By: Tanner Watkins
October 17, 2019 | 1:00 PM
On Wednesday, sim racing’s best took to the virtual Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the only official open test ahead of November’s inaugural Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race presented by Mitchell Transmissions.
A total of 79 drivers posted times across the 10 hours of on-track availability, with alliance teammates Zac Campbell and Christopher Demeritt pacing the field. Campbell’s quickest lap was registered at 234.009 MPH (38.460s) while Demeritt was just behind him at 233.839 MPH (38.488s).
The first 29 drivers were separated by less than a second in a session that saw a variety of practice strategies in play. For Campbell and Demeritt, the focus was on merely shaking the rust off and getting back into the flow of racing Indianapolis.
“It is just the open test which doesn’t really mean too much,” said Campbell in a post-session press conference. “But we are happy with where things have gone since May. We just emerged as a new group this year, but we are here and to be at the top of the open test, it leaves you feeling good – especially as we approach Opening Day.”
Demeritt added, “It’s always good to get a few more laps in than I had. For better or worse, I didn’t get burned out this year – I actually couldn’t do the iRacing (Indianapolis) 500 this year. I had some prior commitments, but it’s always fun getting back in the car – and I haven’t gotten completely used to this car.
“I’m way more used to the (Dallara) DW-12 at Indy,” continued the former iRacing Indianapolis 500 winner. “So getting used to this car is a little bit of fun. But yeah, it’s always good to just put down some laps and try to get used to some things. The intensity will ramp up as we get closer to the event, but right now it’s still just having fun.”
Yesterday’s practice saw a slew of talented drivers posting times, with the first eight drivers on the combined timesheet holding previous top split iRacing Indianapolis 500 starts to their name.
The session was dominated by the Dallara IR-18 chassis – remember that drivers can pick from not only the IR-18, but the DW-12 and IR-05 Indy cars as well – with the first 29 times going to IR-18 drivers. The fastest Dallara DW-12 competitor was Joe Flanagan, who placed 30th with a best lap of 227.854 MPH.
Demeritt did jump in a DW-12 in the first session to post a lap at 229.165 MPH (39.273s) but he bested that time in the IR-18 during session two.
With just 17 days until Opening Day – and 23 days until the first day of qualifications – drivers and teams are beginning to narrow their focus before pouring efforts into next month’s event.
“(Our team are) just ramping up into what will eventually happen before the race,” explained Demeritt. “Doing qualifying sessions back-to-back-to-back just to try to get a few more hundreds or thousandths out of the car – especially qualifying trim, at least.
“Then we’ll do some race runs behind other cars. We will get in a group and practice handling the draft for the entire run while trying to see if we can make the car a little bit faster – but also make sure that that the car isn’t worse in the draft so at the end of the run you can make still make passes. It’s kind of the same things throughout the entire time, just the intensity gets turned up as you get closer to the event.”
In Campbell’s eyes, much of the focus for members associated with the Indy 500 Group (Apex Racing Team and Broken Aero) will be on qualifications with the daunting two-days of cuts on the horizon.
“We didn’t have quite the qualifying effort we wanted in May, but we managed to have the races that we wanted,” explained Campbell. “(Brandon) Traino won the broadcasted split, and it was really apparent that we had the race setup nailed down.
“We are obviously going to be putting folks into the race set (for testing), but I think qualifying is the main focus because that is where we struggled a little bit and we really want everyone into the show – or as deep into the show as we can get them. With how competitive the race is going to be, you never know. Over the next two or three weeks, that is going to be our main focus: Just getting those four-lap averages better and better.”
A total of 2,999 laps were turned during the 10 hours of track time, and eight drivers logged at least 100 laps on the day.
Of the 79 drivers to post times in the open session, 48 are already registered to participate in the inaugural Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race in November. Interested sim racers are able to register for the race until October 25 using this link. There is no entry fee to join the event.
The next time we will see official on-track activity for this year’s Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race will be on Opening Day, Sunday, November 3. On that day we will have a live stream of practice up (twitch.tv/openwheels) until our first airing of Today at the 500 goes live at 8:00 PM Eastern at http://mixlr.com/today-at-the-500/.
The 2019 Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race will be held on Sunday, November 17 – and will be broadcast worldwide by RaceSpot TV. Coverage begins at 9:00 AM ET with a special two-hour pre-race airing of Today at the 500, and RaceSpot will take over with their own pre-race coverage beginning at 11:15 AM ET. The green flag is scheduled for 11:45 AM ET.
Header image by Tanner Watkins/Open-Wheels.com.