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Formula One: Heinz-Harald Frentzen Visits The Brickyard

28 June 2000

By David Treffer
Contributing Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
Folks it truly does not get any better than this. Two laps around the new Indianapolis Formula One road course in a 2000 Mercedes four-door. How about your car being chauffeured at speed by Jordan driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen? Finding the right words to describe the experience is not difficult. Avoiding expressing them at the same time will be. It was simply put incredible.

The press conference with Frentzen had just concluded. The offer of a couple of laps around the soon to be famous F1 "road course" with Frentzen at the wheel was made. Needless to say they did not have to ask twice.

Mercedes Benz of North America provided four E320's for "tours" of the new road course layout. After everyone was properly strapped in, Frentzen launched the powerful Mercedes road car down the area that will eventually become the "pit out and blend area" on the front straight. The turn-in area for the first turn (a flowing right hand turn) arrived quickly. Frentzen's steering input was so soft and subtle that it was hard to believe that we had just cornered the turn at about 60mph. The next 12 turns would be equally delightful. What made it even better, was that we were able to travel the road course twice. The road course is comprised of 13 turns (please see the schematic) connected by two straights. Kevin Forbes, Director of Construction and Engineering for the road course, designed the course with the idea of the driver's having to use all of their driving skills. While the course may not have any extreme elevation changes or any turns that will become "world famous" the course will utilize the most famous front straight in the world. In reality the front straight will begin at turn 11 (turning onto the banking of Indy Turn 2). The drivers will learn to negotiate the 8 degree banking of Indy Turn 1. This one area is going to be of concern the first day of practice.

During the Indy 500 the drivers attain a "loading and unloading" of about four "g's." In other words they momentarily feel the effects of four times their own weight. The Formula One drivers are also familiar with the loading and unloading of gravitational forces. However the only turn that comes close to this degree of banking in Formula One was the famous last turn at the Mexico City circuit which is no longer used. Frentzen appeared non-phased by the question. "Friday will be interesting.learning the correct line from turn 11 to turn 13 will be the area that most drivers will spend the first part of the session." None the less Frentzen came away from his laps on the road course enthused about the layout. "Technically it will be a great challengethe first part is a series of flowing turns. Then onto the back straight and then into a series of tight, twisty turns before heading onto the banking. There is something here for everyone and I think it will be a good show."

So the road course is ready and one of the best drivers in the world has proclaimed the Indy road circuit to be of high-caliber. The interesting item to watch for on Friday will be those first few laps through the turn 11 to turn 13 section. Those who learn it quickly will have a definite advantage for the qualifying session on Saturday.

The advantage on Sunday is anyone's guess.

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Text provided by David Treffer

Editors Note: To view hundreds of hot racing photos and art, visit The Racing Photo Museum and the Visions of Speed Art Gallery.