Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver James Jakes doesn’t know what lap time will secure the Verizon P1 Award for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama on April 6, but the Englishman knows “it will be competitive.”
The track record could be shattered this weekend if the mid-March Open Test on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn Barber Motorsports Park road course is any indictation.
Will Power topped the time chart in the Chevrolet-powered No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car with a best lap of 1 minute, 7.1329 seconds. That was more than 3 seconds quicker than the 2012 pole-winning time of teammate Helio Castroneves and 2.7 seconds quicker than Power’s track record in Round 1 of qualifying.
Recent surface grinding combined with a new compound for the Firestone primary tires developed for the track and cool temperatures helping the turbo-charged engines were contributing factors. But none of the 28 car-driver combinations during the two days were using the Firestone alternate tires, which trade grip/speed for shorter life.
Alternate tire use and weather conditions (forecast is for temps in the low 70s; about 15 degrees warmer than the Open Test) are among the variables Jakes said could affect record-challenging lap times.
“I think the closeness of the field and the fact that Firestone slightly adjusting the tire compounds will make the racing even more exciting,” said Jakes, who will drive the Honda-powered No. 16 Acorn Stairlifts car in his third start at Barber. “No one knows what they have to work with at the moment and it will take a few races to determine that — especially switching back and forth from street and road course.
“Once we get a bit further into the season, people will have a better idea but as of now there is a little bit of uncertainty especially towards the tire compound and that should keep things interesting.”
Added Firestone Racing executive director Al Speyer: “We can’t wait to see what kinds of speeds are achieved when those red-sidewall Firehawk alternates get their turn.”
IZOD IndyCar Series qualifying record at Barber Motorsports Park:
1 minute, 9.8529 seconds – Will Power, Team Penske, Segment 1 of 2012
IZOD IndyCar Series pole sitters at Barber Motorsports Park:
2012 – Helio Castroneves, Team Penske (1:10.4768)
2011 – Will Power, Team Penske (1:11.4546)
2010 – Will Power, Team Penske (1:10.1356)