SEBRING, Fla. (Friday, Jan. 26)—Smiles all around. A.J. Foyt’s ABC Supply team ran its first two-car test with INDYCAR’s new aero kit at Sebring International Raceway’s modified road course this past Wednesday and Thursday and deemed the test a success on all counts. Tony Kanaan had tested the aero kit in December but this was the team’s first experience with the new and much more complex electronics system that will be used this season by all teams.
Kanaan did the development work for the team as his rookie teammate Matheus ‘Matt’ Leist familiarized himself with the car and the track as it was his first time testing at the central Florida circuit.
Kanaan, who logged 146 laps over the two days, said, “It was a very productive two days of testing I think. We needed to see how everything we’ve been developing over the winter related to the race track. There was a lot of damper work to be done, a lot of small aero things, and with the new electronics package, it was good that we had these two days to sort out all the problems with the two cars. We have a few days of testing the next couple of weeks—Sonoma and then the Phoenix Open Test- so we needed to make sure that everything works properly. I’m pretty happy.”
Team President Larry Foyt echoed Kanaan’s assessment and was pleased with the team’s performance, especially considering there were a lot of new hires.
“We made a lot of progress,” Foyt said. “Day one was our first experience with the new electronics. That was surely a patience tester, but the team and drivers did a great job checking off each box and getting everything running smoothly by the afternoon. From there, Tony was a bit of the workhorse and had to run through a great deal of changes and items we were validating from our offseason testing. For Matheus it was more about getting laps and experience than changes. He did an excellent job and got up to speed very quickly. Both cars were turning good laps by the end of the test on Thursday, so I’d say it was a job well done.”
Leist, who ran 131 laps over the two days, was also quietly satisfied with his first experience of working with the team on track.
“So far so good,” the 19-year-old said with a smile. “The test has been great. I hadn’t driven a race car since September so I was a little bit off the first laps I did — the car was feeling like crazy fast! But after 10 or 20 laps I was already on the pace and feeling comfortable in the car which is good. We’ve been working a lot on me [getting used to the car] and on the car and everything we’ve done has worked well.”
Leist, who tested the old aero kit in a half day test with Andretti’s team at Road America last summer, compared the two Indy cars to the Indy Lights car he drove last year.
“Indy Lights has a great car but it doesn’t have a lot of downforce,” said Leist, who won three races last year including the prestigious Freedom 100 at Indianapolis. “The new Indy car is much better on the brakes, has more downforce than the Indy Lights car and has more power, so pretty much everything is a little bit better. Comparing the new Indy car to the old Indy car, this car is a step closer to the Indy Lights car. The older aero kit just had so much downforce that it would probably take me quite a lot of time to get used to that. This new aero kit is something that it won’t take as much time for me because the kit is that much closer to the Indy Lights car. I’m already feeling comfortable with this Indy car. The biggest difference are the brakes. The Indy car has the carbon brakes which is a huge difference for me.”
Leist knows that the brakes are just one of the many things he has to adapt to this season.
“Everything is pretty much brand new for me,” he said. “The car is new, the tires are new, I’ve never done any test with red tires, never done pit stops, never raced for two hours, and the list goes on. There’s so many things, it’s difficult to say what I expect for the first race but I’m sure by mid-season it’ll be alright. I’m not putting a lot of pressure on myself for the first couple of races, I’m just trying to get as much information as I can from the Tony, A.J. and the whole team. I feel I have a lot of people supporting me. Of course I’m going to be in my best shape physically for St. Pete but I know it’ll be tough–and I’m looking forward to it.”
A.J. Foyt summed up, saying, “I thought with having new drivers, new engineers, new mechanics and new cars, everyone and everything worked really good together so I couldn’t ask for a better test.”
The ABC Supply team heads to Sonoma Raceway for a one day test at the road course February 5th. The Open Test at Phoenix’s one mile oval is scheduled later that week, with rookies taking to the track February 8th and all the drivers testing February 9th and 10th. The first race of the season in St. Petersburg is March 11th.