IndyCar Paddock Pass Presents: Forza Motorsport 5 review


FM5If you’re like me you will never be graced with the opportunity to get in and drive McLaren’s new hybrid hypercar the P1 unless, of course, you return in a second life as Bruce Wayne.  The P1 is sold out, but even if it wasn’t it carries the meager price tag of 1,150,000 dollars without tax, export, customs fees, and other miscellaneous costs of getting the car to your garage.  Many of us would be lucky to make 1.15 million dollars in a decade.  Microsoft’s new tech toy the xBox one retails, currently, at $499 plus tax and for $60 more you can purchase the crown jewel of racing games and the sixth installment from the Forza Motorsport racing franchise; a franchise that has garnered the highest consistent rating over the last decade across all game consoles.  Forza Motorsport 5 harnasses the power of the xBox one to bring the most realistic experience to your living room.  Continuing the franchise’ alliance with the superstar personalities of BBC’s renowned Top Gear program, Jeremy Clarkson welcomes you to the game, just wetting your appetite for what you are about to experience.

After you’re through salivating at Clarkson’s introduction, you are whisked away to one of Forza’s new tracks making their debut, the Streets of Prague in the Czech Republic.  In traditional Forza style you must ‘race’ into the main menus in the game and, also in traditional Forza style, you are graced with the opportunity to drive one of the game’s gems, the aforementioned McLaren P1.  It may seem like an intimidating place to start, but your first experience is with all the game’s assists turned on making the powerful P1 as accessible to drive as 1995 Honda Civic with an automatic transmission.  The speed, the graphics, and the sound are pure exhilaration.  Enjoy it now for it is short lived.

As quickly as Turn 10 gives you the taste of what high end cars are capable of on this title, they return you to reality.  After completion of the “Prague Prologue”, you are returned to the Sport Compact world of the game which is where you begin your quest for Forza Motorsport 5 glory.

CAREER MODE

For Forza 5, Turn 10 has re-engineered the career mode separating it into championship quests by car type instead of car classes like they have done before.  The result is closer competition because each car you are competing against is in the same general ability bracket as your own.  It is true that some cars have advantages in straight line speed but sacrifice corner ability.  There are eight different ‘car worlds’ to compete in Forza Motorsport 5 and inside of each are at least three different divisions with championships and bonus events to keep you busy and racing for hours on top of hours.

CARS AND TRACKS

FM5 RaikkonenBeing a launch title for the next generation game console, Forza Motorsport 5 required a complete revamp of all cars and tracks and brand new digital model creation of each.  The result is fewer race courses and cars than Forza Motorsport 4 which, on the surface, is an unfortunate sacrifice.  But every car and track that is contained in the game BELONGS there. It is regrettable that tracks like Sonoma Raceway, Sunset Peninsula, Road America, and the famed and daunting Nurenburgring Nordschliefe were not included, but additions of Prague, Yas Marina, and the Mount Panorama of Bathurst, Australia provide ointment for the wound of decreased tracks.  Each circuit is created with brilliant, almost eerie, realism and make you feel as though you are actually there.  The Circuit du Le Mans returns as well as Road Atlanta, Catalunya, and, importantly to IndyCar fans, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

So far, Forza Motorsport 5’s car roster, reduced to two hundred from Forza Motorsport 4’s five hundered plus contains no gimme cars that you would have no interest.  Each car is valuable somewhere in the game and will help you get to the promised land of completing every event.  From the Fiat Abarth 500 essesse to Kimi Riakkonen’s 2013 Lotus Formula 1 car, this game has a car for every taste all brilliantly recreated to give the player the exhilaration of what it actually would be like to pilot these awesome machines.  As in previous Forza titles, players are given the freedom to drive the cars as they buy them from the car roster or customize them to their heart’s content with paint, decals, numbers, and bodywork designs.  In fact, with the power of the xBox one the number of decal layers allowed in the game has increased.

