Plainfield, IL (January 30, 2018) - After taking delivery of its first 2018 Universal Aero Kit in early December, the Dale Coyne Racing team was finally back on track this month when the testing window finally opened up for Verizon IndyCar Series teams.
The Plainfield, IL-based squad has completed two and a half productive and successful test days at Sebring International Raceway over the last few weeks all while taking advantage of the on-track sessions to test Pietro Fittipaldi, the 2017 World Series Formula V8 3.5 Champion as well as Canadian Zachary Claman De Melo, who are in contention to fill the void in the #19 entry.
Prior to its recent two-day test at Sebring, DCR got its first taste of the new Dallara UAK-18 chassis on January 9 with a 5-hour shakedown/test session led by Sebastien Bourdais.
The Frenchman shared his thoughts on the new car following his initial test: "It's definitely a very different animal from what we've had the last three years. We're going to have to rethink a lot of setups – it's very rear-ride height sensitive, so as soon as you hit the brakes and the rear gets up you lose a lot of rear downforce and the thing starts moving around. It's just going to be something different and that's always an opportunity to rethink and re-invent the wheel.
“We have a great group of engineers thinking and working hard at it, so we'll find solutions, it's just going to take a little bit of time,” continued Bourdais. "It will be important to gather as much data as possible with each of our test days. Because these days, as fine as the cars are, if you don't get data you know you can rely on, it makes things very difficult. The driver's feel isn't really enough – I can only tell them what the car is doing but you need to understand why it's doing that, and it's related to the aero map and everything. So it's going to be exciting, but it's going to be a lot of work."
While it may have been a bigger adjustment for Bourdais with the new car, Claman De Melo felt that his lack of experience with the older version of the Indy car was actually an advantage when taking on the UAK-19 chassis for the first time.
“I didn’t do as much time in the old Indy car as (veteran drivers) did, so it wasn’t as big an adjustment for me,” De Melo said. “It’s more similar to the Indy Lights car than the old Indy car. That’s kind of helped me a little bit. It’s been a fast adjustment so far. And it was a very productive test for us. I want to thank Dale for giving me this opportunity to test with them and I hope we can continue working together in the near future.”
The grandson of two-time Formula 1 and Indy 500 Champion Emerson Fittipaldi, Pietro Fittipaldi, who was driving an Indy car for the first time also adapted quickly to his new surroundings.
“It took me a couple of runs to get used to it,” he shared. “The car is similar, downforce-wise, to the World Series – in a driving-style way at least. Obviously, it has more power and you brake deeper and carry more speed into the corners but the style is similar. I was extremely happy to get my first Indy car outing and I have Dale Coyne to thank for that. It was a great experience."
Team Owner Dale Coyne was very pleased with the performance of both Claman De Melo and Fittipaldi.
“Zachary knew what he was doing in the car, he adapted well, understood the changes we were making, and we were very pleased.
“As far as lap times were concerned, it was very tight between the two of them – within two tenths – so I was happy with Pietro, too. He adapted well. I think the Formula 3.5 is a good car to prepare for IndyCar – about the same size and about the same downforce now that we’ve lost a bunch.
“He had to understand how the tire performance peaked – that’s the tricky bit with these cars, and it takes experience. But he took the whole thing very, very seriously – got there early, left late, studied data, watched onboard videos. And his feedback was very, very good,” concluded Coyne.
The Dale Coyne Racing team will be back on track on Monday, February 5 for a one-day test at Sonoma International Raceway before heading to ISM Raceway (formerly known as Phoenix International Raceway) on February 9 and 10 for its first oval-test of the season.