All you need to know about the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar

Fernando Alonso joining with Oriol Servià in the dispute over the 500 miles of Indianapolis, in you approach the fascinating world of IndyCar and its flagship race, with everything you need to understand a different, unique and legendary event.

We can say, without equivocation, that the announcement that Fernando Alonso will play the Indianapolis 500 It is the story of the year in the world of motorsport. The two-time Formula 1 has taken the bull by the horns, and fulfills an ambition that had previously expressed: cross the pond and compete in one of the most prestigious events in the world, played with the rules of the IndyCar Series to begin to pursue Triple Crown of Motorsport. It will do so with Andretti Autosport, on the orders of former Formula 1 and IndyCar champion Michael Andretti, and since the numbers are owned by teams (as in Formula 1 to medidados 90) It takes your car 29.

Although its popularity in the United States rivaling the Daytona 500, the race NASCAR star, The Indianapolis 500 is the most prestigious automotive test US global. Created in 1911, last year celebrated its 100th edition and is enshrined as one of the races belonging to the aforementioned Triple Crown, next to the Grand Prix of Monaco and the 24 Hours of Le Mans. In 2016, the event brought a record 350,000 spectators face, who they packed the stands to mark the centenary, although regular attendance figures usually around 300,000 spectators without too much trouble.

However, an important part of European Formula 1 fans (especially those who, for lack of time or interest, limit their attention to other categories or World itself), there are many doubts about What is the Indy 500, of participating in it and what it implies, the concept of running IndyCar or oval. Therefore, in this article, we try to explain everything you need to see the big race next May 28 with at least the basics to understand everything that happens.

What is IndyCar?

IndyCar is the quintessential racing cars in the United States. With different names, it takes quarreling since the second decade of the twentieth century, although its history can be divided into several periods, according to the agency that controlled: AAA (Pre-1955 World War II), USAC (1956-1979), CART (1979-2007, called IndyCar between 1992 and 1996 and Champ Car from 2004 to 2007) and IndyCar (From 1996 to 2002 called IRL). Initially, it was a competition based almost exclusively on ovals of wood, which gave way to the ground, but the asphalt began to make their way in the 50. A decade later, was tested with conventional circuits between 1964 and 1970, to that in 71 all merely asphalt ovals. Circuits 76 and returned in their presence increased greatly since the mid-80s, to leave the ovals in the minority, which attracted a lot of foreign presence.

With the support of the owners of Indianapolis, in 1996 the Indy Racing League (IRL) was created to recover a 100% category ovals with most American pilots and reduced costs, creating a civil war between categories that lasted 12 years, and seriously damaged the popularity of the cars in the United States and the Indy 500. Despite having grills much worse in the 90s, have the great career, coupled with some court and sports problems CART, the balance began to decline by 2002. In 2005, the IndyCar started running in some circuits, and early 2008 Champ Car, which had followed the opposite path renouncing ovals, was absorbed by its rival. After several years of transition, IndyCar seems to have returned to close to its popularity explosion situation 90, with a calendar comprising 65% circuits and ovals in 35%, and an international grill on which 42% of full-time pilots are American.

Today, the IndyCar is one monochasis competition, where all drivers compete with Dallara DW12, introduced in 2012. This car, circuit, it has a performance comparable to that of a GP2, with more aerodynamic and power, but also with more weight for safety on ovals, reaching peaks of more than 310 kilometers per hour. Each car has two aerodynamic kits, one for circuit and short ovals, and another for superspeedways, ovals used only in Indianapolis, Texas and Pocono, as well as other high-speed ovals in the past. The latter has a much more radical and minimum aerodynamic, with which the IndyCar average speeds of over 360 kilometers per hour. In addition, all cars feature a LED indicator showing the position of the pilot in the race, and if it is using the system push-to-pass (200 seconds increment turbo available to the pilot, only circuit) or time spent in a pit stop.

Tires are also equal for all (Firestone), but in terms of engines, teams can choose from Chevrolet Y Sling. Since these manufacturers had to take over the development of aerokits since 2015 (something which will disappear next year with a radical redesign of the car), Honda has had a significant deficit, which has almost dissipated this year, but have always been very competitive on ovals. As regards the score, all riders score points in every race. Like the final test of the season in Sonoma, the Indy 500 scores double, and also classification also provides a generous amount of points, almost equivalent to that of a race.