DRIVEATARS

The most difficult challenge for games is creating AI players that are believable, unpredictable, and challenging.  If there was one area Forza Motorsport 4 fell short of the bar it was the quality of their AI matrix.  The development team faced this challenge head on for Forza Motorsport 5 and brought a gun to a knife fight.  Their solution is what the call Driveatars and they are a complete game changer for future racing titles.  The system works by observing how you, the player, drives, makes passes, and corners.  Do you race dirty, clean, or somewhere in between?  This data is constantly updated and synchronized and sent up into the cloud for the game to access.  Forza Motorsport 5’s AI is generated from these thousands of player’s data and while you sleep in Colorado, your Driveatar is out in the world of Forza Motorsport 5 being grabbed and pulled down into the career mode of a player in Japan to race against meaning you never race alone and the AI is generated not by the programming of the game, but real world player driving habits.  This means AI makes mistakes, spins out, runs you off the road, and is as unpredictable as possible with current technology.  You, the player, receive credit bonuses each day for races in which your Driveatar competes and making money when you sleep is pretty sweet!

ECONOMICS AND MICROTRANSACTIONS

Game players have two ways of purchasing cars on Forza Motorsport 5, by using credits obtained from career and online race events and car tokens available for purchase from the Microsoft store system.  The game has received the ire of some fans because buying cars with tokens is more expensive than earning enough credits by playing the game.  For instance, Kimi Raikkonen’s E21 in game credit cost is 6,000,000 which will take the player some time to procure but it can be acquired instantly with purchase of car tokens with a hefty 10,000 token price tag.  10,000 tokens come at an equally heavy price of $100 of the player’s hard earned money from their bank account.  Developers of Forza Motorsport 5 created this system to make the game’s high-end cars more ‘special’ and almost unicorn like because they take investment, be it gameplay or token purchases, to obtain.  Gamers are disappointed in this stance, but let’s be honest.  This game mirrors the economics of life where anything luxurious worth having often requires vast amounts of time to acquire and cost extreme amounts of money to get quicker.  The developers are currently working on changing the economics of the game to alleviate some of the backlash, but, come on, we all bought this game to PLAY IT, so let’s play it and we’ll all get there in time!

OVERALL IMPRESSION

This game is, without doubt, THE definitive racing experience available across all consoles and avenues.  The graphics, handling, and Forza DNA of this game is crazy close to real world.  The game is adjustable to anyone’s ability and can be tuned to be as challenging or elementary as the gamer desires.  Each track is brilliantly depicted in such a way that you can almost feel the brisk cold air of the Bernese Alps, the ocean breeze of Yas Marina, or the palpable history of Indianapolis.  Cars can be customized, upgraded, and painted to the player’s personal tastes and the possibilities are limitless.  Quite simply, this is the best racing game that I have ever played and it lives up to and continues the good name that is Forza Motorsport.

OVERALL SCORE: 10/10

OH YEAH…WHY IS THIS ON HERE?

FM5 DixonFor the first time, we IndyCar fans have the opportunity to drive our favorite style of cars in a realistic, high quality environment.  Sure Grid 2 brought us the DW12 in May of 2013, but Grid 2 is purely an arcade style game and it was great fun to drive in, but it’s not even in Forza’s ballpark when it comes to realism.  Forza Motorsport 5 contains the IndyCars of Scott Dixon (pictured), Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal, and Will Power and can be modified from road course configuration to oval configuration so it can be raced at Indianapolis as well as the famed Le Mans circuit.  One of these drivers NOT your favorite? No worries, the Forza design studio will allow you to create any IndyCar on the grid since the 2012 season went green so if you want to race a Sebastien Bourdais McAfee car, make some vinyl groups for sponsors and go for it!

HAPPY RACING EVERYONE! SEE YOU ON TRACK!

And 49 Points Go ‘POOF’!


Castroneves Houstone 2013The signs were all pointing in the right direction.  Helio Castroneves carried a 49 point lead on Scott Dixon into the Houston double-header only needing to maintain consistency to solidify his name atop the IndyCar Points standings signifying him the winner of the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series championship.  Not since 2004 has IndyCar seen a driver compete with the consistency that Helio Castroneves has traversed in 2013.  Add to that that the Team Penske driver was ‘untouchable’ on the speed chart during the test at Auto Club Speedway which will serve host to the IndyCar World Championships on October 19.  All Castroneves had to do was keep his nose clean during the Houston weekend and he would clasp his firm grip on the championship.  The IndyCar gods had other plans.

