A two-day test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway involving six drivers/teams is part of the IZOD IndyCar Series' official tire supplier's short- and long-term objectives, according to Firestone Racing chief engineer Dale Harrigle.
"We're laying the foundation for the future," he said.
Firestone Racing periodically conducts testing of current and development tire compounds and specifications on the oval for future superspeedway events. The 2013 Indianapolis 500 tire was utilized as the baseline, and more than two dozen compounds and specs will be run on the 2.5-mile asphalt racing ribbon. Participating were reigning Indy 500 champion Tony Kanaan, three-time race winner Dario Franchitti, Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power and Justin Wilson.
"Firestone never stops trying to give us a better product as a race tire," Wilson said. "There are various things that they are working on, whether it be compound or construction. We're just here to give them feedback on how something feels."
Firestone is also working with IndyCar regarding the introduction of aerodynamic configurations for IZOD IndyCar Series cars in 2015 and a potential assault on the qualification speed record in conjunction with the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 in 2016.
"IndyCar has come up with this plan that they want to slowly creep the speeds up at Indianapolis and we want to be on the forefront of that curve," Harrigle said. "We want to be working with them to see what we need to do now to develop for the future years when the speeds increase. IndyCar has kept us in the forefront of aero kits and we've been talking with them about how they think it's going to affect the tire.
"We have a pretty good window to operate in. We'll stay on top of it."
Short term, Harrigle said Firestone Racing is seeking to "give the cars a little bit more grip" for the 2014 "500."
"Tire performance was good this May and we think we can make it a little better," he said.
Hulman & Company CEO Mark Miles and IndyCar President, Operations & Competition Derrick Walker in May announced the intent to see Luyendyk's four-lap (236.986 mph) and one-lap (237.498mph) qualification records surpassed. Marco Andretti said is happy to pursue record speeds at Indianapolis and appreciates the challenge.
"Bring it on, man," Andretti said. "I'm always for that, for sure. I think for four laps in qualifying it would be fine. Ten miles an hour is easier said than done once you get above the 230 (mph) range, but it's average 10 miles an hour, not just 10 miles an hour, so you need to be like 15 to 20 miles an hour quicker, so that makes a heck of a difference, but that's why they pay us the big bucks."
Franchitti also is intrigued by the run for the records and pointed out that Firestone has the acumen to develop a safe, consistent tire for the challenge.
"Derrick Walker and his team have talked about going after the speed record, and that would be interesting," Franchitti said. "Obviously, the cars and the engines need a little bit of work to get there, but it's nice to see there's a plan in place to kind of make that a reality. Every time we run on track they learn something, so Gil (de Ferran) did a 242 (mph) average at Fontana (241.428mph in 2000), so they know how to make a tire that can exceed the track record here."
"I think the aim is to start heading toward that by 2016, which is very achievable with this car for sure," Power said. "Obviously, you've got to keep safety in mind, but also we do want to break that record. So as the safety improves, we can bump the speed up."
While the teams participating in the test are looking to gather all the information possible to gain an advantage for next year's Indianapolis 500, the tire data they accumulate at IMS will benefit all teams in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
"The most important thing here today and tomorrow is actually to help Firestone to pick up whatever they want to pick up as far as a tire compound," Kanaan said. "We're here for them. It's actually unbelievable, and you guys probably don't know this, but we're through probably 25 sets a day as far as seven laps each, and tomorrow we'll do long runs, so it's a lot of work."
A surprising element during the test is unseasonably high temperatures in the low 90s.
"We expected it to be a lot cooler," Franchitti said. "We've tested this time of year before, and it's not that relevant, really. (But) with 90-plus degrees and humidity, we're learning a lot. Firestone is going to learn a lot, too, and Honda is finding stuff, as well, so it's really a win for everybody. When you're asked to come and do these things, it's a request you can't turn down."