SCORING NORMAL (double Indy 500 and Grand Prix of Sonoma)

Extra points: Pole position (one point, not Indy 500), leading at least one lap (1 point), and more pilot turns leads to a race (2 points)


The protagonists

The strongest teams in the last decade, which have been distributed titles have been Penske, Superpower category since the 80s, and Ganassi, with sporadic appearances Andretti, particularly in Indianapolis, where last year were the fastest in qualifying and achieved a double. Grid, they are some former Formula 1 drivers as Sébastien Bourdais, four times Champ Car champion; Takuma Sato, first Japanese to win an IndyCar race; Alexander Rossi, the current winner of the Indy 500; Max Chilton, who drives for Ganassi great, or Juan Pablo Montoya, CART champion and Indy 500 before his departure to Formula 1, Indy repeated triumph in 2015, and this year only compete in Indianapolis after running out of full-time ride at Penske. the big stars however, are different.

The grill has a four-time IndyCar and New Zealand Scott Dixon and other champions Will Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan or titleholders Simon Pagenaud, who also leads the overall this year. Except Pagenaud and Power, more specialized circuit riders, they all know what's triumph in Indianapolis. I also know Hélio Castroneves, who has won three times the legendary event, and it lacks only a victory to equal the record of four wins legends such as seven-time IndyCar champion A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears. Besides them, there are also relatively young riders in search of glory: Josef Newgarden, Penske signing star this year; the popular James Hinchcliffe; Graham Rahal, son of three-time champion Bobby Rahal; Carlos Muñoz, second twice in Indianapolis; Conor Daly, Spencer Pigot ...

In Indianapolis, the figure of the riders who compete in this test is essential. The current grid full-time IndyCar has 21 pilots, so there are many who only joined the Indy 500 to complete the grid 33. It is a tradition that has been doing for decades and that when the IndyCar has had more numerous grills, allowed to see more than 40 riders fighting to qualify. One such potential is the Spanish Oriol Servià. Indy Lights champion "Alzamora to" (And winless in 1999), the Catalan pilot runs at the highest level since 2000, first in CART / Champ Car (where he won his only win in 2005 and was runner-up) And then IndyCar, where he was fourth in 2011. For four years, part-time racing, having run for the top teams on the grid as emergency substitute. At 42, this season will make his ninth participation in Indianapolis as pilot Rahal team, which will make some more tests throughout the year. For the first time, you are not alone.

Apart from Servia, very few Spanish riders have decided to cross the pond to run cars. Even before the tradition of the 33 participants be consolidated, the noble Hispano Pierre de Vizcaya He participated in the Indy 500 in 1923 and finished twelfth. Six decades later, an entrepreneur / team leader named Pepe Romero, Cuban-born, he tried to take part in the 200 miles from Portland 1984 accidentándose on the formation lap. Although he did not set foot Indy as a pilot, history, punctuated by drug cartels and involving Emerson Fittipaldi, it has no waste.

Finally, the ill-fated Fermín Vélez, He then consolidated in the world of American resistance was tested in the IRL in 1996 and 1997. He ran six races, including two Indy 500, being tenth in 1997. Servia, who had an unsuccessful first attempt in 2002, ran in Indianapolis for the first time after reunification, in 2008, and did not improve the outcome of Vélez until 2011, when finished sixth having left the third (first line). The following year, he got an even better result a fourth place. Last year he had a very competitive car in Schmidt, but a bad qualifying and setting a strategic bet on race was not as it should have left him in 12th place.

The circuit

The competition takes place in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a circuit of 4.023 km (2.5 miles) consisting of two long straights of more than one kilometer joined by four curves. All of them, apparently, are exactly the same: long turns 90 degree angle and a camber of 9 degrees, but each has its bumps, configuration and characteristics that differentiate them from one another. This inclination causes in the United States is considered to Indianapolis as a 'flat oval ', far short of the usual inclinations between 15 and 20 degrees in many ovals, or more than 30, as in Daytona or Talladega. Despite its rectangular shape, it enters what is considered as an oval track, or oval, when consisting only curves to the left in a generally circular shape.

