Felix has completed his first sequence of IndyCar laps around the famous oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, passing all stages of his Indy 500 rookie orientation run during an open test on Wednesday.
Although compromised by periods of intermittent rain, the test provided Felix with a valuable first taste of what to expect in the build-up to one of the world’s greatest races and the ultimate highlight of the season.
The day’s running was split in two sessions: one for veteran drivers, and one for Indy 500 rookies and yet-to-race-in-2019 returnees (”refreshers”). Felix, an IndyCar rookie this year, duly took part in the second session alongside Colton Herta, three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, Oriol Servia, Conor Daly, Santino Ferrucci, Marcus Ericsson, JR Hildebrand and Fernando Alonso.
Completing a total of 72 laps during the day – the most among all rookies – Felix gradually worked his way up to a 222.578 mph (358.2 km/h) average around the 4.0 km track as he got to grips with the incredible speeds on offer at “The Brickyard”. Topping the rookie charts was Herta, who won the Indy Lights support race at IMS last year, at 226.108 mph (363.8 km/h).
The overall pace, meanwhile, was set by 2017 Indy 500 winner Takuma Sato at an average of 226.993 mph (365.3 km/h).
“It’s great to tick off my first experience of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway aboard an IndyCar,” Felix comments. “There’s been so much talk about this place and the Indy 500, and at least now I can relate somewhat to all of that. I can tell you it’s bloody fast out there… We were all slightly compromised by the rain that came and went, but in the end it was a good first day of practice and I’m happy with what we achieved.”
The main objective of the day was to pass all stages of the so-called rookie orientation programme, in which Indy 500 rookies need to demonstrate that they’re capable of running at stipulated, gradually increasing speeds. Felix successfully completed these requirements, despite the weather cutting running to just 90 minutes.
“Today was about getting through the rookie orientation and I’m pleased to now put that behind,” Felix continues. “There would have been another chance later in May, but it’s obviously nicer to have it done and to focus properly on the set-up of the car from now on. We ran maximum downforce today just to make sure I was comfortable enough with the track and speeds, so we’re far from where we’ll be next month. It was a good first step of many more to come.”
Practice for the Indy 500 continues on May 14. The 103rd running of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” takes place on May 26.
Indy 500 rookie orientation – Indianapolis Motor Speedway, April 24