The 2013 season has seen Castroneves benefit from others misfortune on numerous occasions, and, while he deserves credit for putting himself in the position to take advantage of those miscues, it had to come back around at some point.  Luck in racing is like a one hit wonder music artist in that it shines on you for a while and goes away overnight.  Castroneves wishes it had shined for a few weekends more.

The weekend started out badly for Castroneves as a mishandling car in qualifying on Saturday resulted in a starting grid position of 21st, his worst of the season on one of the most physically demanding circuits on the IndyCar schedule.  Even with the poor grid position, Castroneves only needed to, methodically, drive his way up through the field as he had done countless races previous, but the unthinkable happened on lap 22 when Castroneves’ No. 3 Shell V-Power Chevrolet slowed in turn four and limped to pit lane with a gearbox issue.  Team Penske rectified the issue but not before Castroneves found himself several laps in arrears of the leader who just happened to be title rival Scott Dixon.  The worst case scenario had occured as Dixon secured the race win and maximum points while Castroneves was forced to settle for 17th place…a result that his points lead shrink to just eight markers heading to the second race of the weekend on Sunday.

Castroneves Car Houston 2013As day broke on Sunday, Castroneves and the No. 3 team caught a break from mother nature as a heavy rain shower washed out qualifying for race two putting Castroneves on the Pole with his rival, Dixon, right alongside.  After a great start, Castroneves hit a colossal bump on the front stretch fracturing the gear box housing putting him behind the wall and last place in the running order.  The worst possible weekend that Castroneves could have dreamed of happened and he leaves Houston, a weekend he entered leading by 49 points, trailing Dixon by 25 points heading to the finale at Auto Club Speedway.

Castroneves Auto Club 2012The scenario becomes very simple headed to Fontana in two weeks.  In order to win the title, Helio Castroneves will have to be at least as special as what was indicated in the test session and he will need some mishap for Dixon.  With 25 points separating the two, if Castroneves wins Pole Position, leads the most laps, and wins the race he has a maximum possible points of 53 for the weekend.  Even if Castroneves scores max points that weekend, Dixon can finish sixth and still win the IndyCar Series championship.  This is far from over and five hundred miles is a long time to race to decide this thing.  Rest assured, no matter what happens in the championship, the IndyCar finale at Auto Club Speedway will be one of the races to watch across the 2013 motorsports calendar!  Make sure to tune in to see how it all finishes out!

Race Preview: Milwaukee IndyFest


MILWAUKEE INDYFEST LOGOMilwaukee MapINDYCAR continues its oval stretch this weekend when they grid cars on the famous Milwaukee Mile for the ninth round of the IZOD IndyCar Series 2013 campaign.  Milwaukee, known as the “Mini-Indy”, is a 1-mile oval which contains no banking.  The lack of banking creates a driver/engineer exercise unlike any other the IndyCars face on the schedule.  The driver must be prepared to drive 250 miles up on the wheel navigating traffic while engineers must work to give their drivers a setup that will allow he or she to attack the track…which is essential to be competitive.  Although designed after the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Milwaukee Mile presents INDYCAR teams and drivers with a vastly different challenge.

FUEL, FUEL, FUEL…

Fuel ThingyFuel mileage always plays a huge role in Auto Racing whether it decides a race at the end or if, like in Texas last week, the winning driver is the last to pit each stint of the race giving themselves an advantage and the ability to avoid bad luck yellow flags because they are on a lap of their own.  While fuel mileage will certainly play a role in this race, the distance has been increased from 225 miles to 250 miles to discourage immediate fuel conservation and make the show more entertaining from the get go.  Look for who can run the longest stints on fuel.

