IndyCar test drives: Penske back in top form
Penske has again taken a dominant form during the IndyCar test drives at Barber Motorsports Park – also good at it: Returner Helio Castroneves!
The IndyCar series has been released after its season opener in St. Petersburg to bridge the four weeks to Phoenix. At Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham in Alabama there was a collective test during which Helio Castroneves returned and found his way around the new aerokit brilliantly. Due to rainfall in the afternoon, it was packed up early so that “real” test work was only possible in the first few hours.
Penske seems to have finally put the opening stroke behind him, because with Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Returner Castroneves the first three places went to IndyCar-Krösus. It is remarkable that this was Castroneves’ first ride with the new Aerokit, but he immediately drove at the level of his team mates: “You now have to have a little more feeling in fast corners, just like in a kart. The car is much more nervous,” concludes the Brazilian on the new aerodynamics of the Dallara IR-12.
Newgarden’s time of 1:07.9793 minutes was 1.2 seconds slower than Pagenaud’s qualifying record of 2016 (1:06.7262 minutes). The times on the intensive downforce course were at the same level as last year’s free practice sessions. As the best Honda driver Sebastien Bourdais came in fourth place. The Coyne team seems to have hit the set-up perfectly, as rookie team-mate Zachary Claman de Melo finished in a very respectable fifth place.
Robert Wickens, who still had a dominant pace at the start of the season, had difficulties and did not get beyond rank 19. Schmidt/Peterson didn’t fit yet, because team mate James Hinchcliffe also fared only marginally better with position 18. Rene Binder, the only German-speaking pilot in the field, had to get to know the track just like his team Juncos Racing. Just how difficult it is for the new teams, who have no experience to fall back on, is also shown by Gabby Chaves in the Harding-Chevrolet, who landed right in front of Binder and barely got to drive.
Before Birmingham some IndyCar teams also tested on the Texas Motor Speedway. The nine pilots were disappointed because strong winds made meaningful test drives impossible. Most teams packed up earlier. The biggest excitement was a departure of RLL pilot Takuma Sato, who turned his Honda into core scrap, but remained unharmed. The times from Fort Worth have little significance, those from Birmingham at least a little bit more.
Results IndyCar test drives Birmingham, 20.03.2018
01. Josef Newgarden (Penske-Chevrolet) – 1:07.9793 minutes (18th round)02. Will Power (Penske-Chevrolet) – 1:08.1536 (19)03. Helio Castroneves (Penske-Chevrolet) – 1:08.3155 (41)04. Sebastien Bourdais (Coyne-Honda) – 1:08.3820 (22)05. Zachary Claman de Melo (Coyne-Honda) – 1:08.5613 (21)06. Takuma Sato (RLL Honda) – 1:08.6335 (11)07. Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti-Honda) – 1:08.6367 (13)08. Scott Dixon (Ganassi-Honda) – 1:08.6870 (23)
09. Simon Pagenaud (Penske-Chevrolet) – 1:08.7043 (25)10. Zach Veach (Andretti-Honda) – 1:08.8388 (25)11. Graham Rahal (RLL Honda) – 1:08.9008 (12)12. Alexander Rossi (Andretti-Honda) – 1:08.9116 (20)13. Matheus Performance (Foyt-Chevrolet) – 1:09.1066 (25)14. Max Chilton (Carlin-Chevrolet) – 1:09.2126 (36)15. Ed Jones (Ganassi-Honda) – 1:09.2330 (24)16. Tony Kanaan (Foyt-Chevrolet) – 1:09.3859 (13)
17. Marco Andretti (Andretti-Herta-Honda) – 1:09.4359 (17)18. James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt-Peterson-Honda) – 1:09.4366 (29)19. Robert Wickens (Schmidt-Peterson-Honda) – 1:09.5237 (27)20. Charlie Kimball (Carlin-Chevrolet) – 1:09.6123 (22)21. Jordan King (Carpenter-Chevrolet) – 1:09.6901 (20)22. Spencer Pigot (Carpenter-Chevrolet) – 1:10.0997 (14)23. Gabby Chaves (Harding-Chevrolet) – 1:12.1430 (4)24. Rene Binder (Juncos-Chevrolet) – 1:12.1778 (29)
Results IndyCar test drives Texas Motor Speedway, 15.03.2018
01. Scott Dixon (Ganassi Honda) – 222.5 miles per hour02. Sebastien Bourdais (Coyne Honda) – 221.002. Tony Kanaan (Foyt-Chevrolet) – 221.004. Marco Andretti (Andretti-Herta-Honda) 219,904. Josef Newgarden (Penske-Chevrolet) – 219,906. Ed Carpenter (Carpenter-Chevrolet) – 219,807. Takuma Sato (RLL Honda) – 218,908. Robert Wickens (Schmidt-Peterson-Honda) – 217,609. James Hinchcliffe (Schmidt-Peterson-Honda) – 217.5