MOTOR RACING: Former local karter looks forward to this weekend’s IndyCar opener

Jack Harvey testing his new car at Sebring International Raceway, Florida. Photo: Brian Cleary/bcpix.com
Jack Harvey testing his new car at Sebring International Raceway, Florida. Photo: Brian Cleary/bcpix.com
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Bassingham racing driver Jack Harvey has just completed two days of pre-season testing at Sebring for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series season which begins at St Petersburg, Florida, on Sunday.

He signed a multi-year IndyCar deal with Michael Shank Racing just before Christmas which will see him contest a select number of races in the 2018 and 2019 Verizon IndyCar Series seasons.

Jack will build on his IndyCar experience from the 2017 season, which saw him make his IndyCar debut with Michael Shank Racing in the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500.

He then rejoined the series for the final two races of the 2017 season at Watkins Glen and Sonoma with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (SPM) – the team with whom he captured six wins and 18 podium finishes in Indy Lights.

Jack began his racing career in karts, cutting his teeth on his local tracks at Fulbeck and Brandon, before moving on to GP3, British F3 and Formula BMW Europe – enjoying great success at all levels ahead of his move to the USA.

All this year’s IndyCar Series machines will feature an all-new universal bodywork, inspired by CART’s 1990s and 2000s bodywork, but will still keep the Dallara DW12 chassis base. For the first time since the 1996 IRL and 2007 Champ Car seasons, cars will have a roll hoop without an airbox.

Due to the reduced amount of downforce produced by the new 2018-spec aerokits, Firestone have had to introduce new rain tyres to improve grip in wet conditions in road/street races.

Looking ahead to the new season, Jack took time out of his busy schedule to take part in the following question and answer session

Sebring testing was your first time in the new 2018 aero kit, what were your impressions?

We had a really strong two days of testing. The car ran well, we had good pace straight out of the box and we made gains from day to day. Considering these were our first two days of testing for the season, we couldn’t have asked for a better start. It was also awesome to see the whole team working so well together. We are a brand new team, but there’s been immediate chemistry between everyone which is so important. We now just can’t wait to get started in St Pete.

What do you make of the new aero kit?

The new car looks fantastic. Clearly we’ve lost a lot of carbon from last year which means a reduction in downforce. This is the biggest change you can feel as a driver – you still have the speed and the car is still performing at one of the highest levels in racing, but now the car feels lighter and you are moving around more. Less downforce also means that the cars are exposed more mechanically, so everyone will be working hard on this.

Do you think the new aero kit will improve racing?

At this stage it’s hard to tell as we’ve only been in testing conditions where you naturally back off when you get close to another car, so we haven’t had an experience yet of running the cars in racing conditions. In theory, less downforce should mean that the cars can get closer, which would be great for drivers and fans alike but, until we get to St Pete, it’s hard to tell.

What will you be up to ahead of St Petersburg?

It’s a pretty quick turnaround so there’s not much time really! I flew back to Indy and then to Sebring for another day of testing and then it’s straight on to St Pete. It’s basically just enough time for me to do my washing and get some training in.

What’s the aim for your first race at St Petersburg?

Our goal for all the races this season is to qualify in the top 15 and race through to the top 10. We have only done two days of testing so far so it’s impossible to know where we are compared to other teams as we haven’t seen everyone’s true pace, but if we can achieve top 15 to top 10 in St Pete we will be happy.