Tatiana Calderon says she couldn’t have asked for more from her first experience driving an IndyCar after putting AJ Foyt Racing’s No.14 Chevrolet to the test in Mid-Ohio on Tuesday.
The 28-year-old Colombian, who splits this season between Super Formula and Richard Mille Racing’s LMP2 in WEC, has been invited to try out the car normally driven by SÃ©bastien Bourdais via mutual sponsor ROKiT. She completed 87 laps.
âI just wanted to prepare for it,â Calderon told RACER. âThis is how I have always treated new experiences. And I really wanted to know if I could drive an IndyCar fast and adapt quickly. It was also the first time in two years that I had driven a car without power steering, and the Firestone tires were new. So I really wanted to explore the limits, enjoy driving an IndyCar and see how far I could go. And I think it went really well, and I’m pretty happy with my performance and the way the day went.
âI improved until the last round. My last lap was almost the fastest. It was also the thing you need to show when you have an opportunity like this is progression. There were no mistakes, no pirouettes, nothing. And I got more and more comfortable finding the limits of the car. It was still a bit missing in the fast sections, but I think the team was pretty happy with the progress.
Although Calderon spent two years racing at Star Mazda ten years ago, this week’s test marked his first visit to the delicate 2.4-mile Mid-Ohio track.
âEverything was new,â she said. âTalking to other people, they were like, ‘Oh my God, is your first time going to be in Mid-Ohio? ” (Laughs). “This is the most difficult place you could have chosen”. But I just wanted to seize the opportunity as it presented itself, and I’m really grateful to ROKiT and AJ Foyt Racing for making this possible. And I think now that I’ve done that Mid-Ohio is now on top of my favorite tracks in America, I really enjoyed that. I think you better go hard and take on the toughest things, and then if you do well it really means something.
As part of her preparations, she sought advice from compatriot Juan Pablo Montoya as well as Bourdais and JR Hildebrand, who coached Calderon throughout the day. Their advice was invaluable – even if it was a little intimidating.
âThey certainly scared me a little! ” she said. âOh, you have that entry oversteer, then there’s massive understeer in the middle of the turn, then the power, you get kicks in the backâ¦â So I was definitely a little nervous when I heard these comments. But they’ve all driven IndyCar before when the cars had more downforce, so maybe they compared it to that and felt this car had less grip. But I didn’t have that feeling because I drove things like Super Formula with a lot of downforce. I think it was good not to have experience and not know what to expect. But they certainly said it was a difficult car to drive.
Tatiana did a great job today. Her approach was that of a pro, making gains with every turn and never being out of date. I enjoyed helping you find your way @Mid_Ohio, @TataCalde! https://t.co/GDygpHzt0D
– JR Hildebrand (@JRHildebrand) July 6, 2021
As his comfort level with the car increased, so did the team’s confidence in Calderon.
âWe even went through some test items that they had planned for the weekend but couldn’t do,â she said. âFor them, trusting me to make those changes was also very nice, and it was good to see how the car reacted to the changes. I really couldn’t have asked for more of the day.
Calderon’s future remains focused elsewhere for now, but she admitted that the success of the test day has put American open-wheel racing more clearly in the spotlight as something to potentially consider if a lane presents itself.
âInitially (the plan) was just to go out there, have fun and experience the car,â she said. âIf that will translate into something else, I don’t know. Every driver would love to ride the IndyCar. For now, I’m glad I took the trial opportunity and it went well. Hopefully this will open some doors in the future, but it’s too early to tell. Right now I’m focusing on the end of 2021 with Super Formula and WEC. But it’s nice to know that I can drive an IndyCar well. Let’s see if an opportunity arises.