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IndyCar Detroit

“Awkward” new Detroit IndyCar track has less grip than expected – Kirkwood

Andretti Autosport’s Kyle Kirkwood says IndyCar's new Detroit street circuit has “quite a bit less grip than I think everyone expected” after Friday's opening practice session.

Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport Honda

Having raced on nearby Belle Isle Island from 1992, Penske Entertainment Corp decided to revive the downtown circuit for its IndyCar event with a new 1.7-mile, nine-turn layout in the shadow of the General Motors Renaissance Centre.

It utilises some sections of the 2.5-mile track used by Formula 1 between 1982 and 1988, and teams and drivers got their first taste of the circuit in a 90-minute session on Friday afternoon headed by Pato O'Ward.

The bumps on Jefferson Avenue’s 0.7-mile, 180mph straight caused bottoming and braking instability issues into Turn 3 as well as the opening corner.

The session was red-flagged six times for cars overshooting turns and stalling, while Agustin Canapino damaged his Juncos Hollinger Racing car by clipping the wall on both sides of Turn 7.

“It was honestly less carnage than I expected,” said Kirkwood, who crashed dramatically out of last weekend's Indianapolis 500.

“A lot of people went off in the runoffs, but no one actually hit the wall, I don't think, which actually surprised me. Hats off to them for keeping it clean, including myself.

“It was pretty good. It was quite a bit less grip than I think everyone expected.

“Maybe a little bit more bumpy down into Turn 3 than everyone expected. But overall they did a good job.”

When asked to elaborate on how bumpy it was compared to other street tracks, Kirkwood said: “It's not as bad as coming off the bridge at like Nashville, for instance. It's very, very bumpy throughout all the corners.

Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport Honda

Kyle Kirkwood, Andretti Autosport Honda

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

“It kind of is low-grip bumpy. The car is always doing weird things all the way through the corners.”

Kirkwood confirmed that Turn 3 is the best overtaking opportunity of the nine corners, with its high-speed approach leading into a left-hand hairpin, but that the bumps will cause some braking issues, which makes it “awkward”.

“It still creates passing opportunity, but not as much as what it looks like when you first go walk the track,” he said of Turn 3.

“It seems like this is wide open, it will be pretty easy here. [But] once you're doing 180, 190mph down into there, it doesn't feel as wide.

“It kind of tunnels in. It's strange because it's such a long brake zone that you kind of lose the feel of how close you're getting to the corner almost. It's a bit strange.

“But that's just due to the surface of the track because it's so bumpy heading down into there, like, you're playing with the brake pedal so you don't lock up, or the car jumps on you in the middle of brake zone. It's awkward.

“People are going to be hesitant because of that to want to make passes happen.”

When asked about other opportunities, he replied: “I really don't see a lot of opportunity without it creating carnage. You can pass into one, you can pass into eight, you might be able to pass into five, but you're not going to be able to go double file through there.

“I think the outside guy is going to go into the wall in a few of places that people will try and pass, to be honest.”

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