By Amy Konrath
Today’s IZOD IndyCar Series, Firestone Indy Lights and Mazda Road to Indy headlines:
1. INDYCAR augments Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program
2. Lotus confirms Alesi Indy 500 entry
3. Yacaman works to offset carbon footprint
1. INDYCAR augments Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program: INDYCAR, the sanctioning body for the IZOD IndyCar Series, announced today that it will condense its Indianapolis 500 Rookie Orientation Program (ROP) into three speed phases from its traditional four, while still maintaining a total of 40 laps for the program.
Phase I will consist of 10 laps at speeds ranging from 200 to 205 mph. Phase II will consist of 15 laps at speeds ranging from 205 to 210 mph, and Phase III will focus on 15 laps at 210 mph and over. Data and car settings will be monitored by officials as drivers progress through the phases.
Driver coach and two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk will oversee ROP on behalf of IZOD IndyCar Series officials along with Race Director Beaux Barfield. Tony Kanaan, the 2004 IZOD IndyCar Series champion and driver for KV Racing Technology, will serve as a driver advisor.
“As we head into preparations for the Indianapolis 500, we felt it was important to have ROP pace our rookie drivers through more quality laps at relevant speeds,” said Barfield, INDYCAR President of Competition. “Our emphasis will focus on car control, car placement and a consistent driving pattern in addition to the speed benchmarks.
“We have a great wealth of experience in the paddock that we can utilize to prepare these drivers for their first run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Arie will be a great resource — from a general racing line to reading the wind to prepare for entry into Turn 1. Additionally, it is beneficial to have a current driver such as Tony on hand to speak specifically on driving the new car at Indianapolis.”
Luyendyk, who made 17 consecutive starts in the “500″ and was the 1985 Rookie of the Year, also holds the track four-lap (236.986 mph in 1996) and one-lap (237.498 mph) qualifying records.
“It’s really good for the rookies to have the opportunity to have guys like us to talk to them and give them insight,” Luyendyk said. “I’ll share a lot of my experiences – stuff that catches you and before you know it you’re out. No matter how many times you drive on this racetrack, there’s always something to learn.”
ROP will take place from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on May 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Phases I and II must be completed during this time, or during other rookie-only sessions to be scheduled by INDYCAR on May 12 and May 13. Phase III may be completed at any time the track is open to all cars.
Drivers scheduled to participate include: Jean Alesi, Rubens Barrichello, Bryan Clauson, Wade Cunningham, Katherine Legge, James Jakes, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud. All Indianapolis 500 rookies, along with returning driver Michel Jourdain Jr., must pass the program before they are permitted to participate in the event.
Indianapolis 500 veteran Sebastien Bourdais will participate in an Indianapolis 500 refresher program on May 10.
2. Lotus confirms Alesi Indy 500 entry: One of Jean Alesi’s first stops upon arriving May 7 in Indianapolis was the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it wasn’t to tour the museum.
The 47-year-old former Formula One veteran of 13 seasons announced in September that he sought to compete in the Indianapolis 500 for the first time for the “mighty but hugely attractive challenge,” and with official paperwork submitted to INDYCAR on May 8 he took the initial step to making it a realization.
On May 10, Alesi will join seven other first-year competitors in the Rookie Orientation Program at the 2.5-mile oval in a Lotus-powered Dallara entered by Firestone Indy Lights team Fan Force United. Alesi is a Lotus ambassador and his personal sponsor, FP Journe – a Swiss watchmaker – is the primary sponsor of the Month of May effort.
“I feel ready for the Indy 500, but also I am very happy to be doing the rookie test ahead of real practice,” said Alesi, who last week spent two days at the Dallara Automobili factory in Italy learning about the Speedway and car set-ups on its sophisticated simulator. “This will give me time to gain confidence and the feeling for the car and the track. The race is now just three weeks away, and we’re going to be working flat out up to that date.
“We’ve been talking about this race for a long time and trying to find the right team to go with. I’m very happy to be joining Fan Force United. Lotus believes it’s the right place for me to be, and I trust the team completely and am sure we will do a super job.”
Former Indy car driver Tyce Carlson, Jason Peters, Scott Williamson and Chris Williams comprise the ownership group of Fan Force United, which also will have two entries in the Firestone Freedom 100 at the Speedway on May 25 (Emerson Newton-John and Firestone Indy Lights regular Armaan Ebrahim).
“Our goal has always been to win the Indy 500, but first you must qualify and we are working hard to achieve that with Jean and Lotus,” Williams said. “Our team has a huge amount of experience, which will hopefully help Jean to achieve his goals.”
Former Indy car team owner Greg Beck is joined by team manager by Indy 500-winning engineer Tim Wardrop and team manager Ted Bitting.
Alesi made 201 F1 starts with six teams, the last with Jordan in the 2001 Japanese Grand Prix. In his debut in 1989 – replacing Michele Alboreto for the French Grand Prix for Tyrrell Racing – Alesi finished fourth. He has since competed in the German Touring Car Championship (DTM), the Speedcar Series and in the 24 Hours of Le Mans (2010).
“It’s going to be very interesting to see how far natural skill can get him,” Lotus said in a statement.
3. Yacaman works to offset carbon footprint: The partnership between Admire Life, the Gustavo Yacaman Foundation and Biomax, is more than a sponsorship for Yacaman’s Firestone Indy Lights car.
This association is also part of BioMax’s “Be Eco” program, a plan of the Colombian energy firm, which includes several initiatives that help preserve the planet with Team Moore Racing driver as a leader of the campaign.
The first step is to create a CO2 capture center at Bojonawi , a nature reserve in Puerto Carreño, Colombia. To do this, Admire Life and Biomax planted more than 15,000 trees to help the eco-system run under optimal conditions, in hopes of offsetting some 400 tons of CO2 in its first stage. The project also considers the protection of endangered species, the protection of a native forest and water sources around the area.
“For now we have only 1,500 trees, almost 10 percent of our goal,” said Alejandro Jaramillo, Biomax Market Manager. “For next year, we expect to double the number of trees planted in the natural reserve. The idea is to reduce the carbon footprint on the planet.”
Yacaman will be an active part of the campaign delivering eco messages about how to be more environmentally-friendly.
“We will use the social networks and videos, with messages to every driver of any vehicle,” Yacaman said. “You can help the planet. We are sending practical tips, like using the gearbox or air conditioning. The accounts on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube about Biomax, Admire Life and Gustavo Yacaman, are ready for this campaign. It is very easy to ‘Be Eco.’”
Other initiatives complement the program, such as energy savings in fuel stations and generating energy by wind and solar power.
“We think of our children, they are going to have a healthier planet,” said Ramiro Sanchez, Biomax President. “Biomax always think to help the planet, we must all make an effort to improve the living conditions of the environment in which we live.”
This is the Admire Life’s second program, which began with “Clean Races.”
In the first year, the program offset over 14,000 kg of CO2, which corresponds to the carbon footprint of Yacaman’s Firestone Indy Lights car. This year, along with “Be Eco,” Yacaman’s foundation expects to start a third program that seeks to offer more ways to reach carbon neutral.
The next IZOD IndyCar Series race is the Indianapolis 500 Mile on May 27 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised by ABC at 11a.m. (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network on SiriusXM (XM 94 and Sirius 212). The next Firestone Indy Lights race is the Firestone Freedom 100 on May 25 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The race will be televised live by NBC Sports Network at Noon (ET) and broadcast by the IMS Radio Network.