Drivers inspect the track. (LAT photo)
The overnight track grinding effort commissioned by the Shell & Pennzoil Grand Prix of Houston promoters made significant headway into reducing the ramp-like jump on the 1.7-mile street course's front straight, but the issue has not been completely solved.
The IndyCar Series assembled an impromptu 10-minute practice session prior to this morning's scheduled qualifying session to allow the field to sample the front stretch, and based on what they found, a single lane on the far left side of the track allowed the turbocharged cars to keep most of their wheels on the ground.
A few drivers ventured out to the middle of the track and were caught on TV bounding over the jump before crashing down and continuing.
“It's not that bad; you just have to suck it up and go through there, Andretti Autosport driver EJ Viso told RACER's Robin Miller after images of his No. 5 Chevy flying over the bump were shown. “It's no worse than what we had at Edmonton.”
Dragon Racing's Sebastien Bourdais also reckoned the track grinding was successful enough to let the Indy car run without the temporary tire chicane that was installed yesterday, but says it still reminds him of the San Jose Champ Car street race where a similar launching pad had to be dealt with.
“I didn't even try on the right; I stayed mid-track, at best,” he said. “It's San Jose: you take a bit of air, you hit the hard [RPM] limited, and it's not pretty, but it's all right.”
Panther Racing's Oriol Servia stayed to the left during the brief session and had no issues to report.
“I had zero air,” he said. “I'm just being tight like they told me; I'm easy flat through there. On the left side, there's nothing to talk about, but on the left side, you just don't want to go out there if you can avoid it, so you can't let yourself get pushed out there for the race.”
The likely scenario to play out in Race 1 will be a follow-the-leader procession through the affected section and drivers fanning out on the run to Turn 2.
“It's not really a passing zone,” Servia added. “On the left, we're taking the same line we take now. They just need to rework it so we can do double-file restarts next year or make it so you can go out there if you want to.”