Between two races

9 May

Well I think most of us would agree that the finish to the Sao Paulo Indy 300 was one of, if not the best final 20 laps in street racing history, certainly in IndyCar and in my own opinion it easily surpassed the famous 1992 and 2004 Formula One Monaco Grand Prix and the less famous but equally thrilling 2010 Singapore Grand Prix.

I grew up watching F1 and F1 only. I endured the re-fuelling years where most position changes came about through pit stops. The common tactic was to wait behind your rival saving fuel and then as soon as they pitted you would put in one or two very fast laps, come into the pits and then emerge ahead. I say “endured”, really I didn’t know any better. Re-fuelling has gone from F1, but now I certainly know better. The amount of wheel-to-wheel racing and on-track passing we’ve seen this year shows just what is possible in racing, whilst F1 itself struggles to create entertainment through tyres that degrade quickly and an overtaking aid in DRS which is even more artificial in its rules than even the most ardent critics of push-to-pass could make it out to be.

Much credit has to be given to the car. I am not well-versed in technical matters but it cannot be a coincidence; IndyCar has had spec machinery before but the racing has never been this consistently good on road and street courses. There is something about the DW12 that complements the red/black tyre rules and the adjustment of race lengths to discourage fuel saving has encouraged drivers and teams to go for it in races, bringing everyone into play and fighting each other on an even strategy. Many have complained the car is ugly (from head-on, I would agree it isn’t the prettiest, thought from all other angles it looks like a cool rocket ship to me), but even so, who cares? Do people really value aesthetics over racing quality? Sadly it seems so. IndyCar’s biggest problem is a lack of promotion but it should be remembered that showing people races even as good as the first four this year won’t convince some to start following the series because of preferences about aesthetics, cautions or whatever small thing is supposedly so offensive to the individual motorsports fan. My advice? Keep doing what you’re doing IndyCar. Just make sure people know what you’re doing.

Sadly I have yet to see the full race but it certainly seemed like a race that affirmed the quality of the drivers in the field. Hinchcliffe shrugging off those two DNFs, Sato proving Long Beach was no fluke, Andretti showing an improvement some didn’t even think possible, Servia reminding us he’s not just an also-ran, Newgarden confirming himself as a future player in the series…every name you find as you go down showed their quality at least at some point in the race, if not all race long. The depth in quality is so great that returning Indy veterans like Townsend Bell and Ryan Briscoe will really have to work to get themselves noticed in the Month of May.

The big one is next: the 97th Indianapolis 500. The build-up and anticipation will have us reaching fever pitch by the time Pole Day comes by and we might even have some bumping in qualifying this year. And to be honest it needs to, because as I look ahead to the greatest race of the year I can’t help but feel a little sad leaving the road and street races on such a high, when it’s going to be quite a while before we return to them (Detroit excepted). They have spoiled us rotten this year. It’s just as well that what we will get us is the quality of the oval season or the waiting would be unbearable.

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