EPIC members got VIP access to the Team Ethanol garage today. As part of the pre-race festivities the Ethanol Promotion and Information Council sets up early morning tours for member reps. A special pass gives members privileged access and allows them to get an up close look at Team Ethanol’s two cars. Steve Wolf pointed out the defining features of the two IndyCars and described what it’s like to be behind the wheel.
Wolf said this is the first year the IRL is using paddle shifting. Until last year, IndyCar drivers had to take one hand off the wheel in order to shift gears with a stick shift. Now, they can keep both hands on the wheel while they shift with a paddle on either side of the steering wheel.
IndyCar fuel tanks are smaller since the League switched to ethanol. Ethanol gets better mileage than the previous IRL fuel, methanol. Steve explained the League needed to make the tanks smaller so the fuel didn’t outlast the tires. The smaller tank, ultimately means less weight, allowing IndyCars to achieve higher top speeds.
Steve says the pit window opens up about every 25 laps and he expects about eight to nine pits during this year’s Indy 500. Pit stops average between seven and nine seconds. Steve says the Team Ethanol pit crew is among the best in the League.
An IndyCar isn’t exaclty the most comfortable car out there to drive. Steve says the cockpit is a snug fit, with the IndyCar seat molded specifically for the driver. Ryan had to sit in the cockpit for three hours in order to get his customized seat, which Steve says is just a quarter inch thick at the bottom. Not much cushioning for a race that lasts a few hours!
Ryan will have no air conditioning in the cockpit. Steve explained the a/c was taking up too much horsepower so they had to lose it. An expected temp of 80 degrees during the race on Sunday means Team Ethanol expects it will be about 90 degrees on the track. When you consider to the fire jumpsuit Ryan will be wearing, you can imagine how hot it could get with no a/c. But, Wolf assures us that Ryan will have enough water to keep hydrated during the 200-lap race.