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IndyCar Mid-Ohio

Palou relishes maiden hybrid pole after “tight” IndyCar qualifying battle

The reigning and two-time IndyCar Series champion was all smiles after coming out on top by 0.0024s after a thrilling qualifying battle at Mid-Ohio on Saturday

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda

Alex Palou’s adaptability to IndyCar’s hybrid era was on display Saturday at Mid-Ohio after leading all three rounds of knockout qualifying and claiming pole by 0.0024s over Arrow McLaren's Pato O’Ward.

The 13-turn, 2.258-mile natural terrain road course has been this weekend’s playground for Palou, who earned his second consecutive pole and third over the last six races this season.

“Yeah, it was tight,” said Palou, driver of the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda. “It was tight all qualifying.

“Fortunately, we had a really fast car since practice one. Q1 was good, Q2, as well. We made it through, which is the target.

“Then we saw that Pato did only one push lap on the alternate (tyres) in the Fast 12, and we knew it was going to be too close in the Fast Six. We had to try and gamble a little bit and made a few changes for Fast Six to try and get a little bit, and it worked.

“Yeah, super happy to start on the front row tomorrow, and (the) best way to kick off the hybrid era.”

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, NTT P1 Award, Pole, celebration

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, NTT P1 Award, Pole, celebration

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

The hybrid era for North America’s premier open-wheel championship begins at the midpoint of the season. In collaboration with Chevrolet and Honda, the first-of-its-kind hybrid pairs with the current 2.2-liter twin-turbocharged V6 internal combustion engine with supercapacitor hybrid technology.

An energy storage system (ESS) made up of 20 supercapacitors is joined together with a low-voltage (48V) motor generator unit (MGU), with both fitting into the bellhousing between the engine and the gearbox.

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This weekend’s round at Mid-Ohio has 310 kilojoules per lap available and paired with the traditional push-to-pass on road and street circuits (200 seconds at a maximum of 20 seconds per push at Mid-Ohio). Together, there is over 800 horsepower available at times.

And learning this new technology has been a challenge for everyone, including Palou, who admittedly had an issue in Turn 4 on multiple occasions in the second practice that needed correcting before qualifying.

“Yeah, I would say on braking it (the balance of the car) changes a little bit, and also we have a little bit more weight than we used to,” said Palou, noting the additional 30kg the hybrid unit adds.

“But I just went off because I thought that there was more grip on the alternates and I was just pushing hard. I went deep a little bit only with two wheels and then I decided to go even deeper with (Turn) 4.

“I would say it was more a driver mistake than the car balance being different or more tough there.”

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, NTT P1 Award, Pole, celebration

Alex Palou, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, NTT P1 Award, Pole, celebration

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

Although things appear seamless for Palou, the reigning and two-time series champion, shared how both he and O’Ward continue to maximize their learning of the hybrid, even with the details coming down to the thousandths of a second.

“Yeah, I'm pretty sure if we were able to compare our data, like 100 percent of it, we would see differences in ways to get half a tenth here, half a tenth there,” Palou said.

“Not from driving, just from the pure regen and deployment. I'm sure we are… I don't know if 70% or 90% there, but I'm not sure we're getting 100% of it.

“Yeah, it's interesting. It's a lot of work, but at the same time, you don't want to forget about the principal stuff.

“You cannot focus so much about the percentage of battery and where do we recharge and deploy and then forget about the balance being really bad and losing three and a half tenths because of balance.”

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