Josef Newgarden – Winter Preparations in the UK

Written by Team USA. Posted in Driver Blogs, Josef Newgarden

Published on December 11, 2008 with No Comments

Hendersonville, Tenn. (December 11, 2008) – My father and I have spent the last few weeks in the UK testing with various FF Duratec teams and trying to find a home and all the necessary accommodations for my return next January. It looks like moving to the UK has been confirmed and will definitely be pursued in an effort to reach my goal as an established F1 driver.

When we first arrived in the UK, we focused on establishing a place to live and finding all the proper living necessities. Oxford was the ideal choice when considering versatility, surroundings and tranquility. It is a small and quiet place that’s filled with young life, thanks to its prestigious university. We found a 2-bedroom apartment that was currently being occupied by British F3 driver Philip Major. The second room in the apartment was available and provided everything and more a driver like myself would need to be comfortable and safe. The entire complex was brand new and provided parking garages, which is really helpful in Europe, considering how narrow everything is and how difficult it usually is to find parking.

After establishing a place to live, we focused on setting up a bank account and finding a company car that would be used by me when traveling around the country. The majority of work was done and the beginning of testing was right around the corner. Three days of testing were lined up with three different Duratec teams, including JTR (Joe Tandy Racing), Cliff Dempsey Racing and Jamun Racing.

Joe Tandy Racing was first up at Snetterton and I was nothing short of ecstatic to get back in a car! When we arrived at the track, it was raining and bitterly cold. As miserable as the conditions were, I was actually excited; nervous but excited. The thought of a new car, new track, new team, in treacherous conditions sounded a bit rough, but unbelievably challenging and fun. I love difficult challenges and getting the most out of them – this was going to be one of those situations. Several other cars and teams would be testing on track throughout the day, such as Formula Renault, F3 and Formula BMW. This would also make the day a bit more interesting and fun.

My first session on track went horribly wrong! I could not get the car to brake correctly and was struggling to figure out what the problem was. After completing a couple laps, the condition was getting increasingly worse and became near undriveable. When beginning to apply brake pressure into the corner, the throttle would stay open about 10 percent (which zings the motor in a FF Duratec car) and made stopping incredibly difficult. I made a pit stop and relayed the problem to the team explaining what was happening. They had told me the engine was brand new along with a brand new throttle body, which was sticking open toward the end of releasing throttle.

To make sure the problem would not persist, the team switched the throttle body with one from the previous season. After fixing the problem, running clean consistent laps became much easier. It was really fun running with all the other types of cars down the straights, as the FF Duratec had a lot more straight line speed than I expected. We were actually just as quick as the F3 cars down the straight and much quicker than the Formula BMW’s – at least until we hit a brake zone or corner. The team and I were able to improve the cars overall grip but had to compromise low and high-speed grip throughout the day.

Our next test would take place at Donington Park with Gavin Ray (the man who hand builds each Ray chassis). This test was really in preparation in the event that we would run next season with Cliff Dempsey Racing. This chassis had loads more room in the cockpit compared to that of the Mygale that JTR uses. This was probably one of the toughest days of testing during our trip. The cars setup was fairly off pace and the car’s brake pads were some of the hardest to use that I’ve come across.

The third different team we would test with was last year’s championship winning team, Jamun Racing, at Silverstone. This test was run in very cold rainy conditions similar to our test with JTR earlier in the week. Again, I was excited to get out and slide the car around in the rain but was a bit disappointed that I would not be able to see the Mygale’s full potential in the dry. After completing my first session on track, I found the car felt very similar to JTR’s Mygale aside from some slight different characteristics due to Jamun’s front mono-shock design compared to JTR’s dual shocks. I found this to give the car a slightly crisper turn-in because of its stiffer front end. Surprisingly, the low speed corner grip did not seem to suffer from the stiffer front-end setup. After completing over 100 laps with Jamun, I felt like my rain ability at Silverstone had reached another level than it had been before along with feeling more comfortable in these conditions.

Over the weekend, I received an email from Chris Dredge, who is the Formula Palmer Audi championship coordinator. He informed me that they had openings for testing possibilities for the following week. Seeing as we had some free time next Monday, we decided to proceed and check out what FPA had to offer. This was by far the highlight of the trip for me! The car was brilliant to drive and was loads of fun. It was much different than the Andersen Racing Star Mazda car I had driven two weeks previously. It felt much heavier, more powerful, and surprisingly had tons of mechanical grip. Adjusting to how a turbo car works was truly fun and challenging. You had to work much harder to not get wheel spin once the turbo kicked in. Jonathan Palmer has a great facility and his staff is top notch. I enjoyed this test a lot and am glad we were able to get to know the Palmer Audi group better.

At the completion of our two weeks, my thoughts on which car and team would be the best approach for next year is still unclear. I feel that I would be comfortable with any of these teams and that a championship would be feasible with any one of them. I look forward to returning to the UK early next January and beginning my preparations for the 2009 season. I want to thank Jeremy Shaw and everyone involved in this year’s Team USA Scholarship program again for helping jump-start my endeavors in the UK racing scene!

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