HELIO HAS WORK TO DO

Helio Castroneves Milwaukee 2013Team Penske driver Helio Castroneves, fresh of his win at Texas, enters the Milwaukee IndyFest as the IZOD IndyCar Series points leader by 21 markers over Marco Andretti.  Though Castroneves showed very competitive in practice, a greedy qualifying setup resulted in a very neutral, or loose, qualifying run.  The result, Castroneves will lead the bottom third of the grid to the green flag in 18th position.  Castroneves’ problem got compounded when Andretti, his championship rival, already closed the gap by one point by winning the Verizon P1 Pole Award and will lead the field to the green flag.  Castroneves will need to navigate traffic, stay out of trouble, and make it to the front if he is to retain the points lead leaving heading to Iowa because Marco certainly has the leg up so far this weekend.

FOLLOW ANDRETTI…Marco Andretti 2013 milwaukee

Qualifying at the Milwaukee IndyFest looked like an Andretti Autosport parade until Will Power broke into the top-3.  Still, Andretti Autosport captured four of the top five starting positions so they are loaded for bear.  Starting outside row one is James Hinchcliffe who was absolutely out to lunch in practice but a long shot setup thrown at the car generated speed and grip allowing the Mayor of Hinchtown to complete the Andretti Autosport sweep of the front row.  Can they capitalize on their starting positions to win the race?

WHERE’S THE TARGET?

Dario Franchitti Milwaukee 2013While both Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers are now in the top-ten in points, we have yet to see any of the dominant runs that we are used to seeing from the team with the Target painted on their sidepods.  The team that, at one point, won five consecutive series titles seems to be struggling in every way possible so far this season be it mechanical failures, grip, or horsepower.  Scott Dixon led the Ganassi operation with a eleventh place starting position on the grid while Dario Franchitti will start mired back with fellow three time Indianapolis 500 champion Helio Castroneves in nineteenth position.  Can Ganassi use strategy and find the setup that will allow their drivers to utilize the ‘sweet spot’ on the DW12 that makes the car go so fast?

WHO IS GONNA WIN IT?

Michael AndrettiThis race was dead to rights two years ago until Michael Andretti personally stuck his neck under the guillotine to revive it.  Like Roger Penske revived the Grand Prix of Detroit, Andretti saw value in racing at one of the oldest tracks in North America and created a festival atmosphere around the event to entice all types of fans to come and enjoy the most exciting short track racing any series has to offer.  The 2012 race has saved this race for the time being and, with any luck, the attendance needle will move in the positive direction this year and lead to the Milwaukee Mile holding a permanent place on the IZOD IndyCar Series schedule as the series and its management move forward.  From Sam Hornish driving like a madman to win after spinning out his teammate to Ryan Briscoe capturing his first career win while avoiding Vitor Meira climbing over the top of Marco Andretti in 2008, the race at the Milwaukee Mile never disappoints.  Who wins this race, you ask?  All fans of INDYCAR are winners of this race for the simple reason that it is happening!

Through Six Practice Days…Who Has What?!


97TH Indy500 LogoThrough six days of practice, the field for the Indianapolis 500 has left spectators with nothing to be disappointed about.  The weather has been cooperative allowing 9,000 some laps to be turned in six days with a full field of 33 cars all gracing the famed Brickyard with their presence.  Single car runs have dominated the early portions of the day while afternoons have seen packs of at least five cars running together.  The field in IndyCar for 2013 is so competitive that there is no clear favorite to win the Pole or the Race and the enigma that is the IZOD IndyCar Series grid in 2013 continues to grant no clarity.

Each weekend so far in the IZOD IndyCar Series has been a complete crap shoot of who will finish on top; a welcome problem for all of us fans who like to think that our favorite drivers have only a few other cars to worry about in a given race.  It used to be that though IndyCar Series races gridded at least twenty cars each weekend that only four or five drivers had a realistic opportunity to win the race.  Not so in 2013 as each member of the IndyCar grid has a realistic opportunity to find their way at the front and win the race.  The stats speak for themselves.

Go ahead and poll anyone who associates with INDYCAR and ask them if they predicted, going into the Indianapolis 500, that Takuma Sato would be leading the points standings and Will Power would be sitting in 18th position with only a single top ten finish in four races with left and right turns.  If they say they predicted such a situation they are lying their pants on fire.  The first four races of Power’s season are no indication of his competitive pace, but rather outside influences hindering his finishing positions.  This only further indicates that mistakes made in IZOD IndyCar Series races this season will cost you dearly because driving through the field is an order as tall as the Eiffel Tower.

