Car goes airborne crossing railroad tracks during Grand Prix practice session

Incident involving Simon Pagenaud raises the question of whether a chicane should be brought back to the Baltimore course

August 31, 2012|By Sandra McKee | The Baltimore Sun

Shortly after IndyCar practice opened Friday in advance of the Grand Prix of Baltimore, rookie of the year Simon Pagenaud's car went airborne as it crossed the railroad tracks on the Pratt Streetstraight.

After last year's race, drivers had asked that a series of small, man-made turns called chicanes be removed. They were in place for the inaugural race to slow the cars as they approached the tracks.

With the chicane gone, Pagenaud came out of Turn 12 and accelerated. He hit the tracks, and the front of his car lifted nearly three feet off the ground. The rear wheels also left the ground.

"Honestly, drivers could be injured," Pagenaud told a television reporter shortly after getting out of his car. "Landing is the toughest part."

Pagenaud appeared in pain when he got out of the car and later suggested something might have to be done.

"They could do what they did, bring back the chicane," Pagenaud said. "Or, they could pave it like [where the tracks are] in Turn 5."

After seeing several other drivers pass over the tracks, some without issue, others with some bounce, IndyCar officials stopped practice about 25 minutes before the scheduled finish of the one-hour session so they could talk to drivers on pit road about the situation and what should be done.

"I think we need to hold judgment until everyone tries a different line [over the train tracks]," Graham Rahal said. "But this is one of the bumpiest tracks, and one of the worst paving jobs we've seen. Right now, it's hold on tight and see what happens."

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