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ROPs and hybrid debuts: IndyCar concludes busy week of testing

Written by Archie O’Reilly

The NTT IndyCar Series may have had nine hours of open testing at the Thermal Club only days prior, but the majority of teams have been back on track in the week following the $1 Million Challenge

A four-day run of testing commenced with a three-car Rookie Orientation Programme (ROP) at Texas Motor Speedway last Wednesday ahead of April’s Indianapolis 500 Open Test. Chip Ganassi Racing’s Kyffin Simpson, Ed Carpenter Racing (ECR)’s Christian Rasmussen and Dale Coyne Racing (DCR)’s Nolan Siegel all got their first taste of a superspeedway in an Indy car.

Simpson and Rasmussen had the experience of their respective teammates Alex Palou and Ed Carpenter, who ran initial laps to check the set-up of the car and were on hand to offer guidance. Siegel did not have this novelty but, along with his fellow rookies, successfully passed the programme. 

Other oval rookies for the 2024 Indy 500 - Marcus Armstrong, Linus Lundqvist, Tom Blomqvist and Kyle Larson - ran and passed their ROPs on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) oval last October.

The road course at IMS was the subject of the continuation of the week’s testing, offering those that were not involved in a rigorous off-season hybrid testing programme their first opportunity to test the hybrid power unit. The system is expected to be introduced in Mid-Ohio in July after an introduction at the start of the 2024 season was delayed.

Ganassi, Team Penske, Andretti Global and Arrow McLaren had been the only teams to test the hybrid unit. But last week’s testing offered the chance for AJ Foyt Racing, DCR, ECR, Juncos Hollinger Racing (JHR), Meyer Shank Racing (MSR) and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (RLL) to get to grips with the new technology for the first time.

Three teams that did not take the opportunity to test at Barber Motorsports Park the week before also participated in team testing in the current, non-hybrid 2024 specification last week. Andretti ran on Friday, then Penske and ECR, who also tested the hybrid, were on track on Saturday. Ganassi, McLaren, Foyt, RLL and MSR had been present at Barber.

Thursday saw only hybrid testers on track, with Tom Blomqvist (MSR), Romain Grosjean (JHR), Jack Harvey (DCR), Graham Rahal (RLL), Sting Ray Robb (Foyt) and Rinus VeeKay (ECR) in action. 

“It’s fairly similar,” VeeKay said, as per IndyCar. “There’s just a lot more buttons for me to press and a lot more stuff you need to go through.”

It was noted in a piece on the IndyCar site that VeeKay was one driver to successfully start the car from within the cockpit - a new possibility with the hybrid system. This should reduce the need for the AMR Safety Crew to intervene and start cars externally after stalls, reducing the need for red flags during practice and qualifying or caution periods during races. 

Also quoted by IndyCar, veteran Rahal said his first hybrid outing was good but described the system as “a whole new ball of wax” and detailed the difficulty related to getting used to energy regeneration. Drivers are anticipated to be given more control with the hybrid unit, with opportunities for regeneration and deployment offering more push-to-pass-like options.

Friday then saw Agustin Canapino (JHR), Santino Ferrucci (Foyt), Pietro Fittipaldi (RLL), Christian Rasmussen (ECR), Felix Rosenqvist (MSR) and Nolan Siegel (DCR) in hybrid testing action. Given their three-driver lineup, RLL also ran on Saturday with Christian Lundgaard, rounding out a hybrid test that saw a combined 988 laps run.

This running was done alongside the non-hybrid team testing for Andretti, Penske and ECR ahead of the Sonsio Grand Prix on the IMS road course at the start of May.

It has been a productive start to the first of four weeks leading up to the next race on the streets of Long Beach.


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