Initially, the surface of Indianapolis was brick, but was asfaltándose progressively until, in 1961, only left uncovered a line of 2 meters wide at the start-finish straight. That gave the circuit the nickname 'Brickyard' (yard of bricks), which the winner kisses the photo shoot the day after, a tradition begun by Dale Jarrett after winning the third race of the NASCAR held there in 1996. for almost two decades, Indianapolis has been a pioneer in technology SAFER barriers, protection system "softwoods" absorbent and placed in front of the original concrete walls on the four corners of the circuit. SAFER have drastically reduced the number of lesions on ovals, and have helped death Scott Brayton in 1996, days after getting the pole, is the last that Indianapolis has claimed. Although, in the wrong circumstances, blow still hit 350 to 350.

And it is the fact that it is an oval does not mean at all that run on it, or go fast, keep it simple. In qualifying, the average speed of an IndyCar on this oval exceeds 370 kilometers per hour (230 mph), with laps below 39 seconds, and the tip end of the straight speeds reach 390 km / h (243 mph). Rate and run on this circuit (delve into this later) it requires a very high level of concentration for long periods of time as well as a frequent traffic management, strategic mindset and a correct accustom surrounded by cars running for several meters. The approach and techniques used in conventional circuitry not work here. Indy does not forgive: a mistake at a crucial moment can end your bones on the wall, even in the last corner of the last lap, as happened to rookie J.R. Hildebrand in 2011, when he was about to win. Succeeding in Indianapolis as a rookie is a Herculean task that only four drivers have made since World War II: Graham Hill (1966), Juan Pablo Montoya (2000), Hélio Castroneves (2001) and Alexander Rossi last year.

What are the Indianapolis 500?

But the 500 miles of Indianapolis are much more than the weekend in which they compete. The race begins in the previous two weeks, a period that has historically been known as the Month of May. Currently, the Month of May begins with the Indianapolis Grand Prix, a race of the IndyCar created in 2014 to be played in a version of the oval circuit, retouched about which hosted Formula 1 between 2000 and 2007, with the usual format of a Grand Prix. This test took place on 13 May, Alonso did not participate in it, as I was competing in the Grand Prix of Spain Formula 1. Starting Monday, the action begins in the oval.

From Monday 15 to Friday 19, various training sessions are held. In the past, the process consisted of two weeks of testing with different stages of classification every weekend, but was reduced to one in 2010 to save costs. On Monday, track activity begins at 12:00 local time (18:00 hours in Spain) with Rookie Orientation Program (Orientation program rookies, ROP) a 2-hour session with which he prepares novice drivers, as well as veterans who have been absent for some years, to facilitate their adaptation to the circuit, and check that can reach a minimum speed.

Schedules and where to see the Indy 500, session by session

Rather than by time, something that is insignificant ovals for the few differences, returns are measured by the average speed in miles per hour. Each driver who takes part in the ROP must complete a batch of 10 turns between 210 and 215 mph (337-345 km / h), another batch of 15 turns between 215 and 220 mph (345-353 km / h), and a third batch of 15 laps over 220 mph (353 km / h). Once exceeds the ROP, the pilot can already take part in training as normal. Not get it in this session, the pilot may do so at any time of the week, but fun is essential to compete. That same Monday, once the rookies session ends, it is held the first practice session four hours until 18:00 local time (00:00 Spanish time).

From Tuesday to Friday, the circuit is open every day for six hours (18: 00-00: 00 in Spain) for pilots to prepare their cars and strategies, and adapt to traffic to be found in the race and run in groups. The last hour of each session, the Happy Hour is where you will usually get the best of times because of the lower track temperatures. On Friday, the last day is known as Fast Friday: Turbo pressure of 130 to 140 kilopascals is increased, an increase that is maintained for classification, and usually achieve better speeds of the month because of the slipstream.

The classification is contested over two days. The first phase takes place on Saturday 20th (from 17:00 to 00:00 in Spain). In a pre-established by lot, each pilot performs a solo attempt at classification. After the return pit exit, and a return heating, there are four consecutive timed laps, and the average speed of the four joints determines the final velocity of the driver. For example, to get the pole in 2016, James Hinchcliffe completed four laps in 2: 36,006, with an average of 230,760 miles per hour (371.2 km / h). Each driver can override their attempt at any time if it considers that the turns are bad, but in this case, have to wait until each pilot has had the opportunity to make their attempt in the order by drawing lots.

