England’s Katherine Legge qualified for the Indianapolis 500 for the third time on Saturday, while Felix Rosenqvist led the McLaren charge by posting the fastest four-lap average at the Brickyard.
Rosenqvist’s late afternoon run of 233.947 mph was the third-fastest four-lap qualifying effort in race history, bumping new teammate Alexander Rossi from the top spot — a position he held for nearly six hours.
‘It’s quite mind blowing how we found so much speed,’ Rosenqvist said. ‘What a run. Just a fun time to be with an Arrow McLaren. We sure look good today.’
Legge, the only Rahal Letterman driver to qualify on Saturday, failed to start 30th, but still pictured himself easing into his first Indy 500 since 2013.
‘Honestly, now, it’s just like relief,’ she told NBC. ‘You go through every emotion on qualifying day.’
England’s Katherine Legge qualified for the Indianapolis 500 for the third time on Saturday
Felix Rosenqvist led the McLaren charge by posting the fastest four-lap average time
When the gun went off to signal the end of the day, all four McLaren drivers were in the top 12 and advanced to Sunday’s shootout for pole.
Ganassi also got all four of its drivers into the top 12, but as the clock ticked down, defending race winner Marcus Ericsson stood in the pit lane unsure if he should make another qualifying attempt.
On a blustery day at the Brickyard, Scott Dixon and Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Alex Palou made a late engine change before the start of Indy 500 qualifying, while Callum Ilott hit the track after his Juncos Hollinger Racing team was forced to include a backup vehicle in just 12 hours.
Somehow, everything turned out well for all of them.
Dixon got out early and put his car in the fast 12 that would run for the pole Sunday with his four-lap average of 233.375 mph, then he watched Palou join him with an average of 233.398. In fact, all four Ganassi drivers made the shootout with defending Indy 500 winner Marcus Ericsson and two-time winner Takuma Sato also there.
‘Really pleased with that,’ said Palou. ‘The car was really fast yesterday, really fast this morning with the engine change. Kudos to No. 10 car crew that stayed late and put it all together.’
English drivers Jack Harvey and Katherine Legge talk during qualifying on Saturday
Dixon indicated at the end of final practice on Friday that something was wrong, even though the Honda cars in the Ganassi garage had been fast all week. But it was a surprise that both Dixon and Palou ended up changing engines, leaving each of them with just 30 minutes of practice before they began their four-lap qualifying attempts the following day.
‘It really puts you in a bit of a compromised position,’ said Dixon, the 2018 Indy 500 champion who will aim for his third straight pole. ‘We might have to do a few runs to get everything dialed in. I think the car is decent.’
Turns out it’s better than that.
Jack Harvey, who like the Ganassi drivers has Honda power, also got a new engine on Saturday. That was expected after his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing ride showed smoke in the rear in the closing minutes of Friday’s six-hour practice session.
‘We had a rather unfortunate ending yesterday,’ said Harvey. ‘The speed we have is the speed we’ll get.’
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Katherine Legge (44) heads to the track
It’s not much. Harvey’s four-lap average of 230.098 put him in the slowest four, which will have its own shootout on Sunday with three out of the field. His teammates, Graham Rahal and Christian Lundgaard, were also among the four slowest on a very frustrating day for Rahal Letterman Lanigan.
‘It will be quite interesting with the three of us there. Very disappointing,’ said Lundgaard. ‘We didn’t want to fight each other in this position, but at least we passed one vehicle.’
That was Legge, who qualified 30th — the last spot locked up on the 33-car grid for the May 28 race. He previously finished 22nd and 26th in 2012 and 2013, according to respectively.
‘We just don’t have the speed,’ said Lundgaard. ‘For now, we just have to get by.’
The situation involving Ilott had nothing to do with engine problems. Instead, the 24-year-old British driver said he felt ‘unsafe’ driving the new Dallara IR18 chassis, a problem that started in first practice on Tuesday and hasn’t gotten any better.
After his Juncos team tried to change everything it could to the chassis, team owner Ricardo Juncos decided on Friday to move Ilott to an older chassis that his teammate Agustín Canapino ran in open testing last month.
The team began working feverishly to get Ilott to the track for qualifying, and an extension from IndyCar allowed it to continue when Gasoline Alley normally closed for the day. The crew finally left the speedway around 10pm Friday, then returned as the garage opened at 5.30am, and a confident Ilott walked to the grid ahead of his 9am practice window.
‘Just send it,’ Illott said with a smile when asked about his plan for the short practice that most drivers skip. ‘Obviously some people think I must be under a lot of stress, but I’m more confident in my driving.’
Arrow McLaren SP driver Felix Rosenqvist (6) moves around the track on Saturday
The confidence paid off in a big way.
Ilott was shaky in his first attempt at qualifying. That was the sketchiest run of my life. I almost crashed every lap,’ he said.
But he came back and nailed another four-lap run. Ilott’s 231.320 mph average left him starting 27th, but with the team a day ahead, that’s something to celebrate.
I don’t know where to start. It’s been a tough week, a tough month really,’ said Ilott. ‘I was given an almost impossible task, from what some people said, and just tried to keep confidence high. We were able to turn the car into something fast.’