Alexander Rossi had all four wheels off the ground during a portion of his eighth Practice 2 lap on the first day of the 2019 REV Group Grand Prix weekend but still managed to set the day’s high mark, suggesting the championship challenger left some speed on the table.
At 4.014 miles in length, Road America is broken up into 15 sections by INDYCAR for timing and scoring purposes. Rossi set his personal best times in 13 of those sections on his fastest lap. The only areas of the track where he fell short of his personal best were Section 1 on the front stretch from start-finish to pit out and Section 12 which encompasses Turn 13 near the end of a lap.
While the numbers insist Rossi’s driving wasn’t optimal in these two areas, the size of the numbers demonstrate how close he was to turning his ideal lap — a hypothetical tour of the track that strings together a driver’s best section times. His fast lap saw him navigate the first section a mere 0.0028 seconds slower than his best and go 0.0151 seconds slower than his best in Section 12, totaling a 0.0179-second gap between his capability and his actual top lap on day one of the event.
The Section 1 shortcoming is small enough to have been caused by a gust of wind or the like, but his costly off at Turn 13 that thrilled onlookers was a clear detractor from his potential on what was otherwise his fastest four miles of the day.
“That lap wasn’t good for us,” said Rossi in his post-practice remarks. “I think we gave up a lot of time in Turn 6 and Turn 13.”
Given that it encompasses Turn 13, Rossi’s time loss in Section 12 when he kicked up dust and lifted his race car off the ground for a fraction of a second is easy to understand. The misstep, though time consuming, still represented his second-best run through Turn 13, illuminating perhaps how much of a relative trouble spot the area after Canada Corner (Turn 12) was for Rossi throughout Practice 2. His best Section 12 time ranked 13th out of 23 drivers, making it his second-worst portion of the track on the day.
Section 6, containing Turns 6 and 7, wasn’t one of the sections that took away from Rossi potentially achieving his ideal lap — surprising since his eighth dive into Turn 6 during the second practice was far from smooth, as he referenced. Onboard video showed him countersteering under the iconic Corvette bridge into the turn but quick hands kept him on track and on pace to top the session. Like Section 12, Section 6 was a problem area for Rossi throughout Practice 2; despite setting his personal best through there even with the slide, the time was 10th fastest compared to his 22 competitors.
If Rossi can clean up his worst sections, the potential for a substantially improved lap time exists. And with the field-wide ideal lap being 1:42.3645, it’s clear that Rossi can go at least 0.7561 seconds faster, based on his chart-topping Practice 2 time.
Rossi ranks 10th or worse in three sections: the aforementioned Sections 6 and 12 as well as Section 14, a 0.122727-mile strip of the track between the exit of the final turn and the entrance to pit lane. Shaving time from any of these will only serve to improve his ideal lap and, potentially, his actual lap.
Rossi’s quest for his third pole and second victory of 2019 — and the associated points — continues Saturday at Road America with Practice 3 and knockout qualifying ahead of Sunday’s 55-lap race.
Ben was hooked after witnessing Dario Franchitti's victory at the 2009 Iowa Corn Indy 250 and began providing media coverage from IndyCar events in 2015. If IndyCar is on track, he can be found live-posting and updating The Apex's Race Reports from his iPad Pro.