July 14, 2006

Tradin' Paint: Montoya/Gordon

Tonight, SPEED reran their show "Tradin' Paint", where Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Gordon switched cars for a few laps around the Indianapolis F1 course. Quite the eye-opener for both guys, it seems, and for the viewer as well.

The first thought I had while watching was how ungainly the NASCAR racer was in comparison to the 2002 Williams F1 car. That's to be expected, of course, considering that the Gordon's NASCAR racer weighs in at close to 4000lbs, and a F1 car comes in at a smidge over 1300lbs. The Chevy was also running on a track it wasn't particularly designed for; while NASCAR does do the occasional road course, none of them have turns as tight as the Indy infield's. The height difference is another eye-opener. Yes, you KNOW that the F1 car is lower to the ground, but until you actually see the two side-by-side, it's hard to understand. Jeff Gordon is a relatively small man, so it almost looked like he had troubles looking over the cockpit edge.

The F1 car was, obviously, in its element, and Gordon did a pretty decent job behind the wheel. The car had a VERY tame setup, in deference to the driver's lack of experience, but Gordon was turning laps that would have gotten him into the field using the old 107% rule. His best lap was still something like eight seconds off of Michael Schumacher's record of 1:11 and change. He did have one off, when he tried to brake all the way through a turn and the rear got away from him. He eventually figured out you can't do that and other than a few bobbles, did some nice laps.

Montoya, on the other hand, had problems all day with turn one, blowing it completely once. He continually locked up his front right brakes, to the point that he didn't just flat-spot the tire, he got down to the grain. Almost no rubber left on that thing at all... pretty impressive, actually. His laps were in the 1:40 range, which is about what you'd expect for that car with an ultra-conservative setup. It was hard to tell if he ever got the Chrysler up to full-throttle; the thing just didn't LOOK fast in comparison to the F1. Again, that's the size difference.

Both cars had roughly the same horsepower; 850hp at 9000rpm for the NASCAR V8, 900 at 19000rpm for the F1. Both cars also had roughly the same downforce: right around 1600lbs. The difference is the size factor again... 1600lbs is enough to stick the F1 car to the ceiling, but is less than half of the total weight of the NASCAR vehicle. It looked like Montoya was working harder behind the wheel.

Both drivers were beaming the whole time. It was pretty cool to see, actually. I got the impression that Montoya thought he'd be able to run NASCAR pretty easily. Gordon, on the other hand, KNEW he wouldn't be able to jump into a F1 race without a lot of practice. The way his helmet was bouncing around inside the cockpit was actually frightening... much much more than you normally see. Afterwards, he described how it felt like his face was coming off under braking, and how he actually got light-headed from the G-loads.

Pretty fun stuff, though disappointing in one aspect: I wanted to see Montoya take a few laps of the oval. Obviously not possible; the car was set up for the road track. Guess we'll get a chance to see that next year, though.

...and a fun time was had by all. Even the pit crews were having a blast.

Posted by: Wonderduck at 07:03 PM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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1 Right, that is my plan for the weekend sorted, find that somewhere and download it

Posted by: flotsky at July 15, 2006 12:22 AM (5pQDI)

2 It'd be worth it, Flotsky. Fun way to spend an hour; the look on Gordon's face after his first few laps was pure joy, and both of 'em really were like kids in a candy store.

"You mean, I really DO get to wring this thing out? *pause* COOL!!!!"

Posted by: Wonderduck at July 15, 2006 10:02 AM (Ffvoi)

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