Star Mazda Test- Iowa Speedway

The Star Mazda drivers completed a two-day oval test in Newton, Iowa this week at the famed Iowa Speedway. The track features a 7/8's mile tri-oval with 12-13-14 degree compound banking, which is very different from Milwaukee (where they were testing last week). The Milwaukee Mile features a 1-mile oval with 9.25 degrees of banking. The track layout of each creates a very unique driving/tuning style specific to the individual oval. At Milwaukee, the drivers had to really work on grip as no one was able to run the oval flat-out. This week in Iowa was a bit of a different story as the Star Mazda cars were easily flat-out through the turns with the aide of the banked corners.

I decided to make the trip to Newton, Ia. for the second day of the two-day test at Iowa Speedway. The forecast for day-1 wasn't very promising and the cars didn't get on track and up to speed until about 1 PM. Fortunately for me, the weather and track conditions were much more favorable on Thursday, Day-2.

I have to start out by thanking the Star Mazda crew for all their assistance and hospitality. They are a great group and run the series very well. Secondly, I have to give props to the Iowa Speedway, as it's truly an amazing facility. If you have the opportunity to attend a race, I would make the trip a priority as you won't be disappointed.

As I drove through the tunnel, entering the speedway, the air was cool and quiet. The cars were not yet on track. After parking, while organizing my laptop and camera for the day's event, I heard the engines fire. Within a few moments, a couple of the cars had taken to the track. I decided to head over to pit-lane and snap some photos of the first cars on track. After walking the paddock and saying a few hello's, I jumped back in my car and headed for the scoring tower. I spent some time with the spotter's above the tower as well, which I might add, is quite the view.

The rest of my day was spent running back and forth between the scoring tower and the paddock to chat with drivers and teams. The view from above, offered a unique look at the varying line used by drivers entering Turn 1 (as pictured above). The turn 1-2 combo seemed to be the source of nearly every incident in the two-day test. If you look closely, you can even see the oil-dry from the center of the corner down into turn 2 from Ciao Lara's impact the day before. Something broke in the car near the end of the straight, forcing him into the largest incident of the test. Unfazed by the wreck, he helped the team rebuild the car and was back on track for part of Day-2. Obviously, Lara's incident in the turn 1-2 combo, was mechanical, but several of the drivers and teams were worried about a couple bumps on the racing surface in that region. Apparently, the track has a bump on each side of the surface above the tunnel, which was upsetting the balance of the car through turn 1 and entering turn 2. I'm guessing the varying lines of entry into that section was related to the fore mentioned bump. From an outside perspective, the tighter line appeared much quicker and proved so on the timing monitor (hint for any driver's reading this).

While in the paddock, I snapped a few photos that you might be interested in. The teams had different strategies for the test, some were tuning for longer runs, some were tuning for the conditions, while others stated, they were simply tuning to learn.

Conor Daly

Joel Miller

Anders Krohn Debriefing After Session

Richard Kent

Jorge Goncalvez

Adam Christodoulou

While in the paddock, I had the opportunity to chat with several drivers. Without providing direct quotes, I will summarize a few statements from the conversations I had.

Conor Daly stated that the car felt good, they were just fine-tuning things and trying to learn as much as possible. When asked about the ovals, he stated that he was enjoying the experience. Conor's father, Derek Daly, was also on hand at the test.

After setting the fast time in Day-1 of the test, Alex Ardoin decided to sit out Day-2 (for the most part). In the morning session on Thursday, Alex was working with JDC and giving Adam Christodoulou's car a few test runs. According to Ardoin, the two cars had a nearly identical set-up but Adam's car just didn't want to turn-in. When they started to dial things in, both drivers were forced a slight lift on the throttle, but as they improved the car--they were easily flat-out. Obviously, they figured everything out as Christodoulou managed to set the fastest time during the two-day test. (see below)

Billy Goshen was really focusing on seat-time as he ran about 250 laps on Thursday alone. When asked about the car, he stated the car felt good and that they had made a significant improvement from Day-1. His teammate Toshi Deki was also on hand. Despite being nearly two seconds off the pace in Day-1, Deki managed to bring his car to within 7/10's of the fast time on Day-2.

Richard Kent was happy to chat with me and had this to say about the Iowa Speedway oval--"Racing here will be wicked!". He stated that he was pleased with the test as he was still getting into the swing of things, building confidence, after his crash at the Milwaukee Mile. I would say he did a very nice job of getting back into the swing of things, as he set the 2nd quickest lap of the two-day test. He still had a brace on his leg after breaking his fibula, which forced him to learn to right-foot brake at MMP---which isn't an easy task for someone who has spent their entire life using their left foot to brake.

Anders Krohn was very excited about the track. When I asked him how he was enjoying the ovals and Iowa Speedway, he said, "I love the track". He was the only driver on track for Mundill and was working with Larry Nash. The team was focused on longer runs and spent a ton of time on the track. Unfortunately, he had some sort of mechanical failure near the end of the day that forced him into the garage. Despite the set-back he still set the fifth quickest time during the two-day test.

I spent some time with Peter Dempsey as well. The Irishman was not testing due to financial concerns and stated that he was currently trying to come up with enough funding just to make the New Jersey Motorsports Park race. Despite not being on track for the test, he was very active in the AIM Autosport tent--working with the crew on the car and helping the other drivers. When I asked Peter about his oval experience, he stated "I don't have any, my first time on an oval was this week when I took a Mazda 3 on track and ran about six laps"--he said this with a smile. I have to say, it's truly unfortunate to see a driver as talented as Peter sitting on the sidelines of a test day when he's second in the overall Star Mazda Championship. I sincerely hope to see him back on track and continue his charge up the ladder system.

At the conclusion of the test, Adam Christodoulou maintained the top spot. He set the fastest lap of the two day test with a 22.059, 145.900 mph.

Adam Christodoulou debriefing with JDC Motorsports
(fast time of the weekend: 22.059 s.)

Honorable mention should go to Gustavo Linares who had a nice test. This was his first oval experience and he managed to set the 6th quickest lap of the test. When asked about his experience, he stated, "It's different to just turn left repeatedly, but I'm having fun".

The combined results, from both days of the test, are listed below.

1. Adam Christodoulou 22.059
2. Richard Kent 22.081
3. Alex Ardoin 22.106
4. Jorge Goncalvez 22.113
5. Anders Krohn 22.205
6. Gustavo Linares 22.217
7. Conor Daly 22.242
8. Rusty Mitchell 22.266
9. Billy Goshen 22.269
10. Joel Miller 22.301
11. Ciao Lara 22.302
12. Kevin Toledo 22.430
13. David Ostella 22.577
14. Toshi Deki 22.760

For a sort-of-live review of things, check out my Twitter page. I sent live updates from my mobile phone to Twitter yesterday during the on-track sessions.

(Photo's by Ryan at Junior Open Wheel Talent)



YORK Group Motorsport said...

Great piece Ryan!

Once again your work and reportage are spot on.

Iowa Speedway is a brilliant facility. I've spectated and competed there both and the experiences were very, very good.

Point of interest/curiosity: A.Christodoulou's penchant for a blank-white helmet...(?)

Anonymous said...

amazing coverage as always, hard to imagine why a 1 man blog is able to do more up to the date and interesting reporting than professional sites with the same goals......basically go here after every weeked to check the latest formula car news..keep up the good work

Ryan said...

I appreciate the kind words. Thank you for reading!