IZOD IndyCar Series press release
TEAM PENSKE, CHEVROLET LEAD DAY TWO OF SEBRING OPEN TEST
SEBRING, Fla. (Tuesday, March 6, 2012) - Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe topped the timesheets as 10 IZOD IndyCar Series drivers and teams concluded a two-day Open Test at Sebring International Raceway.
Castroneves set a lap of 52.1413 seconds in the No. 3 Shell V-Power/Pennzoil Ultra Chevrolet, just a shade quicker than Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet. Ryan Briscoe was third quick (52.2072) -- just 0.0659 of a second behind Castroneves.
Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay, who topped the time chart on the first day, was fourth quick (52.3466) and Simon Pagenaud of Schmidt/Hamilton Motorsports was fifth/first among Honda teams (52.4698). Top to 10th were separated by 1 second. A total of 1,716 laps were completed over the two days.
A second group of drivers will test at Sebring on March 8-9. The Open Test is open to the public each day (9 a.m.-5 p.m.). There is a $10 admission charge. Firestone Indy Lights will conduct an Open Test at the facility Feb. 7.
DAY 2 QUOTEBOOK:
JUSTIN WILSON (No. 18 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "Not a bad day. It was a reasonable test overall. I am happy with the progress we have made as a team and with the car and hope that we can keep it going. The Honda engine has been really strong and very consistent and the crew has worked extremely hard to get everything we can out of our car. There are a lot of components to this car that are new to us and we are still working hard to see how everything responds to changes, but I think we are getting better every time out.
JAMES JAKES (No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda): "It was a pretty good day. We got a lot of good work done and a lot of chassis development done. I really think we found a number of things that will translate well to St. Petersburg. For me, mileage is everything and to get out and run more than 120 laps was very important. Days like this are going to pay off for us as we get closer to the start of the season.
SIMON PAGENAUD (No. 77 Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports Honda): "It's an exciting moment for INDYCAR with three different engines. You can tell the Chevys and Hondas are really close; we ran together with Will and Ryan (Hunter-Reay) at some point and I can see it's going to be close. As Will said, it will come down to qualifying (at St. Pete) to see who's strongest."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Team Penske Chevrolet): "It is clear that it is pretty even so far. The moment of truth is going to be St. Pete. Everyone is going to have what they've got. There is no sandbagging or anything. We shall see there." (What are you looking on the sheets from the test with the group split during the week?): "Oh, that is right. I forgot about that. Ganassi will be here Thursday. It is so hard to tell this track, to be honest. It is a very strange circuit for testing, because I don't think there is any place we go that is like it. Turn 4 is probably the most representative corner of a street course. Everywhere else has way too much grip, so the car always feels pretty good. I'm not sure what we get out of these tests, but we certainly push the car to the limit I would say."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet): "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." (About the continued improvement of the Chevy engine): "It was certainly a long way ahead of everybody in the beginning, all the manufacturers; but Chevy is on-board. Took the bull by the horns as they say. It is a very good commitment from everyone. Right now we are still working; still developing. Certainly it is great to be on top of the charts. But, it doesn't pay anything. The first race of the season is what we are looking for. But, it feels great to have a good practice."
On the Chevy side, it is all good.
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 2 Team Penske Chevrolet): "It was a very productive couple of days again. The more miles we get on these Chevys, the better. I feel like we're ready to go racing in St. Pete. The car is feeling strong. Working with the engine guys on the driveability side as well. I think we made a lot of gains there. I'm excited."
MARCO ANDRETTI: (No. 26 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet): "We're definitely going to be gambling a little bit on setup because we've tried a bunch of different concepts, so now, it is all about picking the right one to roll off there (St. Petersburg). We have to picture the types of corners on this track that replicate over there and hopefully go with the right one. On the Chevy side, it is all good."
DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:
Less than a day after his car caught fire on course, Will Power was back on track at Sebring International Raceway on Tuesday morning for second day of his group's IZOD IndyCar Series Open Test.
Power, whose No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet was not expected to participate in the morning session, was able to record seven laps shortly before the test session was stopped for lunch. His fastest lap 52.6777 seconds was nearly a half-second faster than his best lap prior to his car's issue, which was caused by a fuel leak.
