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Shank eager for “swift but sure progress” out of Blomqvist at Indy test

IndyCar team co-owner Mike Shank has laid out his expectations of Tom Blomqvist ahead of Wednesday's Rookie Orientation programme at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

The 29-year-old Briton will be one of three participants on Wednesday, alongside Chip Ganassi Racing’s Marcus Armstrong and Linus Lundqvist, with 2021 NASCAR Cup champion, Kyle Larson, getting his first taste of IndyCar machinery with Arrow McLaren on Thursday.

The programme consists of three controlled speed phases at the 2.5-mile superspeedway that are required ahead of competing in the 108th Indy 500 on May 26, 2024.

“We only get three sets of tyres for the whole day and right away, we've got to run through the stages of ROP,” Meyer Shank Racing co-owner, Mike Shank, told Autosport.

“I want to see swift but sure progress through those stages. And then when he gets to run with his second and third sets of tyres, I want to see him work toward being able to be flat around the place; comfortably, not panicked.

"He was very good there on the sim, he got right to it immediately. But there's going to be [three] cars out there that are likely to see each other probably at different times on the track. So, that's going to be new.

“Certainly, I just need him to get comfortable, which is good that we have to go through these speed steps. I'm happy with that, but I just want to see sure swiftness through the steps. I don't want to see him not sure. That's why we simmed him and he understands what we need to do.”

The progress Blomqvist has made after three starts in 2023 is exactly where Shank expected. Last month’s season finale at Laguna Seca, in particular, showed promising signs, working through a race of mayhem to run as high as sixth just past the midway point until inexperience came into play followed by an incident that left him retiring after 61 of 95 laps.

Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Photo by: Jake Galstad

“At Laguna, he made a mistake in the race, and he was running somewhere in the top 10 and exactly where I thought he should be right up until that point,” Shank said. “He gets better every single time he is in the car and that arc is going exactly how it should be.”

Then came an oval inauguration at Texas Motor Speedway just a few days after.

“I was able to get him in a simulator for Indy and Texas before we went out west,” Shank said. “Texas was tough, even in the simulator and Indy was much easier for him in the simulator. So we thought, 'Oh boy, Texas could be interesting.' By the end of the day in Texas, he got right up to speed, and he was flat the whole way around. He took to the oval much better than I thought he would.”

After team-mate Helio Castroneves did a 10-lap shakedown, Blomqvist was able to pound the pavement at the 1.5-mile superspeedway for over 200 laps in the Meyer Shank Racing Honda. 

“That was crazy,” Blomqvist said. “It was cool. The first lap I'm like, 'This is so weird.' I've never done anything like that. Just the way you sit, like the G's... I was so tense that first run just because you're trying to focus and just taking everything in and at the speeds everything is coming at you so fast. That first one was definitely an eye-opener.”

Blomqvist’s background has been nothing but road and street circuits, which has allowed for a greater understanding of feeling the car and manipulating different phases of the corner under braking. However, the transition to the oval takes an entirely different level of understanding.

“The braking phase on the street or road course is like the most important phase of the corner,” Blomqvist said.

Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Tom Blomqvist, Meyer Shank Racing Honda

Photo by: Michael L. Levitt / Motorsport Images

“It sets everything up. On the oval, it's gone. Right. What I found is you have to be a lot more precise on the oval. The steering inputs become a lot more fine. You have to be really smooth, which I actually like. I think it's just going to be the speed and getting used to the speed, racing at the speeds. Driving by yourself is one thing, but the race craft is a whole different element. That's going to be a new skill you have to develop.”

The benefits of Blomqvist getting the seat are invaluable ahead of next year’s debut hybrid engine, too.

“A rare moment of time that he got to do three race starts plus do two ovals,” Shank said, “all before we start into hybrid testing in December, which I think is a pretty unique opportunity.”

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