Formula 1 exile Romain Grosjean had his first taste of Indycar yesterday at Barber Motorsports Park during a multi-team private test.
Thus began the next chapter of his racing career with 80-laps covered during his first day at the wheel of the all-black #51 Dallara run by Dale Coyne Racing, which inevitably included a spin!
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The 34-year-old Frenchman reported at the end of the day: “It felt good to be back in a race car. It really felt like home. It’s obviously a new car and I had to adjust a little bit to my new driving position, but things quickly felt quite smooth.
“I then discovered the joys of not having a power steering wheel. I don’t regret all the hours in the gym, but maybe I’ll do some more, just in case!”
As for his Indycar, familiarisation programme on the day, Grosjean revealed: “We worked on different things throughout the day. You always try and find the limit, which I did this morning in Turn 1, I wasn’t quite happy with that.
“I understood something that you could do in Formula 1 and not in IndyCar, so it was a good learning experience. Then there was a lot of learning about when you change the dampers and tools on the car, what it actually does to the car, what part of the corner. So, we worked on getting a feel for that.
“And also getting to learn to work with my engineer Olivier (Boisson) and getting to understand each other when it comes to communicating what the car is doing. That’s been our day, it’s been pretty good overall.”
Notably, it was Grosjean’s first return to a race cockpit since his fiery accident during the Bahrain Grand Prix last November, in which the ‘Miracle Man‘ suffered burns to his hands in the incident that grabbed headlines across the globe.
Of those injuries, Grosjean said: “It went OK. It’s not perfect. There’s a nice big blister on my left thumb, which is not pretty, but driving wise it was OK. It wasn’t painful. I was being a bit careful on some of the curbs but generally, it hasn’t been a limitation.”
He also was enamoured by the welcome he received from soon to be rivals: “When I came yesterday, I was quite surprised to see that the cars are being set up here, and there’s no closed garage or tents.
“I really like it. You get to go into the pit lane, and I was talking to Sebastien Bourdais, and Takuma (Sato) came over, and we had a good chat next to his car. The talking is made on track, and whenever you remove your helmet it feels like everyone is friendly and likes to talk and chat,” he added.
As he sheds unique habits of driving F1 cars on the limit, which he did for the past decade, he had his moments; one resulting in an excursion: “I just went too fast in, and when I was on the brake, I also picked up the throttle, which you do in a high-speed (turn in F1).
“(In IndyCar), it makes the car loose, where it actually stabilizes the car. It was a learning experience, and I didn’t do it anymore, and it was better,” explained Grosjean.
The Indycar website reported that Dale Coyne Racing was one of five teams participating in the private test at Barber on Monaday, along with AJ Foyt Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and Team Penske.
Indy Star reports that, according to unofficial timing, the fastest of Grosjean’s 80 laps put him slowest of the 12 drivers in the half-paddock field, though less than one second separated him from the day’s fastest driver, ECR’s Rinus VeeKay, and the Dale Coyne/Rick Ware driver was less than a half-second from the day’s top-five.
The 2021 Indycar season begins at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, on 18 April.
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