When you think about it, the return of the frontstretch chicane at the Grand Prix of Baltimore was inevitable.
Simon Pagenaud’s wild ride over a bump near the light rail tracks in Friday morning’s practice forced INDYCAR to come to a safe and timely solution. Grinding took place on the bump, but officials decided to re-install a more permanent chicane there after utilizing a tire barrier to create a mock version for the afternoon practice runs.
The installation, which consists of two curbs, should be ready to go in time for Saturday practice (9 a.m. ET) and qualifications (12:05 p.m. ET).
“I believe the problem with the track is the pavement before you get to the railroad tracks,” said INDYCAR president of competition Beaux Barfield. “A lot of the problem is the tracks are the high ground in that area, whereas the pavement in the Turn 7 area or at pit in the tracks are the low ground, so it’s easy to pave across them and achieve what we’re able to there.
“As quick and as easy as that is and it appears to be, it’s really impossible to do the same thing to do on the [front straight]. It’s really an unfortunate challenge there for us.”
A three-curb chicane was set by the rail tracks in last year’s running but was removed in order to create another passing opportunity going into Turn 1 on the Inner Harbor circuit.
Unfortunately, that plan has gone by the boards, and with driver safety being the top priority, the chicane was the only real option that INDYCAR had to work with — even if the drivers themselves weren’t keen on having it there at all.
“As far as the chicane, I think it was unanimous throughout [the drivers] that we didn’t want it, but right now, it’s the challenges that we face on a normal temporary street course, so we did the best solution for what we got,” said KV Racing’s Tony Kanaan on Friday. “Hopefully, we’ll put a good show for the fans.”
INDYCAR allotted a 30-minute afternoon session for the drivers with the mock chicane in place, with points leader Will Power leading the way with a fast lap of 81.4572 seconds in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet.
Five drivers are currently set to incur 10-spot grid penalties for unapproved engine changes this weekend in Baltimore: Mike Conway, Takuma Sato, Bruno Junqueira, Simona de Silvestro, and Charlie Kimball.
Quotes were taken from INDYCAR trackside reports.