With his driver Dario Franchitti on the mend and preparations for this weekend's IndyCar Series championship decider almost complete, Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull shared his thoughts on the team's Dallara DW12 chassis that met the barrier with such violence in Houston.
“I spent a good amount of time with Dario and he's full of life as he always has been," related Hull. "He has a great attitude of what's going on with him, but I think the car itself contributed a lot on the positive side to the fact that I was able to spend time with him and have him in as good a condition as he was. I think that's a big deal. Dario's chassis held up remarkably well.
“The cars themselves have greatly improved cockpits, from a safety perspective. I don't know what you do with the fences and such – and that area needs a big, big push – but the car itself really held up well to the accident. Where his feet were, it was well protected. The chassis broke in the right spots – it broke in front of the bulkheads; the anti-intrusion panels did their job. I think we learned a lot from this car's predecessor, certainly, and I think we'll learn from this.”
Franchitti's crash wasn't the first major impact the Ganassi team has dealt with. Charlie Kimball had a 200mph meeting with the wall during practice at Indianapolis in 2012 that required extensive repairs, but Hull says Franchitti's 140mph Houston accident did far more damage.
“By example, Charlie's accident at Indy was a pretty big one,” he continued. “But by comparison, this was a write-off. There wasn't anything that didn't absorb energy on this car. If you think about it from that perspective, and I don't say this lightly, we're very thankful Dario will be back up and running after a slight bit of repair. Looking at how bad that type of crash could have been, it was very, very good.”
With a spare chassis to use at Fontana for Alex Tagliani, who the team signed to stand in for Franchitti while the Scot recuperates, the remnants of the Houston chassis will be saved for an off-season project.
“In this case, we can repair the tub cosmetically so we can create a show car along with mileaged-out components to go with it and repaired bodywork from throughout the year,” Hull explained. “We'll do that over the winter. That's what the car is suited for. There isn't anything that's remotely close to being used on the racetrack again. We wouldn't even try. You can only predict the loads all the parts saw, so you don't even risk it.”
Hull also spoke about the quick integration of Tagliani into the team. The French-Canadian will get the chance to partner with Scott Dixon – one of his best friends – who also happens to hold a 25-point lead in the championship. Tagliani will have to wait until Friday to turn his first laps in the No. 10 Target Honda, and according to Hull, his newest driver has blended in seamlessly during the pre-event efforts at their shop.
“He's come right in, embraced what we do, embraced Target, and although he's friends with our drivers, his friendship with Scott and Dario has nothing to do with his ability or getting the drive,” Hull added. “He is good in and out of the car. Drivers like him shouldn't be in the position he's in. He should be driving Indy cars, and we're fortunate to have his availability. He's come right into the building, engaged immediately with the mechanics, the engineers, the lady who does our firesuits…you name it. I'm confident he'll do a good job for us.”
With the championship on the line, having a veteran driver with track knowledge at Fontana was what led the team to sign Tagliani, as Hull shares.
“Fontana is so different than Indy; the track changes throughout the race, the line changes throughout the race so much that you have to constantly adapt, and you need someone who knows how to deal with all of that,” he said. “With high-banked ovals, there's so much more to deal with – the tires, the fuel load – and I don't know if everyone can grasp the difference. But that's why a veteran like Alex, who has raced successfully at Fontana, is of such value to a team like Ganassi Racing. Ultimately, that's why he'll represent Target and represent the team.”