IndyCar officials announced last week that Bryan Herta Autosport has been selected as the testing organization for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series project with Dan Wheldon as the lead test driver.
[media-credit name=”indycar.com” align=”alignright” width=”258″][/media-credit]”I think it’s super important,” Bryan Herta, co-owner of Bryan Herta Autosport, said of the team’s role in testing the car in last week’s teleconference. “We all ‑‑ everybody’s excited about the new car, what it’s going to look like, how fast is it going to be, you know, there’s going to be different engines going into it.
“So it’s important for us to make sure that the car is fast, reliable, safe, all those things, so that by the time it’s out on track and the public is seeing it, that it’s a finished product and something that everybody’s going to want to come out and watch racing next year.”
The team will begin testing in August and September, with all teams recieving the new chassis on December 15th.
Wheldon, who won the 100th Anniversary Indianapolis 500 last month, has been involved in testing situations like this before as he used to be a test driver for Honda.
“I think with something as serious as this, it’s not about achieving goals for yourself, it’s about achieving goals for everybody involved,” he said. “It’s, for me, a job that I’m going to take very, very seriously.I’m thankful to the IndyCar Series for giving me the opportunity.But there’s a lot you have to undertake.We need to make sure that the product that the IndyCar Series puts out towards the end of this year, beginning of 2012, is something that primarily the fans get very excited about, but also the teams and drivers. And obviously we want to make sure that the product we put out is incredibly safe. So it’s not, I would say, about achieving goals for myself, it’s more about achieving everything the manufacturers associated with the program want to achieve.
“And I think that’s why it’s very good to have Bryan Herta Autosport involved.We saw the job they were able to do at the Indianapolis 500.It’s great that Dalara are involved. They’ve put together a great car, and the car that we’ve been using for a long time now has produced incredibly great racing.It’s been very close but also from a safety standpoint it’s been good. And we’ve also got the involvement with Honda and Firestone.So everybody involved, I think, has goals to achieve and my job is about helping them achieve them.”
The team’s co-owners also have experience with being a part of test teams as Steve Newey, the other co-owner, was involved in setting up the Firestone test team back in the mid-nineties when they were talking about coming back into the series. With the past experience, they know the challenges that they’re facing.
“Well, some of the challenges, you know, are very similar to what a race team faces every race weekend or every test event,” Newey said. “And that is conducting the testing in a very practical manner, first of all, and conducting it in such a way that all the various invested parties get what they’re looking for in terms of results.
“So it’s a very tedious process.It can be at times it can be downright boring, frankly, because you’re not out there competing and racing against other teams and other drivers. So it’s about accumulating miles and confirming the structural integrity of all the components that are highly stressed and it’s a very methodical approach, and we’ve got a great team put together.
And I think I’m looking forward to it and it reminds me a lot of the program we did put together for Firestone back in 1994, and I might add that was a very successful program. And we’re taking this very serious, as Bryan said, and we’re looking forward to the challenge in providing each constituent that’s involved in the testing program with the conclusion that they’re looking for.”
Herta went on to say that the testing set to take place will be extensive as they play to visiting tracks weekly through the two months, including all different types of circuits. He added that it will be done with the new V6 motor, also, starting with Honda’s entry as it’ll be the first one ready, though other manufactures will have to chance to be tested throughout the two months.
Bryan Herta Autosport has been a team that has always fielded full-time Firestone Indy Lights entries, though never stepped up it up that much for the top level. With the win, they are now looking towards the future in what that could bring them.
“We’re looking forward to what that means for the future of our organization,” Herta said. “It’s no secret that we’re very happy with Dan, that our goal is to race full season in 2012, that all things being equal we’d love to do that with Dan.So I think we’re working in that direction. I think being part of this test program and the continuity that we bring over from the Indy 500, it’s the same group of guys, same driver, same people involved.We can transition seamlessly into the test program.Ideally out of the test program we’ll be able to transition into a full season program for next year.
“In terms of racing for this year, you know, theoretically right now on the schedule we’d be done in time to get to Vegas for the finale.And it’s something we’ve talked about, but our focus is on make prognosis sure we do a good job for this test program and really trying to gear up for next season.”
This year, Bryan Herta Autorsport has been working with Duarte Ferriera and getting him up to speed with the open-wheel cars.
“He’s done a great job for us,” Newey said of him. “And he’s progressed significantly from early this year when we started testing with him, and especially on the ovals. He’s performed like he’s been racing on ovals all his life. And he’s just taken to it like a duck in water, because he’s very aggressive on the ovals when he needs to be, and he’s smart when he’s in traffic, and he’s been able to generate his best finish of the year so far last race at Iowa he finished fifth.
“And we’re very pleased with his performance.He’s a very dedicated driver.His fitness regimen is more difficult and more stringent than many drivers I’ve been associated with in the past, and he’s got a bright future ahead of him and we’re real glad to have him, and we’re expecting bigger and better things out of him as the season progresses.”
The win is also been a key marker for Wheldon to speak of after coming into the year without having a ride and now maybe having the Indianapolis 500 win to lay back on for 2012.
“I was very confident at the end of last year that I would actually get something full time for this year,” he spoke of during the teleconference. “And that didn’t pan out.So I really don’t like to speculate on that stuff anymore, because clearly I’m not very good at that. But, you know, I will say:I think for me to come back for the Indianapolis 500 and have such a successful month and also a very enjoyable month with everybody from Bryan Herta Autosport, it’s really made me desperate to get back on the grid, but it’s got to be in the right situation.
“For me, I would love to be able to continue with Bryan and that’s what we’re all working towards, but we’ll just have to wait to see if that pans out in the future. But I certainly don’t think it’s hurt my chances, but in terms of am I confident that I will secure something for 2012, I think we’ll just to wait and see right now.”
Another advantage for Wheldon as he is looking for a ride in 2012 will be the laps under his belt with the new car.
“Well, I think it’s going to give me, I think, extensive mileage in the car,” he said of the testing. “You know, is that an advantage? Yes, probably. But for me, it’s not about getting an advantage over everybody else to be in a car for 2012. I think, as you know, I’ve done this kind of thing before with Honda, and it’s something that I took very seriously.
“I think if you know my personality you know how serious I would take it. It’s about ‑‑ I want to come out of this test program with everybody saying: You know what, Dan was extremely disciplined and did a great job. And if ever we do something like this again ‑‑ and this goes for all the manufacturers involved, we’d love to have him do it. That’s the kind of job that I want to do. And, yeah, I think obviously with the amount of mileage people are expected to do, it’s track time in a new car that no one else would have been in.
“So for sure it’s an advantage.But by the same token, from what I understand, it’s going to be pretty much open testing until St. Pete. So that will get swallowed up pretty quickly. It’s about being in a car as well for me.I haven’t been in one since Indianapolis, and I’m pretty desperate to get back in one.”