"It wasn't a big issue," Power said. "Fortunately ,we got it out soon enough that we didn't do too much damage that would have lost us the test day today. The guys did such an awesome job getting the (new) engine in so quickly and up and running. We were able to go out and shake it down. The car felt fine. All credit to the guys to do that."
Despite his handiness with a fire extinguisher, Power said he's not ready to join the Holmatro Safety Team or a volunteer fire department any time soon.
"No, I won't be joining the fire brigade," he said. "At least I know how to get out of the car quickly and how get (a fire) out if it happens again."
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing will expand its IZOD IndyCar Series driver lineup starting with the Indianapolis 500 on May 27.
The team, which returns to full-time IZOD IndyCar Series competition in 2012 for the first time since 2008, announced it has signed signed 2011 GP2 runner-up Luca Filippi to drive the No. 30 Honda-powered car. He'll team with Takuma Sato, whom he met while they were testing Honda-powered Formula One cars.
"It's a great feeling to be part of Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing," Filippi said. "Being a racing driver and a big motorsport fan too, it's amazing to have such a legend as Bobby Rahal as team owner. I'm sure he will help me a lot with my Indy car experience and help me learn all the different dynamics that I will find in my very first American open-wheel racing season quickly.
"The IndyCar Series is really popular in Italy and my becoming an Indy car racing driver is a dream come true. After finishing second in the GP2 series last year in a Dallara car, I am looking forward to see how this car is to drive. I know it will be different but when I sat in the cockpit to make the seat I felt really comfortable; everything felt really familiar to me. This year everything is going to change for everybody in the series because of the new car and I think it is the best moment for a rookie to enter the championship."
Filippi, 26, from Savigliano, Italy, competed in GP2 the past six seasons and was runner-up to Romain Grosjean in 2011. Filippi was also a test driver for Honda in Formula One from 2007 until December 2008, when the manufacturer withdrew from the sport.
"Having followed GP2 the last several years, I have watched Luca's progress with interest," Rahal said. "Despite not always having the best equipment, it was clear he had the ability to not only run competitively but to also win races. Having gotten to know him over the last eight months, he has also shown that in addition to being able to win, he would represent Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in a first class manner. We are very excited to begin a long and successful relationship with him."
Filippi began racing karts in Italy at age 8 and progressed through the ranks until he won a driver-search contest in 2002 that landed him a season in the Mazda MX-5 Cup series. He also has competed in the Formula Renault Championship in 2003 and 2004 (with a third-place finish in 2004). He won the Italian Formula 3000 series title in 2005, which resulted in being invited to test a Formula One car for the first time with Minardi that winter. He competed in the GT2 series from 2006-2011.
"Racing for a Honda-powered team is fantastic because I feel like I am restarting from where we ended a few years ago when I was the Honda F1 test driver until the end of the Honda F1 project," Filippi said. "I'm happy we will work together again and now we both have a new challenge, new motivation and I just can't wait to be at the wheel. I know Takuma from those days. We respect each other and we both think that working together can help us and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing achieve our goals."
Filippi will participate in the Rookie Orientation Program at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Sebastian Saavedra is returning the team that gave him his first big break as a driver in INDYCAR.
The 21-year-old Colombian will race in Firestone Indy Lights for AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport - the same team in which he won two races and the series rookie of the year in 2009.
"I'm proud to be to be part of the AFS and Andretti Autosport family again," said Saavedra, who will be one of eight drivers testing Firestone Indy Lights cars at Sebring International Raceway on March 7.
"Together we've have had good times and I'm sure we can have them again. I want to thank Gary (Peterson) for believing in my talent and building this program; he is always thinking of my future and the future of AFS Racing. This opportunity was built in a very intelligent manner and I'm looking forward to where it may take us. The experience I've built in the IndyCar Series and in Firestone Indy Lights over the past three years have given me a confidence and big hunger for success."
Saavedra will drive the No. 27 AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport car in Firestone Indy Lights and also drive the Andretti Autosport/AFS Racing No. 25 Automatic Fire Sprinklers Chevrolet in the 2012 Indianapolis 500.
