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