Alex Lloyd’s recent tweet -- Make sure all your fillings are securely in place (paraphrased) -- was tongue-in-cheek advice for the five IZOD IndyCar Series drivers who will compete for the first time over 75 laps on the 2.6-mile street circuit in São Paulo, Brazil, this weekend.
Hopefully, according to circuit designer Tony Cotman of NZR Consulting, a bone-rattling racing surface won’t be an issue for the second visit of the series to South America’s largest city. Multiple city government-backed infrastructure upgrades have been completed for the benefit of competitors and spectators.
“The entire course has been paved, and unlike last year when we were really struggling with time this year it’s been paved with the Interlagos mix so the pavement will hold up much better,” said Cotman, referring to the permanent road course in the southern part of the state of São Paulo.
“But it’s a difficult thing. You pave and one hour later there are cars running on it. One day later you’ve had 30,000 cars travel over it.”
Because of that heavy traffic – there are 7 million vehicles in use in the city -- the event will be held on the weekend only.
Cotman is seeking a balance between the pavement being too smooth – “it would be too slippery for the cars; no grip” – and drivers losing their grip on the wheel because of unevenness. Additionally, crews have ground grooves in the concrete Anhembi Sambadrome (the permanent stadium section of the course that is chiefly used for the parades of Carnival) to alleviate the slippery conditions quickly discovered in the inaugural event.
Turn 1 (a left-hander exiting the Sambadrome straight) also is three feet wider (to 40 feet) with more run-off area, and curbs have been removed from Turns 6, 7 and 9.
Such amendments could further enhance the action (there were 93 passes in the 2010 race) on an 11-turn course that features multiple overtaking zones. The nearly mile-long backstretch is the longest on the series’ calendar, with a 180-degree right-hand turn at its terminal point.
“I think it’s great and the reason is you can pass,” said Team Penske’s Will Power, who won the race last year from Row 3. “Every circuit should be built with a massive straight like that because you don’t have to stress about being on pole. It doesn’t really matter where you qualify; you know you can get through the pack. You know you’ll be able to pass. I knew that if I was in that bunch at the end I would have a chance at winning. That’s what I love about that place.”
Power didn’t mind the bumpy racing surface, comparing it to the airport runway utilized as part of the St. Petersburg course.
“It added to the character how rough the surface was,” he said. “The main thing is how good the racing was.”
Added A.J. Foyt Racing’s Vitor Meira, who was the highest-finishing Brazilian (third) last year: “When I go to a street course I’m thinking they’re not for race cars but to serve the public so we are the ones who have to adapt to it, whether it’s bumpy or slippery or whatever to make a good show. I hope there are fewer bumps, but I don’t try to put any expectations on it and we have to adapt.”