Back to the Indianapolis 500, it seems that Chevrolet has the early jump on the speed chart but we’ve read this melodrama before.  Chevrolet easily had its way in qualifications snatching the Pole and eight of the top nine positions.  In fact, only Josef Newgarden was able to make the shootout at the end of Pole Day while the Ganassi operation was forced to start mid-pack.  While Chevrolet was basking in the Champagne of their gross outclassment of Honda in qualifying, their Japanese compatriots were licking no wounds as they had a plan in place when race engines were installed. Ganassi Hondas drove through the field taking it to Chevrolet in the race and captured INDYCAR’s crown jewel.

The bottom line is that through thirty hours of cars turning laps and practicing on track, we have no idea what anybody has stashed in the back of their DW12s for qualifying this weekend.  Teams get extra boost pressure in the turbo tomorrow so stay tuned as teams may, finally, show their hand in preparation for qualifying…but I doubt it.  Rest assured this will be the closest Pole Day qualifying show in the history of the Indianapolis 500 and Honda will certainly ensure they are not left out of the party as they were a year ago.

 

Open Letter from INDYCAR to NASCAR


Dear NASCAR,

We’ve been watching your races over the last year and a half or so and, while exciting, your “Boys Have At It” mentality to let drivers settle their personal vendettas and scores is starting to push the envelope into the ‘danger zone’.

To begin 2013 you had a car impact the catch fence on the grandstands side of Daytona International Speedway injuring fans who paid their hard earned money to sit in those seats for an enjoyable afternoon of racing and, instead, found themselves in an ambulance on its way to a local hospital.  This crash was all caused by a block thrown by Regan Smith because he did not want to give up the position coming down to the finish.  First of all, we can’t remember the last time somebody was penalized for blocking in a NASCAR race.  The blocking issue will resurface later, but the inherent problem with your racing on circuits like Daytona and Talladega is the ridiculous pack racing that ensues on these tracks.  The fans may crave and scream for it but, eventually, they will pay dearly for it.

The race at Bristol opened a new can of worms when Denny Hamlin and Joey Logano took their Twitter feud to a new level when Hamlin nudged Logano into the wall which resulted in subsequent threats of “He’s got it coming” etc.  This past weekend’s race that ended in carnage, bleeped out post-race interviews, and a hospitalized driver is a prime example of how you are losing control of your sport’s atheletes.

Race car drivers are passionate, emotional creatures that desperately want to win.  Especially in these times where sponsorship dollars seem to grow fewer and fewer, the pressure on drivers to win races and championships is ten fold of what it was a decade ago and, therefore, any fellow competitor who interferes in the pursuit of that goal will be the subject of at least verbal jabs if not worse.  What we are seeing is a complete lack of professionalism and respect on the drivers’ part and a lack of discipline from the sanctioning body of your sport and it must stop immediately.  Although there will be differences of opinion and words between drivers periodically, the racetrack is NOT the time or the place to settle any sort of score.  The drivers must respect each other on the track and, if they do not, the management of NASCAR must take swift and decisive action to discipline any driver that steps outside the bounds of what is acceptable behavior with fines, points deductions, vacation of wins, or suspensions if necessary.

In 2011, we had our own version of ‘Boys Have At It’ where poor choices by our series management allowed drivers to take matters into their own hands when it came to settling on-track melees because there was no clear line of what was acceptable behavior.  We paid for the shortsightedness of everyone involved in our sport with our dearest blood when one of our biggest stars lost his life in a race filled with insane pack racing absent of mutual respect between the competitors causing a 12 car crash.

The insanity of the ‘Boys Have At It’ must stop.  You may think it great for the sport as it allows the drivers to “show their character” but showing their character with 3,500 pound racecar circulating a two mile racetrack at 200 mph speeds will come back to haunt you in the deepest, most painful way possible if you do not change the culture.

Change it now before you endure the heartbreak that we did.

