Sebring, Fla. – The IZOD IndyCar Series teams trek to Florida each winter to test their cars on the 1.7-mile course at the Sebring International Raceway. The teams come to Sebring often, and the drivers and the teams use the opportunity to knock off the rust and to evaluate changes made during the off-season. The atmosphere seems casual but the teams work hard on the cars while the drivers acquaint or reacquaint themselves with the cars and the crew members.
“I am knocking off some of the rust.
While A. J. Allmendinger’s appearance garnered the spotlight earlier this week, a dozen more teams were on hand and others were waiting in the wings. The Target Chip Ganassi Racing team of Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti were present on Tuesday as were the teams of Dale Coyne (Justin Wilson), Panther Racing (Oriol Servia), A. J. Foyt Racing (Takuma Sato), Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal), KV Racing Technology (Tony Kanaan and Simona de Silvestro), Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (Josef Newgarden) and the third Ganassi entry (Charlie Kimball).
Dragon Racing had tested at Sebring a few days ago and Andretti Autosport and Schmidt Hamilton HP Motorsports planned to test on Wednesday.
With limited testing restrictions in place, the teams are anxious to have track time, as they anticipate the start of the IndyCar season through the streets of St. Petersburg the weekend of March 22 followed two weeks later by the annual event at Barber Motorsports Park.
Said Franchitti, “I am knocking off some of the rust. It has been a while since I’ve been in the car, so this is good. This is one of the true tests before the season starts, and we can learn things here we can apply to St. Petersburg and Barber.”
Added teammate Dixon, “We are going through the motions of working on the development stuff we did over the winter. The car is decent though.” Addressing the Sebring test, he commented, “Sebring is a decent track but a strange place and a lot of people question why we run here.”
Will Power was pleased to be climbing into the cockpit after the winter layoff. “It feels good, and I love getting behind the wheel at this place, as the track has a lot of grip. We are trying things and seeing how the car reacts.”
Sato is making his debut with the Foyt team and to become more familiar with the team, he traveled to Houston for more extensive introductions. “It was to see all the boys and the engineers and getting to know A. J. more,” he said. “I spent a couple of days with him, including a trip to Las Vegas, and had a nice time. The more I get to know about him he is very impressive. He can’t stop talking and joking; the first step was very positive.”
Having raced with a one-car team (the Rahal group) a year ago, Sato believes the transition should go quickly. “We have similar conditions as a year ago, and I have always been impressed with the Foyt operation,” he said.
Servia was happy to be in a car. “It was great to be in the car, and you always wonder, ‘Can I still drive?’ The answer is yes. It is so much fun to drive these cars, and I have been testing here for 13 or 14 years. The track is rough and the challenge is awesome.”
Wilson said his Coyne team tried different things and were pleased with the outcome. “We tried to make global changes, as we don’t need to the fastest car at Sebring,” he said. “You can do good things at Sebring that won’t work at St. Pete.”
Kanaan is welcoming de Silvestro to the team for the new season and was seen giving her pointers. “I have been around for a while, and I can teach her a few things,” he commented. Known for being a prankster, he said, “She’s a girl, so I can’t pull things on her like I did to Dan (Wheldon) and Marco (Andretti). I will think about something though.”
Addressing de Silvestro’s abilities, he added, “She showed me a few things at St. Pete a couple of years ago. I was just becoming back from having no job and I wanted that podium bad, but she gave me a run for my money. (Kanaan got the podium and de Silvestro took fourth). After that, she caught on fire at Indy and I did, too, so we have had similar things happen to us. To be honest, this is her (best) chance and now it will be up to her. I will do whatever I can, as I have a history of helping drivers, I am willing to give her my experience to help her succeed.”
The personable driver believes that the IndyCar management changes are starting to take hold, and although he wasn’t overly thrilled with the departure of Randy Bernard, he has accepted the change and will support his successor. “I don’t think the series is in trouble; we still have 26 cars,” he said. “They said last year we were in trouble because the new car would cost a lot of money, but we still had 26 cars and 33 cars at Indianapolis. Every company struggles somewhere, but we are still here. The economy is worse, but I would say we are better.”
The IndyCar contingent has two more tests – at Sonoma and Barber – before the season opens, so the teams will be busy leading up to St. Petersburg.