From there, the track is open to new attempts until the end of the session, and the pit lane is divided into two lines: a fast and a slow. Rapid can be used by a pilot if officially withdraws its time or if you have not already marked. Slow is used by those who want to try again without losing the above, if the new is worse, but fast street car will always have preference to go slow on one street, which is important in the final minutes. After the meeting on Saturday, the nine best drivers qualify for the Fast Nine, the Sunday session in which the pole is decided from 23:00 Spanish time. In reverse order of their positions the day before, and without the records obtained above, each pilot has a single attempt four laps without the possibility of repeating the fastest pole takes. Hours before, from 20:45, The remaining 24 drivers qualified with the same rules for ordering the positions 10 to 33.

If more than 33 cars (something very unusual in recent years, limits on vacation engines and using chassis), that session only determines the positions to 30th place, and the remaining cars held earlier that another day session to determine who remain out of the race. The day on which 'check' to drivers on the grid is historically known as the Bump Day when it was played after the pole he has been decided, but now it is done the same day if need be. From there, the riders only participate in more training on Monday 22 and a one-hour session on Friday, 26 on a day known as Carb Day, It is including the 100 miles from the Indy Lights (three finals with cars in parallel in the last four years) and a traditional competition of pit stops. After the popular parade on Saturday through the streets of Indianapolis, arrives on Sunday, the day of truth.

"Ladies and gentlemen, start your engines!"

Over the years, many traditions have been established for the hours before the race: This weekend's Memorial Day is held, so that the military and veterans with parades in the circuit is honored, and a salvo of shots precedes an interpretation to trumpet the famous funeral composition Taps. After that, several songs are interpreted, including the ubiquitous national anthem and traditional "Back Home Again in Indiana", Accompanied by the release of thousands of balloons into the sky, before the president give the order to track start the engines. Until this year, Mari Hulman George had been, but since this year, Tony George, former chairman of the IndyCar, will give over. Moments later, the cars start rolling four laps to make training. In the latter, are arranged in rows of three in the rear straight, and remain so until facing the finish line, where, about 18:20 pm in Spain, made a thrown output starts at Indianapolis 500

In the race, the first factor that a pilot must consider is patience. A 500-mile race is a total of 800 kilometers and, despite the high speeds, hovering around three hours. You have to be cautious, therefore, to avoid an incident involving losing early laps or abandonment. A normal stint in Indianapolis IndyCar round 30 laps, so a pilot must make a minimum of six pit stops, where there are refueling, although it is usual that about eight arrests were made because of the 'cautions'.

In an oval, there are no local yellow flags of a conventional circuit: when an incident occurs, the yellow flag enacts a period of 'caution' which is equivalent to a European Car Safety, in this case a Pace Car. The pit lane will not open until all are regrouped time when many choose to pit stop to get new tires, gasoline or cover charge more stops others. Therefore, they usually happen the massive pit stops, with more than 20 cars. Others may be left out, either to gain track position and have cleaner air, or to try to recover laps if they are missing, although both strategies Require a great rhythm or 'cautions' timely to function optimally.

The average has fallen cautions from 8 IR03 / 05 (2003-11) at 6 the current chassis, but remain a key factor that must always be considered when to continue or change a strategy race. All resalidas occur in single file, often resulting overtaking attempts in the first turn due to slipstream. This effect was intensified with DW12, which magnified the effect of slipstream, making leadership changes and overtaking more constant. In them, a pilot must always respect the line trying to overtake the pilot, keeping yours, whether it is inside and outside. A line change at the last moment, or curved, is considered a blockage that could lead to an accident, and is penalized.

Another aspect to consider: oval, if it rains, do not run. There is no tire that allows a car with such a precarious aerodynamic stay in one piece on a wet track at such speeds, even lifting the foot off the accelerator. The slightest precipitation can be a 'caution' or even a red flag. If the test has exceeded 50% of the distance (101 laps), and it is anticipated that rain will allow not run dry in the daylight, the race may be terminated. Otherwise, it would resume on Monday, until it can be done. The 1997 Indy 500 had to be completed on a Tuesday, and in 2007, a downpour ended the race on Lap 166 of 200.

To be fast in Indianapolis, the key is not to rush every curve to the limit. Although this is an oval, its characteristics do you have only one good line drawn. This, in turn, is more demanding for the tires. Therefore, as you go along the stint, especially if it continues to slipstream the drivers risers foot straight at the end to keep the racing line and prevent the tires play a trick. Go abroad with worn tires can be a very bad idea, as in the aforementioned case of Hildebrand. Be careful with the tires or fuel economy can make a crucial driver to win a few extra laps in a stint.

