Welcome to the RACER Mailbag. Questions for any of RACER’s writers can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. We can’t guarantee that every letter will be published, but we’ll answer as many as we can. Published questions may be edited for length and clarity. Questions received after 3pm ET each Monday will appear the following week.
Q: I thought it was rather ironic that Romain Grosjean said in an interview, “I’m actually excited to discover something new and maybe putting a little bit of my sauce on top of it.” I bet he will! His history of crashes cannot continue with Juncos Hollinger Racing, especially if it is with his teammate. I can see this venture turning into a trainwreck before the season is half over. Now that he is signed with JHR, does his litigation with Andretti cease or does it continue?
MARSHALL PRUETT: His pursuit of money he believes he’s owed from Andretti is completely separate from his signing with JHR, so the legal wranglings continue.
My hope for Romain is we see a return of the loose and easy version of himself that drove for Dale Coyne, because if the season with JHR goes sideways, it will be the end of the road for him in IndyCar. And he knows that, so I’d like to think he’ll take a different approach to the new season that will benefit both sides.
Q: I flew into Sebring last week and saw the No. 30 Mi-Jack Honda turning laps. It was unusually quiet. Can you shed some light on that, and also advise who may have been driving this for RLL along with what testing was going on?
MP: From the video you shared, the sound was exactly the same. The difference was having one or two cars on track, rather than 20-plus, which makes a lot of combined noise. Modern IndyCars aren’t obscenely loud, so in isolation on a test day they don’t sound super impressive, but there is no loss in decibels from last season. You were watching Pietro Fittipaldi doing his first test for RLL.
Q: With Andretti Global running only three announced cars next year, what will happen to Marco? Will Dad pull out the fourth car since Honda has a fourth engine by lease, will Marco find another team, or will Marco not run the 500 in 2024?
MP: I expect Marco to give the 500 another try with Andretti Global, but I do wonder if this might be his final attempt.
Q: The motorsports season is over in my mind and 2024 can’t come quick enough. To cure my racing jones, I’ve watched a few old documentaries about Le Mans in the 1960s. I must say the pit stops had a lot of rules that we would deem odd today. I was seeing officials using metal zip ties to seal the fuel fill and oil fill caps any time a team had to add fuel or oil, so if the seals were found to be broken it would mean disqualification. I did know about the cars having to carry a spare tire, which had to be taken out and put back in during a pit stop. I can’t imagine the Toyotas or Corvettes carrying a spare tire.
Do you know if rules regarding adding fluids during pit stops still apply today, and what other strange Le Mans rules you know of you can add to this list?
MP: Fluids are added as needed; quick-disconnect fittings are used to make it easy to add fluids. One of my favorite rules involves going behind the wall to work on the car. Once it’s ready to continue racing, it cannot be driven onto pit lane and then out onto the track. The car must be returned to its pit box, and even then, it cannot continue; the engine must be turned off, and then refired, before it can go racing.
Q: I watched with interest the videos of Rossi, Kanaan, and O’Ward driving the vintage McLarens at Sonoma. Being a Midwesterner, I am not usually tuned into motorsports events in California. Was there a vintage event at Sonoma? Were the cars brought in specifically for this event? Do they permanently reside in the USA? Also, what tires were used? Were they modern-day racing rubber, modern-day vintage car rubber or other?
Rick, Lisle, IL
MP: Yes, there was. It was the fourth edition of Velocity Invitational. Yes, they were. The cars live in the UK and belong to McLaren and are part of McLaren’s Heritage collection. All used Avon tires, which is the predominant vendor for modern vintage road racing tires.
Q: IndyCar’s video game adventure felt doomed from the beginning. To quote yourself, “Although the deal ended in failure, which was predicted by many upon its announcement more than two years ago.” I’m not the only one that felt this way. Penske Entertainment, in all of its experience, intentionally chose an absolutely pathetic partner. Is there a rhyme or reason from your view why they didn’t pursue a partnership with a better business model and proven track record?
Care to share your favorite memory of 2023?
Dave M., Milwaukee area
MP: I’ve been told by quite a few folks that at least one decision-maker in Penske Entertainment’s leadership team has deep ties to the company in question which, if true, would explain how they got themselves into this mess.
Favorite memory from the competition side would be Abel Motorsports and RC Enerson qualifying for the Indy 500; most of the teams I worked for were underdogs, so I’m a sucker for stories like Bill Abel and team manager John Brunner stunning the field and making it into the show while some big veteran teams were left to fret over who would fail to make the show.
Favorite from the personal side would be the new digital video initiative I pushed for with RACER that brought CoForce into the family and produced something new at quite a few of the events we covered.