Matthew Brabham is off to a good start following his first test with PIRTEK Team Murray on Tuesday at Sebring International Raceway.
In preparation for his Verizon IndyCar Series debut at the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 14, the Australian rookie logged 134 trouble-free laps at the 1.67-mile road course in Florida. Brabham will also attempt to become just the third third-generation driver to compete in the Indianapolis 500 on May 29 in this historic year of its 100th running.
Sebring holds good memories for Brabham. It is where he claimed his first North American victory in USF2000 in 2012 and where the Brabham family has enjoyed success in endurance sports car events.
Turning his first laps in an Indy car since testing for Andretti Autosport at Iowa Speedway and Sonoma Raceway last year, Brabham drove Sebastien Bourdais’ KVSH Racing Chevrolet rebranded with Brabham’s No. 61 that honors the year his grandfather Sir Jack drove a rear-engine car in the Indianapolis 500 to usher in the era that would change the sport forever. Team Murray is partnering with KVSH in May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The day was mainly about Brabham re-acclimating himself with an Indy car after an eight-month hiatus, as well as learning the finer aspects of the Chevrolet aero kit and engine package.
“The goal and the game plan for us was just getting me comfortable and used to the speeds again and acquiring myself to the team,” said Brabham.
“We just wanted to get through some things, get me comfortable. We’re also working at ironing out all the small details before we get to the (Angie’s List) Grand Prix so that we don’t have to waste time relearning all the things on the steering wheel, the system and how the car works.
“It’s quite different to the Honda (that he tested with Andretti) and felt quite a bit different to drive,” Brabham continued. “It’s just adapting your styles and the way you do things to the car. It gave me the opportunity to really find out that side of things and now I can go back and work and refine everything for the Indy Grand Prix and for the Indy 500.”
With the track time under his belt and valuable data acquired from the test, Brabham is focused on being fully prepared for the month of May.
“The test gave us a lot of things to put in our minds and improve,” he said. “Now we kind of know all the details and how it all works and how it comes together.
“I think me and Andy Brown, my engineer (pictured at left with Brabham during the test), will be in the KV Racing shop this week to go over things and prepare for the grand prix. For me, just going over it all with the engineers, working in the shop and refining all those last details and obviously training and working out and making sure I’m physically ready and 100 percent prepared.”
That resourcefulness has caught the eye of veteran engineer Brown, who worked for the Brabham F1 team in 1991 before joining established Indy car teams such as PacWest Racing, Panther Racing and, most recently, Chip Ganassi Racing.
“I think he is one of those exceptional talents whose inexperience may not work against him, and may actually help him because he has that youthful enthusiasm,” Brown said. “He just wants to get after it and go faster. We certainly will have no trouble getting him in the car or keeping him in the car. He wants to be out there.”
Brabham is also confident heading to a track where he has had success. He won a 2014 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires race from the pole on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course and finished fourth in his second race of that weekend.
“I’ve had some good success there,” Brabham said. “I’m pretty excited to have my first (Indy car) race at the Indy Grand Prix. It’s a pretty cool track and obviously the Indy cars have had some great racing there and it’s been very entertaining.
“I’m familiar with the track and that’s going to help, so I can just focus on driving the car and getting used to that and not so much the track.”