Newman/Haas Racing preview

Sao Paulo

Newman/Haas Racing preview

NHR Aims to Carry Momentum to Brazil with Servia and Hinchcliffe
Seventh Race in Brazil ror Newman/Haas Racing

Newman/Haas Racing competed in CART-sanctioned events in Rio de Janeiro from 1996-2000 with drivers Michael Andretti and Christian Fittipaldi*.

We do have a lot of work ahead of us and we are more excited than ever to keep improving.

Oriol Servia

The best start for the team on the 1.86-mile, D-shaped oval in Rio was by Brazilian Fittipaldi who earned his first CART pole in his homeland in 1999. The team's best finish in Brazil is third, also by Fittipaldi in 1999. After winning his first pole, Fittipaldi was hoisted on the shoulders of his fans in what was a spirited Brazilian celebration. In 2010, the team competed in the inaugural IZOD IndyCar Series event here with Hideki Mutoh who crashed on Saturday morning but the team was able to repair the car for qualifying. Mutoh narrowly missed progressing to Round 2 and started 14th. After a Lap 1 crash that was set off by Sato, he moved up as high as sixth but was in seventh when he drove over "marbles" and fell back to 15th. After a pit stop later in the race, he lost control of the car and made contact with the wall and retired 20th. (*In 1997, Brazilian Roberto Moreno filled in for Fittipaldi in Round 5 in Rio after Fittipaldi was hit by Gil de Ferran in Round 2 in Australia and sustained a broken leg.)

Telemundo driver Oriol Servia and Sprott driver James Hinchcliffe are each looking forward to their first race on the 2.6-mile street course in Sao Paulo, Brazil and the challenges a two-day weekend on a new course will present.


Servia's highest season-ending rank in recent years was second place in 2005 with Newman/Haas Racing. He is currently ranked fourth after three of 17 events with 80 points and is one of only four drivers to have finished in the top-10 in all three races so far. The others are Dario Franchitti, Will Power and Tony Kanaan. "It is awesome to be fourth in the point standings, especially because I feel we are just starting to warm up as a team," said Servia. "Yes we have done well but we definitely have not peaked yet so standing fourth in points already makes usall more confident of what we can accomplish together. We will just focus race by race like we have beenuntil now. We do have a lot of work ahead of us and we are more excited than ever to keep improving."


"The travel is one of the best and worst parts of the job!" said Hinchcliffe, who finished fourth in only his second Indy car race in Long Beach. "I love getting to see new places, so this being my first trip to Brazil, I am very excited. The down side is you are working while you are there without a lot of down time, so you really only get to see the airport, the hotel and the race track. Having said that, you normally get a good enough feel for the place that you know whether or not it's somewhere you would want to go back to. I am already getting the feeling I want to go back to Brazil and I haven't even set foot on the continent yet!"

James Hinchcliffe, Newman/Haas Racing
James Hinchcliffe, Newman/Haas Racing

Photo by: Bob Heathcote


"I am always looking forward to the overseas races. I think it is because we are on a different stage than usual and because we want to showcase our championship that international races always have a special energy. I do love traveling and I love Brazil. Unfortunately this time I don't think we will have time to see much more than just the neighborhood where the race takes place."


"I have spent a lot of time in the last 10 years with (Cristiano) Da Matta, (Bruno) Junqueira and (Tony) Kanaan," said Servia. "You are forced to pick up their language quick unless you want to be the center of all their jokes! In Brazil, racing stands almost as a sacred sport. They have had so many good drivers. I have (Ayrton) Senna as a favorite but we cannot forget other greats like Emerson (Fittipaldi), Rubens (Barrichello), Nelson (Piquet), Gil (DeFerran), Cristiano (Da Matta) and on."

Added Hinchcliffe: "I have had a few Brazilian teammates, but if I am totally honest none of the Portuguese they taught me is really appropriate for, well, anything! But I have heard that the fans there are fantastic. They are very enthusiastic and very loyal to their drivers. One of my racing heroes is from Brazil. I don't think it would be a surprise to anyone that it is Senna. He was, and still is, a legend in the sport."


Many have recently said "Newman/Haas Racing is back" and although the team did made gains over the off-season, they maintain they have been capable of this performance. Servia explains his theory.

"Newman/Haas Racing is one of the winningest teams in racing history, period. Like everything else in racing, and teams in particular, you go through cycles and sometimes it is the low points that motivate the highs. I don't know why the results didn't come as often in the last year or two but what I know for sure is that Newman/Haas Racing has won a lot and they know how to win and it is exactly what every member of the team wants to do again. We are all aiming very high."


The first practice session on Saturday is a 30 minute session for rookies and non top-10 competitors. This will give James an opportunity to get up to speed and learn the track before the rest of the field, including Oriol, joins him on track for a 45 minute session for all cars afterward. Both drivers understand the additional challenge they will face this weekend. "It is a new track for both James and I and it doesn't help the fact that is only a two day weekend," said Servia. "We watched last year's race and the team has put a very detailed event preparation document together to get us familiarized with the layout and the setup of the car as much as possible. I do have a bit of a disadvantage for not having been here before but I hope that by the time we qualify we have grasped the most important parts of the layout. I know we will have a good car and that always helps."

"Learning new tracks is always a fun challenge," added Hinchcliffe, who is only five points from the lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings. "Drivers typically love getting the chance to run somewhere new because it levels the playing field and every one of us thinks we will learn it faster than the other guys and have an advantage! But most of the other drivers have been to this track before, so for me it's about preparing as well as possible using data and video footage. Usually you have a really good feel for how to drive a new track in about 10 laps. You will improve a little bit every lap, but for the most part after 10 laps you are 98 percent there."


Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing
Oriol Servia, Newman/Haas Racing

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

The series has only raced on this track once. It would be understandable to think that would be better for Servia and Hinchcliffe since other drivers and teams would only have one year advantage on them. Others who will be making their first starts here include Sebastien Bourdais, Graham Rahal, James Jakes, Sebastian Saavedra, Charlie Kimball and JR Hillenbrand. Hinchcliffe would actually prefer that the series and NHR had raced here for many years instead of only one. "I actually think it is more of a disadvantage because the team has less information to pass along from over the years to help get me up to speed, and I haven't raced there in any of the junior formula. So the guys that have been around here before will definitely have a big advantage."


"For what I can see on TV, it seems to be a track with a couple of long straights followed by hard braking zones," said Servia. "It also seems a bit bumpy and slippery so all that put together indicates that we need a car with good braking and power down and luckily it is what I felt was our strength in Long Beach. It is hard to see what other track it compares to, if any, but at first glance it reminds me of the street race we used to have in Houston."

"This track is pretty unique in its layout," added Hinchcliffe. "It has a lot of 90 degree corners, which is sort of typical of street tracks, but then it also has these massive straights, which you don't always see! It puts a lot of emphasis on the setup compromise from an aerodynamic point of view. You want the downforce for the corners but the straights are so long that you want to trim it out. I bet we will see a bunch of different aero setups there."


Although Long Beach was a three-day weekend, Hinchcliffe ran limited laps on Friday due to a fire in his race car. The team prepared his back-up car for the afternoon session and the early part of the hour-long practice was spent checking the installation of the engine and etc.

Fortunately he had competed on the track five times before his Indy car street racing debut there this year. It will be his first time to drive on the 2.6-mile track on the streets of Sao Paulo, and his second street race in an Indy car. "For sure the loss of track time in Long Beach was covered up by the fact that I knew a lot about the track from previous experience," said Hinchcliffe."So the two day schedule in Brazil makes the fact that it's a new track even tougher for me! Every lap will be super valuable. We really can't afford to have any issues in practice, not only because I need as many laps as possible but also since the two-day schedule leaves very little turn around in between sessions should something go wrong."

"Well you must have all your "sensors" on every lap, every inch of the track," added Servia on the reduction from the usual three-day street race to a two-day event. "You need to quickly identify every little detail that can make a difference: a different line in the corner that has better grip, different places to brake to avoid some bumps and etc. It is noticing some detail that others have not appreciated that usually gives you an advantage over the competition."


"Not really. Obviously we had a good qualifying run in Barber and a good race run in Long Beach but it's important to stay grounded and remember this is still my rookie year and there will be a lot of days when things don't go our way or days when we just won't be as competitive. It can be really easy to get used to being in or around the top 10, and for sure that will be the goal, but if we have a 15th place kind of day we need to understand that that really isn't a terrible result all things considered. For me the biggest things are still being as close to Oriol as possible and to try and be top rookie each week."


"It is something that always affects you but it does to everybody so you just hope it does a bit less than the others," said Servia on the toll traveling long distances takes on the body and the five-hour time difference he will experience from Pacific time. "I am going a day earlier than most drivers for that same reason."

"Long flights are way better than big time changes, so I think this race will be pretty straight forward," countered Hinchcliffe.

"No one loves spending a night on an airplane. Unless of course you have your own, which I do not! But when I was racing A1GP and was traveling to places like Asia and Australia a lot, I became very good at sleeping on planes. I had to. It was self preservation! Since this flight is just an over night and you arrive in the morning on almost the same time zone, I don't think it will be much of an adjustment at all."


"The support from the fans has surprised me a lot," said Hinchcliffe. "It has been incredible seeing how passionate some race fans are and how many there really are out there. It's very cool, and very humbling. Even at the autograph session in Long Beach, there were probably a dozen fans that came to Oriol and said how happy they were to see him back in the car. You could see how moved even he was by it and he has been doing this a while. It is amazing how much what the fans say and do impacts you."

"After having a year off last season I have to say it has been amazing the support I got on my return from the fans," added Servia. "It seems I was not the only one thinking that my Indy car chapter still had many chapters to be written. It is very comforting to have such great fans. It makes a difference. Thanks to all."

For me the biggest things are still being as close to Oriol as possible and to try and be top rookie each week.

James Hinchcliffe


"It's like trying to parallel park a limousine at 60 MPH! It's weird because you come off the track where you are doing 170+ mph and 50 or 60 mph feels SO slow. Then all of a sudden you are turning into a small box that has half a dozen human beings staged in a rectangle only a few inches bigger than your car and then, boom, 60 feels real quick! It's tough to wrap your mind around that, but very important to do so. I really enjoy pit stops because it helps people understand how much of a team sport racing really is. That and I love the precision involved. As a driver, precision is king. The pit stops are a whole new way to show your skills in terms of getting into the box, hitting your marks, getting out. It all happens in slow motion but then is over in the blink of an eye. On top of all that, you're supposed to do big, smoky burnouts, which is pretty damn cool!"


Since being formed by Carl Haas and Paul Newman in the fall of 1982, the team has earned a total of 107 wins and 109 pole positions. Eighty of their 107 wins and 90 of their 109 poles came on road and street courses. The team's previous win on a road/street course was in Detroit by Justin Wilson on 8-31-08. Their previous pole on a road/street course was in the St. Pete season opener by Graham Rahal (4-4-09).

-source: -NHR-

Series news and notes 2011-04-25
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Series news and notes 2011-04-25

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