The Briton logged 210 miles of learning in a 450-hp Dallara IL15 four-cylinder chassis around the outer ring of the Sebring International Raceway on Wednesday, and after getting on a plane home and taking some time to reflect on the experience, Chadwick was full of encouragement.
“I was happy with the way it went, and I didn’t really know what to expect like that, but just wanted to experience as much as possible, get to know the team as best as possible, learn the car, and understand what the Indy Lights is all about,” she told RACER. “For that side of things, I feel really good about the car and I know where I need to work, and where I need to improve. I also felt like I had a really good relationship with the team, which fills me with good confidence going forward.”
Measuring Chadwick’s performance was a challenge given that she was the only driver on the track. Another major obstacle in this regard comes from the track itself. Extreme fluctuations in temperature and humidity on a Florida road track, and variations in the rubber being applied to the track with several cars moving — or vice versa, with unsteadiness during single-car testing — make for an unofficial best lap comparison in Chadwick’s all but 56.950s. Impossible to compare to the times of cycles that turned earlier in the year.
In the absence of the other drivers, Kirkwood, who returned to Andretti Autosport to grab the #28 in an Alexander Rossi Honda IndyCar in 2023, evaluated Chadwick’s production.
“I thought she did really well,” said Kirkwood, who dominated her lightsaber season as the winner of 10 races out of 20 rounds. “The car grabbed a lot faster than I think most people do, and after running it for the first time, it was faster than me from my first race in the Lights. She had very similar comments about the setup, did more than 120 laps, and seemed to be in a good place physically Because this place can hit you, especially the first time you drive the bumps.
– Andretti Autosport / #AllAndretti (@FollowAndretti) September 21 2022
“From what I saw, she is a very professional and good driver who got in the car and sped straight away. It wasn’t like she got in the car and then just kept moving away and taking off again in every session. I got her right away on the used tires; she was fast and maybe a little faster by the end of the day , but there wasn’t much speed left to find from the start. I think she did a good job.”
Among Chadwick’s varied skills, she became an expert at adapting to a variety of cars and formulas in a short amount of time, which Kirkwood experienced in the test. The Dallara IL15, with its big wings, big tires, high power and high weight, were all new to Chadwick’s mastery.
“I wanted to get out and try to adapt as quickly as possible,” she said. “But it was only a one day test, so you want to get the most out of it. And yes, that is where I get lucky; I had a lot of different experiences in different cars, so while it was still a good move for me, I felt comfortable just jumping in. And try to adapt as fast as you can.When I first came out, I thought bloody hell, that’s fast!
“It definitely felt like a huge step forward. And the way you drive is very different from what I’ve learned. You hit the lap, you slip a lot on the rear tires. It’s a lot busier than I expected on the steering wheel. But it’s fun in that sense. It’s totally progressive with the rear tires. They allow you to rely on them without compromising too long or damaging the frame, which hasn’t been the case in anything I’ve done before. So that’s good fun. Trying to get the best lap ever isn’t the easiest thing, and to be consistent, it’s Tough too. It’s a car that’s hard to tame in one lap. But at the same time, it’s a lot of fun.”
Chadwick spent time before the test working at PitFit in Indianapolis, where most IndyCar drivers build the power and stamina to withstand the rigors of high-powered race cars without power steering. If she redirects her career to the Indy Lights next year, the intense physical regimen will continue.
“The thing I was worried about taking the test was, frankly, not being able to turn the wheel, and that was very physical for me and the level I was at, but in reality, that wasn’t the case,” she said. “It’s definitely physical. I definitely have to get much stronger. The Indy Lights races are very long. We didn’t do any really long rides throughout the day, but we did a lot of laps. And I think that’s really encouraging because I was able to drive the car, at the level at which I was physically happy.”
Andretti Autosport president JF Thormann, long-time leader of the team’s small open-wheel programs, has expressed interest in Chadwick joining the Indy Lights program next season. So does the growing legion of fans, both international and domestic, as I learned after seeing several social media posts from those wanting to see her on the road to Indy.
“It’s really cool, and something that really surprised me,” she admitted. “I didn’t think the audition would get the reaction it got. From everything I’ve talked about and seen to people, it’s been really positive. And I think the Indy Lights series and the Road To Indy bundle are really popular. It has an amazing fan base. So, it’s probably To have that crossover with some of the people who support me, it’s amazing. It’s something I think can be very exciting.”