Story Credit: Jared DePouw
Photo Credit: INDYCAR Photo
A completely different race track
It’s been 11 years since the last time major open when racing happened here in Portland, and a lot of things have changed. Right after the final Champ Car race here in 2007, the track underwent a complete repaving along with some other minor changes to the layout.
“It’s really hooked up around here” said Power about the track repaving. “It actually takes rubber. Like a lot of these tracks don’t take the rubber, and that’s what’s gripping this track up so much is it’s actually taking rubber, so it’s just rubber on rubber, which is creating good grip. I don’t know why some don’t and some do. It’s kind of like Watkins Glen when it was resurfaced had a lot of grip. It doesn’t really take rubber, either.”
Besides the repaving, one of the biggest changes involved replaced all the curbing around the track with Formula One style curbing. “We used to be able to take heaps of curbs in the turns — in the fast chicane, especially in the last corner, and that’s not there anymore because now we have about a foot-wide curb that’s followed by dirt” said Bourdais about the new curbing. “So if you get a bit greedy, then you get your tires all dirty, and it doesn’t really work. It feels like the track is a bit less forgiving than it used to be.”
In addition, Turn 7 was sharpened in order to reduce speeds entering the backstretch.
Perhaps the most technical corner at Portland, Turn 11 is an incident waiting to happen. In fact, three different IndyCar drivers lost control in Turn 11 during Friday practice, with two of those cars making contact with the tire barrier during the afternoon practice session.
“It’s very high commitment, very high cornering speeds, and not much room for error” said Sebastien Bourdais about Turn 11. “You get a gust of wind or something, it’s very easy to find yourself out of line, and as soon as you step out of line, it’s game over.”
The current lap record at Portland was set back in 2005 by the late Justin Wilson. Piloting his Lola, Wilson put in a blazing lap of 57.597sec (122.756mph). That record would stand during the final 2 years of Champ Car at Portland but is sure to fall tomorrow in qualifying.
During Practice #1 three cars (Newgarden/Dixon/Bourdais) all put in laps faster than Wilson’s record. Then again in Practice #2 three more cars (Ferrucci/Andretti/Power) plus Dixon all ran laps under the record. Now while official IndyCar lap records can only be set in qualifying or the race, there’s no doubt that Wilson’s lap record will fall considerably despite at least one driver not wanting that record to fall.
“It’s a different car. The track has been repaved and everything feels different. But the layout is mostly the same all but one corner. Yeah, I mean, hopefully we can keep the same track record. It’s kind of all I can hope for” said Bourdais about the differences between 2007 Champ Car and 2018 IndyCar.