In addition to his racing duties with the team, Saavedra, who spent last season as a rookie in the IZOD IndyCar Series with Conquest Racing, will be a test/reserve driver for the Andretti team and could drive in additional IZOD IndyCar Series events.
"Aligning with Andretti Autosport for Firestone Indy Lights and the Indianapolis 500 is advantageous for all parties, AFS, Andretti and especially Sebastian," said AFS owner Gary Petersen. "After AFS/Andretti's previous success in the Firestone Indy Lights, having won two season championships, I'm convinced that we can place Sebastian exactly where he needs to be to contend for the FIL championship this season.
"Since meeting Sebastian and the Saavedra family in 2009, we've developed a close relationship. I feel personally invested in Sebastian's future. I feel that the best career move Sebastian can make at this time, given the new IndyCars, is acting as a test driver for Andretti and racing the Indy 500 this season. This puts him in the best possible position to advance toward his goal of becoming one of IndyCar's elite drivers."
The joint entry of a car for Saavedra marks the re-establishment of the successful partnership of AFS Racing/Andretti Autosport, which claimed two Firestone Indy Lights titles and 11 race wins from 2008-2010.
"AFS Racing and Andretti Autosport have enjoyed a lot of success together and this effort will hopefully be more of the same," said Michael Andretti, owner of Andretti Autosport. "Sebastian will be a strong contender in the Firestone Indy Lights program. Also, with the new car, having a test driver will help us take our IZOD IndyCar Series program closer to where we want it to be. We are optimistic about this relationship and will continue to explore opportunities with the goal of racing together beyond 2012."
After a strong showing last season, Gustavo Yacaman is returning to Team Moore Racing for another shot at the title. The 21-year-old from Santiago de Cali, Colombia, finished fourth in the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights season after nine top-five finishes and his first career win.
He competed in the 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona on the third-place Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian entry, his first time at the event. A resident of Miami, Florida, Yacaman had considered making a switch to the IZOD IndyCar Series over the offseason.
"This year there are too many changes in the Indy car—new engine, new chassis and it's hard work to develop them," Yacaman said. "It is better to wait and find a great option to have a great year."
Yacaman's first career win in Firestone Indy Lights came at the first-ever Baltimore Grand Prix in the Baltimore 100. After losing his best qualifying lap--which would have won him his first pole position--due to a local yellow, he won the 35-lap twister by .4500 of a second over points leader and eventual champion, Josef Newgarden.
Yacaman will have fellow 2011 Firestone Indy Lights competitor David Ostella as his teammate on Team Moore. The series now has 10 announced drivers for the 2012 season with more expected in the coming weeks before the season opener at the streets of St. Petersburg on March 24. All races will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network.
The Firestone Indy Lights grid continues to grow stronger with the addition of Juan Pablo Garcia, who will drive for newcomer Jeffrey Mark Motorsport for the 2012 season. Garcia will pilot the No. 76 entry for the team, sponsored by Freightliner Trucks.
Garcia made his Firestone Indy Lights debut in 2009 and ran three consecutive partial seasons, starting in four events last season. The Mexico City-native began his professional racing career in 2006 and has competed in several other series, including Formula Renault 2000, A1 Grand Prix and British Formula 3.
"I'm very happy to be joining Jeffrey Mark Motorsport for the full 2012 season," Garcia said. "I want to thank Freightliner Trucks and I can't wait to start the testing this week at Sebring so I can be prepared for my first race. It's great to know that I have a great support team, especially with my engineers, so I'm confident that we can have very good results. I think that will benefit all of us and I'm proud that I can be part of this very successful team."
Jeffrey Mark Motorsport, although new to Firestone Indy Lights, will receive a big boost in the form of operational support from multiple-race winning Firestone Indy Lights squad Bryan Herta Autosport. Garcia's car will be based in the Indianapolis headquarters of Bryan Herta Autosport and the operation of the entry will be overseen by BHA personnel.
"I'm thrilled to have Juan Pablo racing with Jeffrey Mark Motorsport for our inaugural season," said team owner Jeff Mark. "It's always been a dream of mine to own a race team and I am ecstatic that the time has finally come. JMM and JPG are going to have a great year together."