By: Tanner Watkins
November 4, 2019 | 8:00 AM
After months of anticipation, the inaugural Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race presented by Mitchell Transmissions kicked of on Sunday with 12 hours of on-track activity. Reigning iRacing Indianapolis 500 pole winner Marco Aurelio Brasil was the fastest driver on the day, going 233.669mph (38.516s) for the fastest lap of the session.
The day started off with a drivers-only meeting to establish ground rules for practice and look ahead to next weekend’s daunting two days of qualifications. Following the drivers meeting, a press conference was held to formally usher in the 2019 event before the track opened for practice at 3:00 PM Eastern.
The first driver to take to the track was Peter Bennett in the No. 8 TeamEVO SR Dallara IR-18 Honda, continuing the tradition of tracking the first driver on-track in the same way the Indianapolis 500 tracks the “First On Track.” Bennett ended Sunday’s session 19th-quick with a best lap of 39.255s (229.270mph).
Drivers traded the top spot often in the practice’s early portions, with Brazilian pilots Silvio Roberto Sanchez and Thales Toledo posting quick times before New Jersey’s Christopher Demeritt went 231.935mph just before 6:00 PM Eastern.
Demeritt held the fastest time designation for about 20 minutes before fellow American Zachary Campbell ripped off a blistering 233.433mph lap in his No. 2 Apex Racing Team/SDK Gaming/Simputers PC Systems Dallara IR-18 Honda.
Campbell, who paced the field after the October 16 open test, was pleased with his group’s performance on day one – and what they can build on moving forward.
“Feels great to have this kind of speed right out of the gate. Obviously, at the open test the whole I5G group had great speed, and for us to be 2-3-4 after all is said and done is great and all, but you know as well as I do that practice speeds only indicate so much,” said Campbell after Sunday’s practice.
“We spent about 10 laps or so just trying to dial one-lap pace into it before we went back to race trim for the rest. Me, Chris, AJ, and Matt got a few fuel runs in and learned a lot about how the car will behave in the race. There are a few things that we’ll need to take back and debrief on, but personally I feel (Sunday) was a success, and I hope we can build on that for the rest of the month.”
In the end, though, it wouldn’t be Campbell setting the day’s quickest time – it was the reigning iRacing Indianapolis 500 pole sitter Marco Aurelio Brasil taking the top spot with a draft-aided lap at 233.669mph (38.516s) just before 10:00 PM Eastern.
“(It was a) good night,” said Marco. “We worked a lot on the mileage accumulation and adjustments to qualify with rubber, because (in qualifying) the track will vary a lot so we used (practice) to work (on) several adjustments.
“We know that we have the best car for classification, as I (earned) pole in the iRacing Indianapolis 500 this year and have the Indianapolis track record. So it is evolve and improve. I’m sure we’ll fight for pole position with Wilson Neto and Silvio Sanchez.”
Brasil, who is the driver for the No. 812 TES Racing Dallara IR-18 Chevrolet, was one of three Brazilian drivers inside the top six spots by the end of practice at 3:00 AM Eastern. Thales Toledo (No. 77 Dallara IR-18 Honda) was one of those Brazilian drivers cracking the first six spots, going fifth-quick on Sunday.
Toledo noted that his car has handled well in traffic thus far, but qualifying isn’t far from his mind.
“(Sunday) practice was good. As a rookie, and unexperienced in this kind of event, I have to test some stuff to try to put me in the (field of) 33 – which I think it will be pretty hard, considering the level of the drivers,” said Toledo. “For a possible race, the car handles pretty well in the dirty air and is pretty safe, just hope that (it is) fast enough.”
In total, 40 drivers hit the track on the first day of practice – with another 64 expected to make their debut later in the week as Qualifications Weekend presented by AG Trucking nears. Across the 40 drivers to take to the track, 2,473 laps were completed.
The next day of practice is Tuesday, November 5 – where another 12 hours of on-track activity is planned, in addition to the second airing of Today at the 500 presented by Thru Kaiser’s Visor at 8:00 PM Eastern. You can follow along with our live practice cam (twitch.tv/openwheels), timing and scoring (open-wheels.com/timing) and the livestream of Today at the 500 presented by Thru Kaiser’s Visor (open-wheels.com/today500).
Stay tuned to Open-Wheels for continued coverage of this month’s inaugural Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race presented by Mitchell Transmissions!
The 2019 Open-Wheels.com 500 Mile Race is presented by Mitchell Transmissions. Mitchell Transmissions is an established business in the Evansville, Indiana area who boasts three decades of mechanical experience to help service the needs of many makes and models. You can visit Mitchell Transmissions in Newburgh, Indiana at 10672 West State Road, or give them a call at 812-853-3286.
Header image by Tanner Watkins/Open-Wheels.com