Nancy Knapp Schilke, IndyCar correspondent
On the third day of IndyCar’s open test on the short course at Sebring International Raceway, the two Chip Ganassi Racing drivers set the fastest times. The series split which teams would take to the 1.67-mile circuit over the four days this week and tomorrow is the final before the teams start their preparation for the season’s first race in St. Petersburg street circuit in two weeks.
The first of the 2012 IndyCar teams took to the track on Monday, March 5th with Ryan Hunter-Reay on top of the timesheets with a 52.5826 in his Andretti Autosport car. Team Penske’s Helio Castroneves was second with a 52.7092 followed by Simon Pagenaud in the Schmidt/Hamilton Motorsports car with a time of 52.7311.
On Monday after his fast lap, Hunter-Reay said, "We're happy to be on track with all the IndyCars painted and starting our season. Everybody is making a lot of adjustments to their cars, and the car is a lot of fun. The car is a lot different with the carbon brakes, it being lighter and the power output with the Chevy twin turbo. The funny thing is if you didn't have any lap times you'd think you were two or three seconds a lap quicker just because of the power delivery of the turbo. When it gets going, it really sets you back in your seat. I think the lap times at St. Pete will be quicker, and this car will certainly go faster and faster as we develop it."
Hopefully we can get what we want for the first race of the season.
On Tuesday, it was the drivers for Team Penske who set the best lap times with Castroneves taking the fastest lap at 52.1413 followed by Will Power. Ryan Briscoe made it a clean sweep and he was just 0.0659 seconds behind the Brazilian.
"Overall it was a good day for the Shell-Pennzoil Chevrolet. Chevy did an incredible job. We are still developing the car. Still making little bits here and there. But, for Spring Training, I thought all of the Chevys are in good shape. Overall Team Penske is in good shape. We have to just keep pushing each other. Hopefully we can get what we want for the first race of the season," said Castroneves.
After a one day break, the teams slotted for today, March 8th, had to deal with the weather with warmer temperatures in the morning before the clouds assisted by light to medium winds appeared over the circuit; along with on and off sprinkles.
Dixon was the first of the IndyCar racers to break the 52 second mark with a time of 51.7932 in the morning session. Franchitti was second for the day with his best lap at 52.1401. "Not too bad, the morning we didn't get to run a lot to make some changes, the car was good out the box, it was pretty quick. We just went through the test program and tried not to just go for lap time,”said Dixon.
“We didn't really have the lap time that we had in the afternoon that we had in the morning, so all and all it was pretty decent. We weren't on track as much as we would like to, but I think we rectified a few of those issues. So all in all, it's Sebring, it's not anywhere we race,” added the Kiwi.
Setting his best lap of 52.2228 was Rubens Barrichello for the KV Racing Technology team. The Brazilian appears to be ready for his debut race in just a few weeks after Barrichello makes the transition from Formula One to IndyCar.
Said Barrichello, “Tony (Kanaan) had a tough day on his side today because he wasn't quick. But, not his fault. There was something there that was holding him back terribly. So, we need to share the information and try to get him up to speed. Today it proved to me, it is the second time for me coming to Sebring, I don't start from zero. It feels good. I know the track. I can go fast and so on. When I get to St. Pete, everyone has some data collection in their head from where they are. I will start from zero. That is a little bit of playing catch-up. Some tracks which are brand new, but they come to you. You don't need to search. 'Oh, I like this corner. I like this one as well' and they all come to you. But some tracks, it is a little bit more difficult. So, I have to play the music as it comes."
IndyCar’s pre-season open test concludes tomorrow.