­ber.

‘‘I haven’t re­ally given it any thought,’’ Power says. ‘‘He’ll prob­a­bly be up front win­ning races while I’m play­ing catch-up. Come Surfers at the the end of the year I should be up to speed. That’s the race that mat­ters to me.’’

But be­fore the two Aussies can have it their own way they will need to beat the rest of the 26-strong field, in­clud­ing New Zealan­der Scott Dixon, back with Chip Ganassi Rac­ing af­ter miss­ing out on last year’s ti­tle in the last race.

Pace­set­ter: Ryan Briscoe

New­comer: Will Power

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