The Panasonic Toyota Racing team travels across the Atlantic Ocean for the penultimate round of the 2002 Formula 1 World Championship, the United States Grand Prix. For the third year in succession the race is being staged at the world-famous Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The team has never visited Indianapolis, so it goes to the unique 4.192-kilometre half-oval half-road course relying on various factory-based simulations for car set-up. However, several members of Panasonic Toyota Racing have raced at Indianapolis, including Mika Salo, and their input will be vital to the team's overall performance.
Indianapolis - which is also known as the Brickyard, due to the original oval that was built of bricks in 1909 - has many distinguishing features, including the longest period at full throttle of any track on the F1 calendar, thanks to its one-kilometre-long main straight. And, with a race day crowd of nearly 250,000 people, it can also accommodate twice the number of race fans of any current F1 track.
Panasonic Toyota Racing tested last week at Circuit Paul Ricard. Both Mika Salo and Allan McNish tried various new aerodynamic parts at an intensive four-day test session in preparation for the US Grand Prix. Additionally, test driver Stéphane Sarrazin was present for all four days behind the wheel of the TF102B - the team's intermediary car - which has been especially built for testing purposes only and incorporates next season's engine, the RVX-03, and a new seven-speed gearbox.
"This will be a difficult race for us because we have never previously tested at Indianapolis and, judging by our simulations, it is a very technical track. Now we understand the TF102 better, we are hopefully in a better position to deal with learning new tracks than we were at the start of the season. It will be an interesting challenge, that's for sure."
"It's great to be going to Indianapolis because it is such a famous track and has such a great history. But I think this will be a difficult weekend for us because it is not the kind of track that traditionally suits our car. And, while our rivals are fine-tuning their cars on Friday, we will still be finding a baseline from which to work because we have never been there. After we nearly scored points at Monza last time out, it would be very satisfying to get a good result here."
"I've never previously been to Indianapolis but it's definitely an exciting place to go because it has such a lot of history. I've only looked at a map of the track and the key to being fast looks to be the infield section. Having said that, you don't want to run too much wing in race conditions because you'll be slow down the pitstraight and are likely to be overtaken. I'm looking forward to the whole experience."
Mika Salo on Indianapolis:
"I've only raced at the Brickyard once before, in 2000, and that was the first year that I drove there. From a driver's perspective, it's not a great track because the in-field section is too slow, with three of the corners being in first gear. On the other hand, though, we still manage to reach 330kph by the end of the straight, which is very quick and provides us with a good overtaking opportunity. There is always a great atmosphere at Indy, due to the full-to-capacity grandstands on the pitstraight. I hope the fans enjoy the show and are beginning to understand all about F1."
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