Not forgetting that the aerodynamics of an IndyCar on a 'Superspeedway' is minimal, and the effect of external, high factors: any setting more at a stop or race, any change in the wind direction in the temperature track, or humidity can lead to a loss of control or an accident. Sometimes, the race may elapse so that the last stops occur at about 30 laps before the end. If there is a new caution, this often turn situations known as 'fuel run': Pilots try to save as much fuel as possible while maintaining a certain speed to reach the end without another stop under green.

Last year, Alexander Rossi, based on excellent management slipstream (helped by teammate Ryan Hunter-Reay), an exalted careful with the throttle and the master guide his engineer, former racer Bryan Herta, managed to reach goal first with right after an incredible round of 36 laps, denying the possibility of victory to Carlos Muñoz and Josef Newgarden. In recent years, however, It has been common to see two or three drivers fighting for victory in the final laps, riding together, and glory sometimes decided by tenths or even hundredths, as in 1982, 1992, 2006, 2014 and 2015.

It can only be one

After seeing the checkered flag, The winning car is transferred to Victory Lane, an area enabled for the victory celebration in which there is no room for second or third, with the driver inside the car, surrounded by his team and the sound of bagpipes. When standing in the cockpit, he was awarded a laurel wreath and he hands over a bottle of milk, from which the pilot should drink at least a sip, having made known their preferences about (skim, whole or lactose) before the race. This tradition, which dates from 1936 and was restored in 1956 by commercial interests, is the most famous race: Emerson Fittipaldi will be even boos each time it appears in Indianapolis after following his second win in 1993, he preferred drink a bottle of orange juice for citrus promote your business.

The pilot is not granted him a trophy as such. The Borg-Warner trophy is 163 centimeters and weighing 69 kilos, and it remains held by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at all times. In it, the faces of all drivers who have won the test, which is added each year new winner are carved. This is subjected to a photo shoot with the trophy and his car the next day, but the tangible evidence of his achievement does not arrive until months later, when he hands over a small replica. Nationally, the audiences get the race (comparable to racing NASCAR, and much higher than those of other races of the year) make be given more importance to win the Indy 500 win the championship, and prestige of the race itself encourages many drivers think similarly, something like what happens with the Global Resistance and 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Obviously, Alonso is not the first big Formula 1 driver that launches the adventure. Although the race was part of the Formula 1 World Championship from 1950 to 1960, and with the exception of Alberto Ascari in 1952, it was not until the 60s when the world paid attention to the race. Two years after Jack Brabham from competing in 1961 with a Cooper, Jim Clark and Lotus landed in 1963 with a rear-engined Lotus with which finished second, starting, on the one hand, the death of the 'rodsters' front engine, and on the other, British Invasion, which joined McLaren as a team. Clark would win the race in 1965 and was second in 1966 after Graham Hill, who, today, it is the only one to get the Triple Crown. In later years, drivers like JAckie Stewart, Denny Hulme Y Jochen Rindt They dared to test, coming to be 5 Formula 1 drivers active in the 1967 edition, but without much success.

Old, running in Indianapolis was a more manageable company several years does not coincide with Formula 1 testing, but since it is so, especially with Monaco, increasingly fewer people were tried. Mario Andretti, winner in 1969 when he was USAC driver, was the last champion of Formula 1, running full time in the World, resigned from Monaco to race in Indianapolis, in 1976, two years before becoming world champion. Teo Fabi, meanwhile, was the last driver to do the same in 1984, having been runner-up last year CART. Since then, all experienced pilots in Formula 1 have raced there when they did not compete in it, either before or after Emerson Fittipaldi, Nigel Mansell, Nelson Piquet, Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya and so on.

These are all keys, and a little more, to understand fully what the Indy 500, which implies and means 'The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,' and to continue testing with the necessary concepts. As always, the healthiest in these cases exercise is to see some of the races in previous years, which are freely available on YouTube. For now, get to see not only a great race, if not something that seems almost from another era: McLaren, back in Indianapolis with a world champion. Hard to believe. I agree with the views expressed by my colleague David Plaza; What cojonazos, Fernando.

Photos: IndyCar Media / Indianapolis Motor Speedway