Sincerely,

INDYCAR

Danica Patrick and the 2013 Indianapolis 500


As Danica Patrick winds her way through her first full season of competition in NASCAR, the native of Roscoe, Illinois is mulling the possibility of running both the Coca Cola 600 as well as the Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend in 2013 thus marking a short lived return to IndyCar racing at the track where she gained notoriety and fame in 2005 when she became the first woman to lead the annual Memorial Day classic at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  Patrick is slated to drive a full 36 race NASCAR Sprint Cup Series schedule next season which will be her priority in 2013.  Patrick gained fans in bunches in 2005 but her last two runs at the Indianapolis 500 saw her burn some bridges with fans due to comments made essentially throwing Andretti Autosport under the bus.  If Patrick elects to attempt the double-duty Sunday she has a long road ahead of her for a number of factors.

Who Will She Run For?

Undoubtedly, the entry for Patrick would be a partnership between Stewart Haas Racing and a current IZOD IndyCar Series team.  Stewart Haas’ alliance with Chevrolet would indicate that Patrick would run an IndyCar powered by the Bowtie and with Chevrolet likely powering half of the field for the Indianapolis 500 in 2013 there will be multiple options for Patrick to choose.  Patrick’s desire to have a competitive car will definitely play into her decision.  Team Penske is the most obvious choice of the Chevrolet powered teams given their storied history at the Indianapolis 500, but an effort with Team Penske is unlikely.  Team Penske will likely field entries for Will Power, Helio Castroneves, and probably a third car that might remain piloted by Ryan Briscoe.  Roger Penske will be hesitant to field a fourth car for the danger of putting too many cooks in the kitchen as their focus for the 2013 race will be on Helio Castroneves as the Brazilian tries to beat Ganassi rival Dario Franchitti to the four-time winner club.  So far in 2012, Andretti Autosport as shown renewed strength in the IndyCar Paddock with Hunter-Reay and Hinchcliffe in the top-5 in the points standings.  Andretti could take on Patrick, but the tumultuous relationship between Patrick and her teammates during the last years of her full-time IndyCar career would be  a deterrent given Andretti Autosport’s renewed mojo in 2012.  Beyond Penske and Andretti, Patrick is left with KV Racing Technology, Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold, Ed Carpenter Racing, and Dragon Racing as Chevrolet possibilities.  All of these teams probably don’t fit the bill that Patrick demands essential for the program to become a reality.

Sponsorship

In NASCAR, Danica Patrick is sponsored by internet conglomerate GoDaddy.com who also sponsors the Andretti family as well as James Hinchcliffe’s No. 27 Dallara.  GoDaddy would probably move forward and sponsor Patrick in the Indianapolis 500, but will she be allowed to utilize GoDaddy as sponsor if she were to run for a team other than Andretti Autosport?  If not, where would the sponsorship money come from?

DW12

The last time Danica Patrick competed at the Indianapolis 500 was in May of 2011.  The car she competed with was a Dallara IR07 powered by a V8 Honda engine.  In 2012, the IZOD IndyCar Series debut a new car, the DW12.  The DW12 is a completely different animal than the car it replaces.  The weight distribution is further to the rear of the car making it increasingly more difficult to drive around the four corners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.  The car is very difficult to dial in and even the best drivers in IndyCar have found difficulty getting a handle on it.  The DW12 is powered by turbocharged 4-cylindar engines and utilizes and hand clutch instead of a normal foot clutch.  The hand clutch has been a serious adjustment for drivers this season.  Patrick would hit the track more than a year behind her competition in a car that, admittedly, is tough to master.

Scheduling

The schedule for the Indianapolis 500 has been scaled back dramatically in recent years for financial reasons and track time is at a premium especially with the unpredictable weather conditions in Indianapolis in May that has a knack for cutting practice days short and washing them out completely in some cases.  Qualifying for the Indianapolis 500 takes place on the weekend of the Spring All-Star Race in Charlotte, an event that Danica would certainly be voted in by the NASCAR fan base.  Patrick would need to try and qualify the IndyCar on Saturday before the All-Star Race or the next day where she would start no better than 22nd in the race.  Balancing her NASCAR commitments and the large amount of work that it will take to make an Indy 500 program a reality.

