Two of the IndyCar Series’ most prominent competitors visited Circuit of The Americas Monday to gather data for Firestone ahead of the first race for the series at the venue in March 2019.
Tony Kanaan represented AJ Foyt Racing and Chevrolet during the one-day outing while 2018 championship hopeful Alexander Rossi participated in his Honda-powered Andretti Autosport machine.
COTA was the site of one of Rossi’s seven F1 starts in 2015. Kanaan, meanwhile, has exactly 300 Indy car starts on his resume following September’s season-ending INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma but had never lapped COTA before Monday.
Though it marks the most public meeting between COTA and Indy cars to date, the test was meant to aid Firestone in developing safe, competitive rubber to suit COTA specifically and no official lap times were released.
“There’s a lot of different elements to Circuit of The Americas,” Rossi said. “Turns 1 through 10 are very high speed and pretty high commitment and you need a good rhythm through there. And then from Turns 12 to 17, it’s all very slow, first-gear type of stuff which is reminiscent almost of a street course.
“You need a car that is good on both ends of the spectrum so that’ll be the challenge for teams and drivers when they come back — finding the balance between high and low speed.”
The unique layout and characteristics of COTA were almost identically explained by veteran driver Kanaan.
“It’s very challenging,” said the 43-year-old. “It’s the type of track that is very long (and has) fast corners, slow corners, mid-to-high-speed corners — it’s hard to set up a car the way you really want it. … It’s a big responsibility between Alex and I to do a tire test and find the right tire for when we come back.”
The newly renovated ISM Raceway near Phoenix was effectively replaced by COTA on the 2019 schedule but, per these drivers’ comments, the road course in Texas is as strong an addition as any.
“It always blows me away how cool this racetrack is to drive,” Rossi said. “The facility is always kind of awe-inspiring every time we come here so very excited to get back here next year for real with the full field and put on a great race.”
The full IndyCar field will in fact converge on COTA one time before the race itself for the first of three open tests in 2019.