The Edmonton City Centre Airport is far from a novelty on the open wheel landscape. A mainstay since 2005, the venue is living proof that when it comes to temporary circuits, it’s tough to beat an airport.
But, this year, a new wrench has been thrown into the equation. With first-year promoters Octane Motorsports Group on board the closure of a runway used for the old circuit, a new layout emphasizing speed and offering several good overtaking spots has been conceived. A portion of the old circuit remains, but the rest of it is brand new to the series.
Bruno Couprie, engineer with Newman/Haas Racing, believes it will require a new setup that is very different from prior races. “Edmonton used to be a tricky road course, very fast and very bumpy,” he said. “The setup used to be very specific to this track. This year will be very different. I would say it will be the same level of difficulty, but very different challenges for the setup and the drivers.”
Fellow engineer Craig Hampson, also on the Newman/Haas team, added that the speeds will be drastically increased in 2011. “We predict a top speed somewhere above 170 miles per hour,” explained Hampson. “The new layout is just very different than the old one. That track was fun to drive on, and it was a good place to watch an Indy car stretch its legs and use the aerodynamic grip to get thru corners at a high level of acceleration and speed. But for the entertainment of a spectator for passing, it wasn't very good at all. From a fan's point of view, the new layout will be much more entertaining.”
Neither believes knowledge of the old circuit will carry over. “Other than knowing how to find our way from the hotel to the City Center airport, and what restaurants are best to eat at, I don't think prior knowledge is going to help any more,” quipped Hampson.
Couprie concurred with his engineering stable-mate. “Some (information) will (transfer over) because some turns are common to both tracks,” added Couprie. “But, that is very minimal. Our better chance of success comes from Newman/Haas Racing’s ability to do well on new tracks.”
Even though they didn’t want give too much of their strategy away, they referenced the aforementioned speeds as crucial to the setup. “I don't want to give anything away in terms of our plans, but the cornering speeds are much slower than in the past while the straights are faster,” mentioned Hampson. “This drives us to a very different type of setup for Edmonton.”
Despite the unknowns, Couprie is confident that Newman/Haas can continue their strong run this season. “We have a good database of setups and corners, so we have been able to do some homework and come up with some good setup directions.”