The big question for IndyCar in 2012 other than how to make the racing safer was how would the sport fare without their biggest name?  IndyCar has responded with some of the best racing across all Motorsport in 2012 and found new starpower in James Hinchcliffe and Rubens Barrichello.  For Danica Patrick, contrary to what many predicted, the sport of IndyCar has moved on with very little hiccup.  New cars, races, and stars have assisted IndyCar into its new, post-Danicamania, era.  Patrick decided that her brand would benefit from a career in NASCAR and that is where it should remain.

Indianapolis 500: Turbos and Lotus Remain Focus at IMS


Two days of practice complete at Indianapolis and the young guns are blazing out of the gate.  Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing topped the speed chart on opening day on Saturday with rookie driver Josef Newgarden while AFS Andretti Autosport driver Sebastien Saavedra led day two.  Honda led opening day while Chevrolet topped the chart on day two.  The speed should not be read into on either day as it is the result of tows on the track so it is unknown what speed the cars are capable running by themselves.

Concern is mounting, however, about the performance of the two remaining Lotus cars in the field which are having difficulty meeting the anticipated minimum speed for the race.  Prior to the Indianapolis 500 Bryan Herta Autosport and Lotus Dreyer & Reinbold Racing severed ties with the European manufacturer and joined rival Chevrolet (DRR) and Honda(BHA) for the remainder of the IZOD IndyCar Series Season.  The fastest speeds are ranging from 218-221 mph brackets while the Lotus cars are just barely scratching 205-207 which is below the 105 percent threshold that the cars must achieve during the race to remain on the track…track time the Lotus engine desperately needs.  HVM driver Simona de Silvestro states that the cars a trimmed out like everybody else, but the engine, for one reason or other, just will not deliver the power to make the cars go fast.  Starting Monday, Lotus has just five days to find some speed.  The weather forecast looks favorable so at least that is in their favor, but it will be a huge mountain to climb in the time available.  A competitive Lotus package is very important to the Indianapolis 500 and INDYCAR in general so a solution is critical and they are running out of time and opportunitites as teams are, undoubtedly, running out of patience.

Dragon Racing has elected not to use the Lotus engine effective after Brazil leaving drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge on the sidelines without turning a single lap on the Speedway as they wait for severance from Lotus to become official and the approval to utilize Chevrolet power.  Legge needs to complete the Rookie Orientation Program while Bourdais must do a refresher course before they are allowed to continue with their programs to prepare for the race.  This is especially important for Legge, who carries the TrueCar sponsorship funding the No. 6 Dragon Racing car she pilots.  Time is running out for these drivers as well.

Behind the apparent parity amongst Chevrolet and Honda powered cars, there is a growing concern that come Pole Day on Saturday that the Turbo modification that Honda was allowed to make to give their engine more competitive horsepower on the road courses could allow them to dominate the starting grid for the Indianapolis 500.  It appears that Chevrolet has a good engine package for the race, however, the single turbo favored by Honda was predicted to be the favorable package on the oval tracks to begin with.  Add the newly approved turbo cover, and Honda could have a serious advantage when it comes to qualifying on Saturday.  The race should be evenly matched, but qualifying could be a landslide in favor of Honda.  Nothing is for certain, of course, but the drivers in the Chevrolet camp are concerned as they work diligently through the week.  Fast Friday is only three days away, but don’t expect any of the top teams to show their hand until then or even until their four lap qualifying runs on Saturday.

Formula 1 veteran Rubens Barrichello is taking to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway successfully so far under the guidance of KV Racing Technology and teammate Tony Kanaan.  Barrichello will, undoubtedly, be methodical in his education on the track during practice and try and trim the car more and more each day gradually bringing the speed up until he attempts to qualify the car on Pole Day on Saturday.  Barrichello with KV Racing and Chevrolet power should qualify this car solidly in the field.  If he can complete all 500 miles don’t count him out as a contender for the Borg Warner Trophy!

DAY 1 PRACTICE HIGHLIGHTS:

DAY 2 PRACTICE HIGHLIGHTS: