AJ Foyt Racing’s Santino Ferrucci in the No.14 Chevrolet heads into his 50th NTT INDYCAR SERIES race and charges into the event with plenty of momentum off the back of his first series podium at the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500 last weekend. Looking ahead to his 50th start, Ferrucci sat down with Foyt to discuss the race in Detroit.
SF: “I’ve always enjoyed going to Detroit. It’s where I started my IndyCar career (in 2018) and I’ve usually run pretty well there. I think I’ve grown a lot (as a driver) since then. Actually I was gonna have a Top-Ten in the first race but I got hit and put in the wall. And then the second race I crashed coming out of the pit but I still finished tenth.”
Did your experience in Europe help?
SF: “Yes, it did. Obviously, every street course is different but I’ve done a lot of street courses in Europe that were similar to Detroit, just not quite as bumpy as the Belle Isle course. The cars weren’t as powerful as an Indy car but it gives you confidence. I’ve always been good at Detroit so I’m hoping that I’ll be pretty good at this new track downtown. And we’ve made some gains from the beginning of the year because I think we know a little bit more as to what’s going on with the car.”
Since the Detroit track will be a first time for everybody, will that be an advantage for you?
SF: “I think it’ll be good for drivers like us that can learn the track quickly, but we still need to have a good understanding what the car is doing so there is a chance that yes, we could be better. Also, there’s a chance that we could struggle more if we don’t, because there’s other teams that have been on the simulator and we haven’t.”
How do you prepare for this street race?
SF: “I went there in the winter time to go check it out in my Chevy Tahoe. The only thing I can do to prepare for it now is to do the track walk and watch some of the cars on track that run before us on Friday.”
Does it seem like any tracks you’ve run in the past?
SF: “It’s definitely a very different unique kind of street course. I say it’s probably got a lot of characteristics similar to Long Beach. It’s just probably wider which will make for more passing.”
Can you carry the momentum from a strong run at Indy to Detroit?
SF: “I think we can without a doubt and we’re gonna do our best to make everything work. The momentum helps build the team morale. It’s gonna come more from the GP and what we’ve been learning there because we’re getting really close to building a really good road and street course car. Our damper program needs a little bit of help. The dampers are really complicated. I think our street course dampers are more inside the window than the road course ones. Smooth tracks require stuff that’s more high-tech where the street course windows are larger, in a sense. We’re really close to figuring it out, I believe.”
Benjamin Pedersen, fresh from making his Indianapolis 500 debut and taking home the Rookie of the Year award at Monday’s victory celebration is looking forward to the race this weekend on what is a new circuit for him.
This year every track is a “First Time” for you, but the Detroit track will be a First Time for everybody. Will that level the playing field for you?
BP: “I think since Detroit will be new for everyone it will level the playing field in a big way. While I was in INDY NXT, we went to a new track for everyone – Nashville – which will be like what we will experience in Detroit this week. At Nashville I was fast and picked up quickly, so I am confident we will do the same thing this weekend. I know Foyt has some great street cars and will work hard to achieve some great results.”
How do you prepare for this street race? Is there a sim of the track layout available to you?
BP: “I have been preparing pretty much the same as I have for the other races this season through my training. Unfortunately, there isn’t a sim of the track at this point, so learning the track that way hasn’t been possible.”
What are your thoughts about the double pit lane?
BP: “It’s exciting, and new for everyone. I don’t know if it will favor being on one side or the other with pit in or out times, so we will see what happens. I think it’s exciting that the NTT INDYCAR Series is doing something different and I hope it works out for all.”
Daniele Cucchiaroni, race engineer for Santino Ferrucci in the No.14 Sexton Properties Chevrolet was asked:
How do you figure out a setup for a track you’ve never been to? One that nobody’s been to?
DC: “We are using the simulator which allows us to figure out a projection of the speeds for each corner. We can’t determine the roughness of the track until we get there but there are tools to create a 3D representation of the track, and mapping tools which help us to find the right gears and the right aerodynamics to establish a baseline. Two other aspects that are important for me when approaching a new track are:
– Diversification: starting with each car (14 and 55) a bit differently so we can learn quickly. Of course, teams with more cars have an advantage to find their way quickly.
– Reaction: Have in place all the people and procedures to analyze all the information (vehicle data, tire data, drivers) as quickly as possible.
This is essential in finding the right balance in the vehicle and in understanding the reaction of the tires on this surface.”
How do you find the data points to create the representation?
DC: “We have a library of tracks with very high fidelity we use to do a virtual lap in a 3d environment. Since this is the first time to this track, the fidelity isn’t as good as it is at tracks we’ve been to. But GM has used their resources to give us (and the other Chevy teams) certain information which is very important and very helpful. We don’t show up blind as the technology helps us to determine the basic setup and we go from there once we get to the track.”