Coyne engineer laments team's “string of destruction”

Craig Hampson, one of Dale Coyne Racing’s star recruits along with Sebastien Bourdais in the last off-season, says he’s shocked by the bad luck that has struck the team in 2017.

Coyne engineer laments team's “string of destruction”
Tristan Vautier, Dale Coyne Racing Honda
Ed Jones, Dale Coyne Racing Honda
Ryan Hunter-Reay, Andretti Autosport Honda Tristan Vautier, Dale Coyne Racing Honda Ed Jones, Dale Coyne Racing Honda Ed Carpenter, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet Mikhail Aleshin, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda crash
Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda Tristan Vautier, Dale Coyne Racing Honda
Tristan Vautier, Dale Coyne Racing Honda, Tony Kanaan, Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, Ed Jones, Dale Coyne Racing Honda, JR Hildebrand, Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet
Josef Newgarden, Team Penske Chevrolet, Tristan Vautier, Dale Coyne Racing Honda
Tristan Vautier, Dale Coyne Racing Honda

Hampson joined Coyne’s team last winter along with Bourdais, for whom he had been race engineer during the Frenchman’s five-year/four championship run at Newman/Haas Racing.

Last month, Hampson helped Motorsport.com document the extreme time pressure the Plainfield, Ill. team had been under since Bourdais was an innocent victim in the first-lap shunt at the Phoenix race.

Since then, the team has had to remove the new engine it acquired in the wake of that shunt and refit the engine it had used in the #18 car at Phoenix as HPD had repaired it – only to see it blow up in the second lap of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, after Bourdais qualified sixth.

Then Bourdais had the 118G shunt on the first day of qualifying for the Indy 500 and is likely out for the whole season. His replacement James Davison then suffered a raceday crash, although the team got some reward thanks to Ed Jones’ third-place finish. Last Saturday, both cars were eliminated in the eight-car shunt that occurred on Lap 152 at Texas Motor Speedway. Tristan Vautier, Bourdais’ latest stand-in, had qualified fifth and led 15 laps and Jones had also joined the lead pack long before the accident occurred.

One team insider says DCR’s repair bill since Phoenix, six weeks ago, is around $1.3m. Hampson told Motorsport.com: “I have never been part of such a string of destruction. I feel so bad for Dale and [wife] Gail Coyne. Every dollar of replacement parts has to come out of their pockets. And the poor mechanics have to keep working so hard, so long, fitting the cars back together.

“It is our plan to get two cars to Elkhart Lake [Road America test on Wednesday], but it won’t be easy. Ed’s #19 wasn’t good, but it wasn’t terrible after the Texas wreck. But the #18 has both a cracked gearbox and tub damage.

“It’s going to be a very late night tonight, and we will try to get the cars into the trucks by later in the day Tuesday. At least Elkhart is in fairly close vicinity.”

Hampson said the last six weeks had also taken a severe toll on Dale Coyne Racing’s spare parts supply.

“We are working to revive and repair the tub from the Davison crash at Indy,” he said, “but as a team we only have two transmissions now. Any gearbox failure from here on out will stop us in our tracks, until we can get that inventory addressed.”

Hampson said that the team’s run of bad luck felt especially cruel because of DCR’s strong step forward in competitiveness in 2017.

“It’s such a shame,” he remarked. “We’ve had really good speed almost every week. You want to see proper reward for the investment by Dale and the effort from the mechanics.”

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