Asked about the risk of an IndyCar race at nearly 200 mph over 1,650 feet across a suspension bridge 80 feet over the Cumberland River in Nashville, Josef Newgarden scoffs.
“I told people we have divers in the water,” the Team Penske star said with a laugh. “I said that and then don’t say anything else, and people don’t know if you’re serious or not.”
The two-time NTT IndyCar Series champion is absolutely serious (as with any IndyCar race adjacent to a body of water, a water rescue team will be on standby during the Music City Grand Prix) – just as he’s absolutely sure the stakes worth it. the show.
The Korean War Veterans Memorial Bridge will be the indelible image as the IndyCar crosses the hometown of Newgarden for the first time on Sunday in one of the most anticipated inaugural events in recent history. ‘IndyCar.
And just like the Queen Mary anchoring Shoreline Drive in Long Beach, or the glittering Dali Museum above the Yacht Basin in St. Petersburg, the Nashville Bridge could become IndyCar’s last iconic landmark with a perfectly backdrop. framed and picturesque.
“This will probably be the coolest photo of the year when you watch the cars cross the bridge with Nashville in the background,” said Newgarden, a 30-year-old man raised in the Nashville suburb of Hendersonville who lives at 10 minutes from downtown track. “We have one of the most beautiful horizons in the world. I saw him several times growing up. You will be able to see it perfectly with the cars smashing the bridge. “
Music City GP CEO Matt Crews, who has been on multiple iterations to try to run a race in downtown Nashville over the years, said that securing the use of the bridge “has transformed that from ‘a racecourse into a more epic event.
“The ability to run on water is something better than we can determine has never been done on this scale and to this degree,” Crews said last year at a press conference announcing the latest IndyCar street race.
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“Again, like everything, to show our city. We said from day one, if this was to be someone’s first glimpse of Nashville, we want to show them our best side. Running on the Korean Veterans Bridge is really special.
Said Dario Franchitti, three-time winner of the Indy 500, Grand Marshal Music City GP and four-time winner of a street race in IndyCar: “I think that’s cool. It’s good to have a signature for the circuit. It will be the signature of Nashville, it is this bridge.
While showcasing the City of Music was the aesthetic goal of having the bridge as the centerpiece of the 11-turn, 2.17-mile circuit, there was also a practical reason.
As part of a 3,578-foot straight line providing a width of 40 feet in either direction, the bridge will provide two decent opportunities per lap for passing zones by increasing speed for a distance that roughly matches the length of front stretch of Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Tony Cotman, director of NZR Consulting which oversaw the design and construction of the track, told NBC Sports that the main focus was “to try and set up an IndyCar track where you can at least stretch your muscles a bit. little legs… because the The first thing must be the show.
For major entertainment, a lot of the hope lies in Turn 9, which is the first turn after exiting the bridge into the city center.
Cara Adams, director of racing tire engineering and manufacturing at Firestone, told NBC Sports that the simulations produced trap speeds of 197 mph entering the wide turn (about 12 mph more than the speed fastest corner entry at the Long Beach Grand Prix).
As drivers squeeze the brakes to hook left around the Exxon station at the corner of Shelby Avenue and Interstate Drive, a large and welcoming runoff area should attract those trying to gain positions. Cotman compared the turn to the now defunct Cleveland Grand Prix, which took place on an airport circuit hailed for its vast and countless passing zones.
Since the Nashville race will start and end at different locations (similar to the Mid-Ohio sports car course), Turn 9 will also be the first turn after the green flag waves for the first lap as the cars leave the bridge.
“At the start of the race, they’ll know they have room to go three and four wide,” Cotman said. “It’s not as crisp as Cleveland, but it’s wide open like Cleveland in the first corner, and a decent width where the race will start. We don’t have the option of having such wide streets so often.
A straight line past Turn 9 will lead to another left turn at Turn 10 which should result in an overtaking. At the other end of the bridge, a left turn at Turn 4 should also make passing easier as drivers reach maximum deceleration as they pull away from the city center and past the Riverfront Park Amphitheater. (Turn 4 is also the culmination of a track with a total vertical drop of almost 50 feet, “which is a lot for a street circuit,” Cotman said.)
