DETROIT - Ryan Hunter-Reay ( ...
DETROIT - Ryan Hunter-Reay (#17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone) had his best qualifying effort of the 2007 IndyCar Series on his last trip to Detroit's Belle Isle Park, so it was little surprise that he and his Rahal Letterman Racing stablemates were among the early leaders after Friday's practice sessions for this weekend's Detroit Indy GP Presented by Firestone.
Hunter-Reay finished the first session in the fifth spot - which is where he qualified last season - and wrapped up the day in the seventh position on the time charts after posting a best time of 1:14.6652 (99.819 mph) for a lap around the Belle Isle race course.
He did his best time on just his fourth lap of the second session, running on Firestone Firehawks racing slicks that had already turned laps on the car in the opening 90-minute practice. He battled traffic for much of the second session as the full complement of 26 cars scoured the two-mile course looking for elusive tenths of seconds for tomorrow.
"We rolled out with a good race car today," Hunter-Reay said. "We were in the top four for ninety percent of the session. We made some changes at the end of the run that didn't help us as much as we would have liked. I really think the traffic kept us from showing what we could really do today, but we still have work to do before qualifying."
Hunter-Reay ran 16 laps in a first session that was far less crowded due to the morning rains that made the surface a bit treacherous for the 650hp racing machines. The first 30 minutes of the opening run saw most of the field run a few installation laps as the track slowly dried from the morning shower. Hunter-Reay was able to get some strong laps in later in the session, stopping the clocks at 1:15.7004 (98.441 mph) on his penultimate pass of the morning. The rains in the afternoon waited until just after the second session was completed, giving the teams a chance to run more laps, but also filling the track with IndyCars eager to make up for the time lost in the morning.
"We lost a good bit of track time in the morning but that did not keep us from getting the things done that we had on our list to accomplish today," said Chief Operating Officer Scott Roembke. "We showed the car was competitive and overnight we will make the best of the changes we tried today with every intention of putting the car in the Firestone Fast Six."
The Ethanol machine will have another 30 minutes of practice session to prepare for tomorrow's Firestone Fast Six qualifying session. The field is split in half for the first session, while the top six in each session move on to a second outing. The top six out of that dozen drivers moves into the Firestone Fast Six, where times are erased and the six pilots have 10 minutes to post a polewinning time. Hunter-Reay is looking to get back in the Firestone Fast Six after just missing a shot to get into the final round last weekend at Sonoma.