With only two laps to go in the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Pato O’Ward suddenly slowed on the front stretch and gave up the lead of the race.
The pause was only momentary, and the Mexican driver was able to continue again after only a second or two off the throttle, but the damage was done and Marcus Ericsson was able to slip by for the win.
After the race it was revealed that a plenum fire in his Chevrolet engine caused the momentary slowdown, and a quick release and reapplication of the throttle was all that was needed to get back to full power.
The pre-combustion of the air / fuel mixture before it enters the cylinder has been a problem a couple times for O’Ward, but not at this critical of a moment.
Speaking after the race, he related that the problem is not related to how he drove his car, and there was nothing he could have done to prevent it.
“It comes up randomly. It’s not — you can’t really predict it. It shut off with a plenum fire. You have to let off, get back to it, and then it kind of like — perfect timing.
“We gave that one away. We can’t have that happen anymore. I know we’re second, but… We need to analyze.
“So yeah, we just have to have a look into it and just — we ended up with some great points. We started the year like we wanted to, right, but they’re very valuable points at the end of the day. We just got 10 points thrown away.
“We’ll have a look at all the data and stuff and then just make sure how for that not to happen and look forward to Dallas. I really like that place.”
It is unlikely that Chevrolet will ever go into specifics about the random problem their engines appear to have, especially considering it occurs so infrequently.
A representative for the engine manufacturer did confirm after the race that O’Ward’s engine appeared to suffer no damage from the incident, and will be used at IndyCar’s next event at Texas Motor Speedway.
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