MARCO ANDRETTI POSTS TOP-FIVE PRACTICE SPEED IN FRIDAY'S OPENING RUNS AT TWIN RING MOTEGI ROAD CIRCUIT
IndyCar Drivers Attack Road Course for the First Time Friday
MOTEGI, Japan (Sept. 16, 2011) - Marco Andretti led the Andretti Autosport contingent in the first round of practice runs Friday when the driver of the No. 26 Team Venom Energy Drink car secured a top-five position at Twin Ring Motegi's road circuit.
The 26-driver field made its initial appearance at the 2.98-mile, 14-turn road course for the first time after 13 years competing at the 1.5-mile oval in the Northern Japan racing facility. The road circuit has been a regular stop for the MotoGP, Formula Nippon and other racing events since the motorsports plant opened in 1996.
Practice continues Saturday with two additional sessions before an afternoon three-round qualifying run for the pole position set for 2 a.m. EDT.
Andretti, currently eighth in the IZOD IndyCar Series points, drove his Team Venom machine to fifth with a lap time of one minute, 40.2484 seconds and an average speed of 107.111 mph. Will Power recorded the fast speed of the day at 107.955 mph.
Ryan Hunter-Reay, one of the hottest drivers in the series with 214 points in the last seven races, looked strong in the early portion of the practice round Friday, holding third position. The driver of the No. 28 Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda entry finished 16th at the conclusion of practice with a 1:40.7389 and 106.600 mph on the slippery circuit.
Many drivers felt the racing surface was still too slippery to gain the proper grip level needed to take their cars to quicker lap times. The additional track time Saturday should improve the pavement traction for the competitors.
Mike Conway, the Long Beach winner, enjoyed driving the new circuit at Motegi but felt his No. 27 Team @FollowAndretti car needs improvement for Saturday after a speed of 106.109 mph, the 23rd best Friday.
Danica Patrick, the 2008 Motegi champion at the oval, took her No. 7 Team GoDaddy.com mount to 24th Friday with a speed of 105.888 mph.
Sunday's 63-lap Indy Japan The Final event will be televised at 11:30 p.m. EDT Saturday, Sept. 17, on VERSUS TV.
MARCO ANDRETTI, #26 TEAM VENOM ENERGY DRINK CAR
Finished session in P5
"The track is fun and I think it's going to race well, but there's just no grip out there right now. Even the guys in the top five aren't totally happy with their cars I'm sure. We'll go through our data tonight and hopefully keep the Venom car running in the top and qualify well tomorrow."
MIKE CONWAY, #27 TEAM @FOLLOWANDRETTI CAR
"The circuit is cool and I had a lot of fun, but we still have a long way to go on getting the @FollowAndretti car right. It's still quite difficult to get around at the moment but we can work on it. One of the team cars is in the top five so we'll see what we've got and go from there."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY, #28 TEAM DHL/ CIRCLE K/SUN DROP CITRUS SODA CAR
Finished session in P16; ran as high as P3 earlier in the session
"We started out really well with the DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop car - when everybody was still learning the track, but we ended up too far off. I think we're going to have to change the game plan for tomorrow. Weather might play a factor as well with the chance of rain, but regardless we're going to have to change the car quite a bit."
DANICA PATRICK, #7 TEAM GoDaddy.com CAR
"The track is really nice and it seems relatively straight forward to get going. It's not extremely tricky and that's probably in part because it's so nice and smooth you can put the car where you want it. But we're struggling for grip out there; it's very slippery and the GoDaddy.com car never really took a set like it needs to in corners. I was just waiting for it as it slid through corners, and the corners here are so long so you lose so much time when that happens. We'll continue to make little improvements along the way but we still have a ways to go."