For the 100th time, the illustrious Indianapolis 500 will take place at the famed Brickyard – the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The most famous race in the United States, one third of the Triple Crown of Motorsports and the Greatest Spectacle in Racing as well as the most famous oval race of them all globally will be the focus of the attention of the world on the 29th of May (the same day as another third of the Triple Crown of Motorsport – the F1 Monaco Grand Prix) as 33 drivers will line-up to make history as the hundredth face on the Borg-Warner trophy. However before the 500, many of the drivers will also contest the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.
Some of the greatest names in motor racing have won the 500: Foyt, Clark, Hill, Andretti, Unser, Mears, Fittipaldi, Montoya, Castroneves and Franchitti to name a few, and some of the other greatest racing drivers (and riders) of all time have also stepped on the hallowed ground which is deemed as a pilgrimage for racing fans. Whilst winning any 500 is incredibly special and is worth a lot (in terms of both prestige and in terms of cash); winning the 100th running of the event will feel just that extra bit more special.
The Grand Prix of Indianapolis uses a different layout seen by both MotoGP and by F1. It retains a lot of the character, but the famous banked corner which caused so much controversy in F1 is replaced by an infield section which is different to what MotoGP used. There is also a fast chicane prior to the back straight, which was not used by F1 or MotoGP.
The Brickyard is one of the trickiest ovals of them all. The banking is not as high as seen at other circuits but this does allow for some incredible racing, with the 2013 event being a great example of this. A simple four-turn oval? Absolutely not. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is one of the hardest circuits on the calendar.
One of the key talking points over the past couple of seasons has been the ongoing development duel between IndyCar’s two engine and aero suppliers: Honda and Chevrolet. It appeared that at the last oval race, held on the short Phoenix oval that Chevrolet had a significant advantage over Honda. Marco Andretti also claimed at a test earlier this year also that Chevrolet runners sandbagged. In terms of aerodynamics, it is very tough to pick between the two this year as the Honda now looks like a Chevrolet and the Chevrolet now looks like a Honda. The only way to determine between the two is by looking at the badge on the side or by the width of the fin on the engine cover.
Overall, it would appear that Chevrolet still has the upper-hand in terms of outright power output and fuel consumption, but Honda has closed up significantly aerodynamically.
This 500 has not gone without controversy already: the scary aerial shunts which we saw last year has been addressed by IndyCar with the introduction of a domed skid plate, in an attempt to reduce the cars getting airborne at all. This has not proved a popular move with certain drivers, with some (notably the Honda guys in general, but not restricted to those runners) claiming that this will force drivers to run more wing, which in turn increases the amount of dirty air, which will result in it being harder to race the car in front. There have been calls for these skid plates to be abolished, but they remain in place for the 500.
Be sure to catch the second part of this preview, in which all 35 entries are covered.