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  • Writer's pictureVIVIEN STREBELOW

Tatiana Calderon completes first road course race in Indycar at Barber Motorsports Park

“Every lap I do, I keep learning and hopefully soon I can be in a better position both in qualifying and in the race" - Tatiana Calderon started her first IndyCar race on a road course at Barber Motorsports Park, as the Colombian continued to collect valuable experience in her third start in the series.

Photo by Penske Entertainment: Chris Jones

The fourth round of the 2022 IndyCar season saw the teams heading to Birmingham, Alabama, for the Barber Motorsports Park round - Tatiana Calderon´s first road course experience in her IndyCar adventure. The 2,3 miles-long track isn't the easiest on the calendar and, despite Calderon having some previous experience of the track from her 2011 Star Mazda season, she had to put in some effort to learn the track in the current machinery. "I am really looking forward to Barber", she said ahead of the event. "Although I have been there in Star Mazda, I have to say that I had to see a lot of onboards to remember the whole track, so it will be a new track that I will learn." "The only thing I remember about Barber is that I had my first podium in Star Mazda there", she continued. "It's our first permanent track of the year, so I'm excited to be able to explore the limit of the car with a little more freedom than in the first two rounds, it's always hard to do that on a street circuit." The fourth qualifying session saw the fourth different pole winner of the season: Rinus VeeKay won the NTT P1 Award with a time of 1:6,2507, ahead of Arrow McLaren driver Pato O´Ward and Alex Palou in third. Calderon would line up in P25, starting behind Simon Pagenaud and ahead of Jimmie Johnson for Sunday's race. After a rainy day at the track, it was finally dry for the start of the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama. VeeKay was able to lead the pack into the first turn, preceding O'Ward. There were different fuel strategies across the field during the race, with many drivers in the midfield attempting a three-stop-strategy - like Josef Newgarden and Romain Grosjean, who came into the pits just after ten laps of racing. Up ahead, a different scenario saw the first three drivers coming in after 30 laps with a two stop strategy. After their stop, the first and only caution of the race was called out when Callum Ilott spun into the gravel at Turn 7 while battling hard with Helio Castroneves. The Brit had to be retrieved from the gravel trap and lost 2 laps. Three laps later, the race was green-flagged again and at the 60 lap mark, the leading group was in again for their second stop - in the order, VeeKay, O'Ward, McLaughlin and Palou pitted. In a race-defining moment, the Arrow McLaren SP driver of the #5 car completed the move of the race and passed VeeKay - on cold tires - around the outside of Turn 5 and would eventually pull away. McLaughlin tried a similar move one lap later, but couldn't make it stick and was forced to go through the gravel, while Palou worked his way through to second place, just one second behind O'Ward with 20 laps to go. But Pato O'Ward's first place was never under threat, as the Mexican managed his gap wisely and took the chequered flag to claim his third IndyCar victory of his career. The other two podium spots were secured by Palou and VeeKay. It was the first victory in the current season for a non-Penske driver. For Tatiana Calderon, it was a difficult weekend with some improvements in her pace during the practice sessions and the qualifying. Unfortunately, she made a little mistake in the final practice on Saturday, but the #11 ROKiT AJ Foyt crew was able to promptly fix Tatiana's Chevrolet who started the race in 25th position. “It was a day of ups and downs, we improved a lot in qualifying, but then I made a mistake in the last practice", she summed up. "Nevertheless, my team managed to repair the car in time for the race." On the red tire compound, Calderon showed good pace compared with the drivers in the midfield and was able to push for good lap times in the central stint of the race. Unfortunately, the balance of the car was not the same on the black harder tire compound and all the work was gone as she struggled to find grip in the closing stages. “Every lap I do, I keep learning and hopefully soon I can be in a better position both in qualifying and in the race" - she concluded. The next IndyCar race will take place on 14th May for the Indianapolis GP; Tatiana Calderon will be again on the grid for her first time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, ahead of the big season highlight in the Month of May.

Photo by Penske Entertainment: Joe Skibinski



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