LEEDS, Ala. - Marco Andretti knows that he's going to have to improve on road and street courses if he's ever going to compete for a championship. One of his two career victories came at Sonoma Raceway in 2006, but the level of competition on right-and-left turns has increased dramatically since the merger with Champ Car.
Some of his best runs in recent memory have come on the high-speed ovals, leading to Andretti visiting Europe during the off-season and training on the advanced simulators there to change his overall approach while driving on the so-called twisties.
"There is no question that I need to up my game on the streets," Andretti said during Monday's IndyCar media day event at Barber Motorsports Park. "I think I always knew I was overdriving the car and the tire, but I didn't know how. I was really diagnosing it during the off-season. I did all kinds of stuff. I went overseas with a driver coach and everything. You can never be too proud. You can always learn something."
Andretti says that his time in Europe taught him about tire management during the course of a race. He and his driver coach concluded that his previous style of attacking the corners resulted in too much stress on the front tires. His aggressive entry, they decided, was just too demanding on the tires so he's completely altered his approach for 2013.
"Basically, I was just asking too much of the front tire in the middle of the corner," Andretti said. "So, the way I attack the corner I'm over the edge of the tire so I'm creating problems for myself. Rather than getting the time from the tire it's like almost in a downward spiral because I'm just over the edge of the tire.
"There is some similar stuff that helped me going up against Ryan (Hunter-Reay) and stuff like that, but we have to just put it to work and see if what I learned is going to work. I'm pretty confident."
Andretti was skeptical of the simulators at first, calling them "video-gamey" but ultimately came away impressed. He says it took him a little while to adjust to the lack of feeling beneath his seat but eventually adjusted.
However, he learned the most from a street car test in the rain in London, saying it taught him finesse, a concept he never truly understood until this off-season.
"It was interesting because he was supposed to go set a time and I was supposed to beat him," Andretti said. "He said ‘just do what you would normally do' then I beat him. Then it was tough for him to really teach me what I needed. I actually picked up a couple of tenths just from the finesse part of it. Something where finesse is not a part of Marco Andretti my first seven years of my career I can tell you that. That has been really working against me."