WALLER, Texas (Feb. 24, 2021)—The progress continues.
Sebastien Bourdais posted the quickest time in testing at Barber Motorsport Park yesterday as five teams for a total of 12 cars took to the permanent road course outside of Birmingham, Alabama.
Driving the No. 14 Chevrolet, Bourdais set the fastest time of laps posted without the extra boost in power of push-to-pass. In addition to Foyt, the teams testing were Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan, Ed Carpenter Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Team Penske.
“We had a pretty good day yesterday at Barber,” said Bourdais. “We went through a lot of stuff, testing dampers and some concepts as far as platforms. Everybody’s starting to work pretty efficiently together, the atmosphere is good. The car was pretty quick right out of the box and I had a really good time. Very positive day. With Barber being the season opener, you want to be cautiously optimistic. I think we should have a good card to play and be in the mix, which is always encouraging, so I’m looking forward to it.”
Sebastien Bourdais (L) chats with ex-Formula 1 driver Romain Grosjean who is a rookie in INDYCAR this season. (INDYCAR Photo)
Ending up at the sharp point of the grid marked significant progress for the team which has noted that their permanent road course setups needed addressing. The addition of the four-time NTT INDYCAR Series champion driver has helped the engineering staff to define some of the problems.
Mike Colliver, who became the team’s technical director after hiring Justin Taylor to serve as race engineer on the 14 car for this season, said, “I think the test is just the continued development from some of the stuff we were doing at Road America last year. Charlie was pretty strong in Race 2 and Dalton was strong at Mid-Ohio for where his development is. We had a really good test at Barber in the fall with Sebastien, and some of that was combining what was done in the past, ideas that I brought, ideas that Mike Pawlowski (race engineer on the 4 car) had, and we combined things. We were pretty quick in the fall and we just came back with the same car. Covid and the compressed schedule has helped us catch up and gave us the time to have in-house development of some of the tools we could use to analyze and quantify things. Yesterday’s test was a good validation for some of those tools.”
Bourdais and Mike Colliver began working together in 2020. Here they are at St. Pete last fall where Bourdais posted his million dollar run in the race by finishing fourth and securing the team’s berth in the Leaders Circle. (Foyt Racing Photo)
Asked about the contributions that Bourdais has made to the program, Colliver was quick to point out, “He’s a huge help. Just his wealth of knowledge is a huge help from a couple standpoints. One, he understands mechanically what the car is doing and secondly, he gives the changes to the car a fair shot. He will go out and run six or seven laps, and maybe the first two laps it doesn’t feel great and maybe he’ll change something in his driving style or he’ll wait a little longer for the tire pressures to come up or do a click on the rear bar, whatever he needs to do. And then he comes in and tells you it either worked or didn’t and why. His analytical approach combined with his experience is really refreshing. He doesn’t get rattled, he’s very calm and meticulous in the car.
“But it is also the whole feel of the group, the engineering group is really working together well,” Colliver revealed. “Everybody is putting work in that shows up on both cars and really on Seb’s because of his driving ability. From the data guys, to the guys who are doing simulations, the junior engineers, Danielle’s (Cucchiaroni, performance engineer) knowledge, and Justin is doing a great job. Everybody is pulling in the same direction which is really cool.”
Rookie Dalton Kellett, in the No. 4 K-Line Insulators USA Chevrolet posted the 10th quickest time. Kellett had a slight miscue early on in practice which resulted in light contact with the tire barrier. He was back on track after some minor repairs. Kellett was just the first of many drivers to bring out red flags due to spins during the day long session.
Kellett listens to his teammates while awaiting his car’s repair. (INDYCAR Photo)
“We had a good test overall,” said Kellett, who ran eight races last year. “I’m encouraged by the gains we are making and I think we have a very solid car. It felt good to be back at Barber. I love the track but it can bite you! On my second run, I got loose on power in T13 and had an off. I caught the initial slide but then my trajectory was off and I was headed for the grass. I had some contact with the tire barrier and we were down for repairs. It was unfortunate to lose testing time that way, especially when the engineers had a full list of items to get through. The crew did a great job getting the #4 fixed and ready to go. We ran all afternoon and worked through most of the items on the list. We’re continuing to learn more about and refine our damper package and the overall balance was where it needs to be. I think we’re in a good spot for the season opener in April!”
When push-to-pass times were factored in, Kellett was ninth quickest while Bourdais, who only tested push-to-pass to make sure it worked, dropped to second, behind Rinus Veekay with Ed Carpenter Racing.
Kellett at speed on the picturesque road course at the end of the day. (INDYCAR Photo)
Team President Larry Foyt summed up, “It was a solid test day for the whole team. We had a lot of items to get through and I think we got good data on the majority of them. Seb had good speed in the 14 car all day which was nice. Dalton worked through an early incident to get back on track in the 4 car and get some good running in. It was certainly one of our best tests on a permanent road course which is encouraging for the season.”
The team has one more private test planned at Texas Motor Speedway at the end of March before the Open Test at Indianapolis in early April.
Note: All photos courtesy of INDYCAR PHOTOS except where noted.