A lap with Mario Andretti

Mario Andretti will compete in the Porsche Supercup race at the US GP meeting, and was one of the first drivers to sample the new track when he tested the car at the end of August. Adam Cooper asked the 1978 World Champion for his views

A lap with Mario Andretti

"I think what's interesting about this is that Tony George has planned for a further reconfiguration of the track, which I think makes a lot of sense. It will have to show him that this will be there for a time before he reconfigures, and that it's going to be successful. Not that they've tried to hold anything back, as far as the expenses they've undertaken are concerned. But it would be better if you could stretch your legs a but more on the infield, and if he could rob a little more real estate it would be a little more interesting!

"It's a compromise, no question, and the word itself tells it all. They've tried to do the best job they could, and I don't think it's too bad. There are some good radius corners, but there's one extremely slow area with an extremely quick section following it. It does have the mix. I would say it's going to have a lap time similar to Austria. It's a matter of getting it figured out. I assure you it's going to be an interesting challenge, and I don't think it's going to be an easy track to set up for.

"Turn 1 is the obvious overtaking place; there's a very, very tight entry into the infield, and you must really, really keep in mind a good right hand apex, because you immediately go into Turn 2. Between Turn 2 and 3 that kink should be flat, and then you have a late apex for Turn 4, and that's a pretty quick corner. From Turn 5 it's flat into Turn 6, the lefthander. There's a fairly generous radius, and then a fairly short burst into Turn 7 that leads you onto the back straightaway. All that section is wide, and a good job's been done on the paving.

"I would say that if you have a seven-speed gearbox the back straightaway will be fifth gear. At the end of it there's a lefthander, Turn 8, that's quicker than you think. Run-offs generally look good, except here there's no gravel trap, and only a tyre wall and some grass leading to it. I told them what I thought, and I would suspect that they might have revised that.

"Again there's a short burst of acceleration, into the slowest part of the circuit, which is a right/left, and very, very tight. It'll be first or second gear. It's so slow, you can't believe it. And it's got no value because there's no overtaking that they could possibly think of doing there. On the first lap it's going to be like the Loews in Monte Carlo. Some cars will literally have to stop to wait for the queue to dissipate.

"There's a short burst into Turn 11, the righthander. What's going to be tricky is the transition onto the oval. There's a kink there, and you can't actually cheat on the inside kerbing too much because the abutment of the tunnel is right there. So you must negotiate the kink. That's flat, and you're still accelerating very hard through the gears, and then you've got the transition; even though they've filled it in, it's still abrupt.

"Actually with the Porsche Cup car if I had an understeer situation, and I couldn't keep it tight to the right, and would miss my apex and wind up at the transition 12 inches wider, the car would technically become airborne! It's going to be something to deal with, and all of these aspects are going to pose some people more problems than others.

"It's going to be very challenging because of the last corner, Turn 13. I don't think there's another corner like that in F1, and it's going to present something totally different. That's what's going to involve the most compromise in the set-up; you're going to have to key on that corner, and set the car up to really negotiate that one flat out, and perhaps give a way a few of the slow corners in the infield. If you've got all the downforce you need for the infield, you'll be bog slow down the straightaway. You'll have to give a portion of the infield up - I would say you'd probably run the max downforce dictated by Turn 13, just so you can do it flat. And you'll have to live with that.

"There's no run-off there, and I don't know how an F1 car will stand an impact of that force against a concrete wall, but I'm sure they knew what they were getting into when they accepted that corner. Turn 13 in the rain is going to be very, very interesting. Maybe that will give the tyre companies an idea of how to construct oval wet tyres! At least it does drain, and there are going to be no puddles."

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The Challenge of Turn 13
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