A year ago, Chevy teams checked into Sonoma Raceway with virtually no idea of the potential locked inside the DW12. Weeks before that cold morning in February, drivers had observed the car’s “scary” handling on ovals and its diminished power band. The Sonoma test would make or break the car’s reputation, especially as the test was open to the public.
The Sonoma test went a long way towards proving that the car was not a pig, and speeds approached the prior year’s race pace by the end of the first day. If the radical looks of the car occassionally proved polarizing to fans, its road course performance at the first test in Sonoma heldped allay fears that the DW12 was a dud. And that wouldn’t have been fitting for a car named afer the late Dan Wheldon.
This year, IndyCar teams arrive with a year of history and performance benchmarks. While this is also a Chevy test (and two key teams – Penske and Andretti – will not attend), the road ahead is less bumpy than the situation facing the series last year. If there is any difference in 2013, it’s that the teams are no longer on a level playing field as they were in 2012. A new car is a great equalizer; a car with a year of history is an entirely different matter. Teams like Penske don’t spend the winter standing still; rest assured the performance gap may widen this season.
Other teams, like Ed Carpenter Racing, must make the most of the Sonoma test. The team wasn’t at the Sebring test and so has not logged any miles in 2013.
“Anytime there are people testing somewhere and you’re not there you feel like you’re missing something, but we’ll get our turn soon and we’re excited about that,” Carpenter said. “The season is just around the corner and we have a lot of work to do out there so it should be a good test.”
In either event, this second test of spring training is sure to be signfiicant because it’s the first test on a circuit used during the regular season. You can log all the miles you want at Sebring, but Sebring is not on the schedule and it is a short-term yardstick for performance. For better or worse, the rubber hits the real racing surface in two days.
We’ll be there to provide you with front-row access and coverage of the test.