The RACER mailbag, December 29
Welcome to the RACER mailbag. Questions for Marshall Pruett or any of the other RACER editors can be sent to [email protected] Due to the high volume of questions received, we cannot guarantee that every letter will be published, but we will respond to as many as possible. Posted questions may be edited for style or clarity.
Q: What is the noise level for IndyCar drivers when racing in the Indy 500 (or any race for that matter)? What protection do helmets offer their ears? Do the headphones they wear to communicate with their pits make the noise better or worse?
Janis in fishermen
MARSHALL PRUETT: He’s Canadian and nice, and he still has his hearing, so I asked the mayor of Hinchtown to help me with an answer:
“The earpads we wear are custom molded, so they offer very good sound protection, in addition to obviously wearing a headset. It’s still quite loud, but you appreciate the protection you get when the earpiece moves in your ear and you lose the seal! The volume of radio communications with the team is adjustable, so you will find the level that suits you at the start of each weekend. “- James Hinchcliffe
Q: With Mike Shank having successfully switched from sports cars to IndyCar, do you know if other IMSA teams are considering a similar move?
Scott C., Bargersville, IN
MP: Pretty much a one-way street these days, with IndyCar teams returning / expanding into IMSA, not the other way around. I’m still waiting for Ed Carpenter to make the jump, and Dale Coyne snooped around a few years ago. Believe me, just as I hear about something serious from an IMSA team watching IndyCar, you’ll read about it.
Q: I see Santino and Conor are both entered for the Chile Bowl in January. Why do you think Kirkwood, Rossi, Pato, etc., don’t try?
MP: I guess it’s mostly an invitation. Rossi has said he’s cutting his schedule, so we know that part, but if they’re not prevented from doing that by their contracts, I imagine most IndyCar drivers would drive to the Chili Bowl if seats were available.
Q: Maybe a photo for the post bag. Note the banners and upper display above Sonny and Cher. Sounds cool to be able to watch the 500 after the fact in a theater. From my research, this theater was in LA. I found this photo in a forum for VW. Looks like it’s early 60s since the bus predates 61.
Aaron Smith, Medford, OR
MP: Some of my elders have told me about watching important races like the Indy 500 and Monaco on a closed circuit in movie theaters. Somewhere buried in storage I have a poster promoting the 1966 Indy 500 closed-circuit tuning (I think it was for ’66 – I remember Jimmy Clark’s Lotus) that I have to find…
Could you imagine this happening again today in an IMAX theater? Sign me up!
Q: I asked Robin Miller a similar question to this some time ago, and wanted your advice. I was wondering if there would be a situation where a driver would have to lend a hand to the mechanics working on a race car (maybe grab a hammer to crush the crash damage, or buy the guys donuts and coffee after taking out an all-night stand)? As I’m talking about it, who was the most mechanically-inclined driver you’ve known in your years in motorsport?
MP: I wouldn’t say it has to, but yes there are situations where having an extra pair of hands to handle some of the menial tasks will help speed up repairs. But unless the driver is an experienced mechanic, team leaders will keep them away from the keys for safety reasons.
You have to be able to trust the people who take it apart or reassemble and the IndyCar, and that line won’t be crossed, even if the person is driving it. There were a few pilots – but not many – on the teams I worked on who stayed and helped, had dinner, coffee etc which was always great. Others, not so much. Once or twice we had to force the driver to leave – they felt terrible about the wreckage and wanted to stay in a unit demonstration – but we needed them to be fresh and ready to drive the thing. at its limit in the morning, so they had the boot before midnight.
Most mechanically inclined would probably be Bill Auberlen, sports car legend (and former open-wheeled Atlantic badass), who drove for my little team in an endurance race in 2005. Have the one of your drivers sitting next to you on the pit wall, looking at the car you built and pointing out the things he would have done differently – and those suggestions being better ideas than mine – was both embarrassing and illuminating. Bill is the best.
Q: With so many racing series I know the cars are different, but can you please explain what makes them all so different? IndyCar to F1 to NASCAR to Formula E to Supercars to Le Mans to IMSA (and what all of those divisions mean in IMSA). Thank you very much.
Mark, Altadena, CA
MP: OK, let’s go:
IndyCar: Series with open wheels, special cars, almost special engines, an emphasis on containing costs so that the technology and creativity involved are limited, racing on the most diverse set of circuits imaginable. More about the people who drive and drive the car as the car being the biggest contributor to its competitiveness. If a team or an engine manufacturer finds an advantage, it will not be taken away.
Formula 1: Open-wheel series, limited focus on cost containment, each team builds their own cars (for the most part), the highest tech of any racing series, brutally fast, the circuits are nowhere near equaling the IndyCar diversity. An F1’s gearbox costs about the same as a full IndyCar.
NASCAR: Take whatever we think is a spec with IndyCar and multiply it by 10. Everything about the show, less about the cars, although the new, next-gen machines take the CUP out of the dark ages of technology. of the race. Mainly ovals, with minimal road racing. If you’re into WWE, you might be wondering if Vince McMahon was involved in scripting some of the races as “sports entertainment.” Teams or constructors finding an advantage will not be allowed to last long.
Formula E: Open-wheel series, fully electric, and went from a 100% spec, slow and lame, to less spec with engines, more speed, etc. Great marketing series, runs in a bunch of new city streets sites around the world, and team owners have made a ton of money from their entries. There are a lot of auto / EVs involved, but we’re also seeing a steady migration of OEMs saying their goodbyes.
Supercars: Formerly a touring car series, now a purebred GT series with cars built from the ground up with very strict regulations. They look like production muscle cars, but follow a NASCAR tech script, which makes for great road racing.
IMSA: I won’t explain all of the different classes as there are too many resources online to acquire this in-depth education degree. Purebred prototypes and production-based GT cars, running with a mix of professional and non-professional (but very good) drivers. Factories and privateers play in the WeatherTech Championship, with endurance road racing as the main principle.