The first official weekend of the Verizon IndyCar Series Off-Season did not feel like a weekend off to me! In fact, it was just as packed with coverage, travel & the beautiful sound of race cars as the past 6 months. The last official testing of the Indy Lights new Dallara chassis, known as the IL-15, was this past Saturday at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was the only testing for the car that I was able to attend, given my schedule, but I found it a beautiful sort of “full circle” event, seeing as how I was in attendance for its initial unveiling at the same race track in May of this year.
The other interesting piece to that whole puzzle is that I was standing next to driver, Gabby Chaves, for a portion of the May event. I had asked him at one point what he thought of the car & if he was curious to get behind the wheel of it. He agreed that while he would like to drive it, as it looked like a great race car… he of course hoped he would be driving an IndyCar in 2015 instead. This made perfect sense and I wished him the best in that endeavor. Little did either of us know at that time, that he would end up being the 2014 Indy Lights Champion, and quickly begin to fulfill both of those wants. Having the opportunity to drive the IL-15 became a reality for Chaves on Saturday at the 2.5 mile IMS oval & hopefully the 2015 IndyCar seat is not far behind!
Chaves is no stranger to the infamous track – having been the P2 finisher of the closest finish in Speedway history! The unforgettable 4-wide finish of the 2013 Indy Lights Firestone Freedom 100 was shared with Peter Dempsey (P1), Sage Karam (P3) and Carlos Munoz (P4). He followed up that stunning display at IMS with a win at the oval in 2014.
The Indy Lights Champ completed 76 test laps in the IL-15 this past weekend, adding his name to yet another record – this one being the fastest average lap in a Lights car. He hit a 191.900 mph lap average, with a top speed of 200 mph during one of the test laps. This was the fastest the car had been pushed throughout the testing. Chaves gave it a true shake-down, giving the AER-turbocharged racer a chance to show what it is truly capable of. One of those things, is to amaze the ears of anyone within audible range… particularly those individuals situated along the front stretch when this car comes by at full speed. The sound that the IL-15 makes coming out of Turn 4, accelerating continuously toward the yard of bricks… I mean, WOW. I was nearly positive it was going to achieve a smooth take off, put its landing gear up and fly right out of the Speedway like a fighter jet, over the intersection of 16th & Georgetown. I found myself closing my eyes during a few of the pass-bys, in order to solely take in the pure music of this machine. I can’t even fathom how amazing it will be to hear a dozen or more of these cars on track together!
Not to be outdone, the aesthetic beauty of this new Dallara dream car leaves little else to be desired – the sleek form balanced with safety elements & technologically advanced features gives this MRTI series a “mini DW-12” and provides the safest Indy Lights racer ever developed. It overwhelms the senses in the best way possible.
While testing of the IL-15 is complete, the car will be on the road course at IMS and piloted by Verizon IndyCar Series driver Josef Newgarden, for some demo laps on both Saturday, September 13th & Sunday, September 14th. Don’t blink, because you might miss it! The IL-15 will make appearances at 9:00am & again at 12:45pm, both days. The sessions will last 15-30 minutes. The remainder of the day will be filled by USF2000, Pro Mazda & Indy Lights practice sessions so make sure you come out to IMS and enjoy the weekend with some of open-wheel racing’s most promising talent! Stake out a spot on the Turn 2 viewing mounds or the South Terrace Grandstands and enjoy the show, because even though the race schedule might be complete for 2014, the on-track activity is far from over!