This will lead to a right turn at Turn 5 which Cotman insolently calls “our Baku”, in reference to the Formula 1 street circuit in Azerbaijan which is littered with tight corners.
Cotman said the concrete-to-asphalt transitions – a 2-inch difference in some places – were the trickiest part of making the bridge passable. Race organizers, who were responsible for funding all of the street improvements, replaced some of the expansion joints while cleaning up dirt and debris from those that were left.
“You notice when you go through them by any means, but they were so brutal before,” Cotman said.
As work continues on the connectors and transitions this week, the Honda and Chevrolet simulators used by the riders won’t capture exactly how the bridge will feel for the first few laps of practice on Friday. “This is when everyone will experience it for the first time,” Adams said. “We can do a lot with speeds, but until we know the exact surfaces we can’t simulate what we don’t know. It will be new and a challenge for everyone.
– Jeff Gluck (@jeff_gluck) July 16, 2021
Drivers don’t seem daunted by the unknowns of a potentially heart-wrenching ride over the water.
“It’s going to be cool,” said IndyCar points leader Alex Palou. “At the end of the day, it’s just a straight line over the water. It’s going to be a bit bumpy, but it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be tough to get to the corner and be brave enough to brake really late and try to overtake some cars.
His Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Jimmie Johnson said “there is a lot of excitement in the IndyCar paddock about this course. I think the bridge is going to be pretty exciting. It should be a really tough, bouncy race because it’s hard to build a smooth bridge, and the speeds we’re going to go on the bridge, it’s going to be exciting.
Hopefully this isn’t too exciting – although all prescribed safety measures have been taken to prevent an air disaster. Geobrugg, a Swiss company that has supplied mobile debris barriers for several large-scale tracks around the world (including Spa, the Red Bull Ring, Mugello, Estoril and Imola), has supplied 2,150 barriers and anti-fence panels. debris for the temporary Nashville circuit, including 650 for the bridge.
According to Jochen Braunwarth, Director of Motorsport Solutions at Geobrugg, the barriers will comply with the most modern FIA safety standards. Cotman said the bridge fence will be about 12 feet high.
“It’s the newest and newest modular system,” Cotman said. “It’s not just concrete. There are so many things going into a barrier, you would be shocked at the components inside, and the way they all connect now is very, very precise. The panels go on top and bolt to the gates, and all the posts bolt to each other. So it’s a very, very structured system. All fences are connected as one when you complete it.
“The downside is that it takes a long time to set up. We are leading a great team to do it. The advantage is that we know that we have the best system on the market, and above the bridge we have the advantage that the fence is even a little higher because we will put barriers on the sidewalk. . We mainly did this to keep as much width as possible, and as a by-product you get a slightly taller fence.
CONSTRUCTION UPDATE 🚧
Lay walls on the KVB bridge! We’re getting closer and closer to the race weekend! 🏎🏁
– Grand Prix of the city of music (@MusicCityGP) July 23, 2021
As with the St. Petersburg Grand Prix and the Detroit Grand Prix at Belle Isle, Nashville Precautions will also include (as Newgarden mentioned) on-site water rescue teams.
But Palou said the riders would primarily think of racing on another track with walls on either side (rather than worrying about the vast expanse beyond those walls on the bridge).
“Dude, at the end of the day it’s the same,” Palou said. “We didn’t go to St. Petersburg or Detroit thinking we were going to jump that high. I mean, it can happen, I guess. If that happens, I’m sure you’ll be fine.
“But no, I don’t think that’s going to happen. The slopes these days are super safe. In the past we’ve seen bigger crashes and cars going over the fence. But today you watch Felix (Rosenqvist) crash in Detroit. It was one of the biggest crashes we’ve seen in recent times. He was OK, and the fence was OK too. I think they are really safe these days. They think of everything. It’ll be OK.”
“I feel very comfortable,” Newgarden said. “If you overdo it, someone will be there to pick me up.” “