With nearly four months having passed since the final chequered flag of the 2008 season, those with confirmed or anticipated drives in this year's IndyCar Series are counting the days to the time they can get back behind the wheel.
None appear more anxious to get back behind the wheel than the new Team Penske pairing of Ryan Briscoe and Will Power, thrown together by the uncertainty over Helio Castroneves' participation, and eager for the first open test of the season, at Homestead-Miami Speedway, next week.
For Briscoe, 2009 will be a second season with Team Penske, and he looks to continue the success he found in 2008 and build upon the momentum he established at the end of the season. The 27-year old Australian earned his first IndyCar Series victory at Milwaukee, and added to it with wins at Mid-Ohio and the non-points race at Surfers Paradise, as well as taking three poles during the course of a campaign that, early on, seemed set to cast him aside after a string of poor results.
In the final seven events of the season, including the exhibition at Surfers Paradise, Briscoe took two poles and started in the top five every time, before going on to claim two of his three wins amid four top three finishes. His win on home soil in Australia rounded out a resume that now boasts and IndyCar win on each type of track that the series visits, and sets Briscoe up nicely for a run at the title in 2009.
“I'm really pumped up to get the season started,” he enthused, “It's been a long off-season, but the upside is that it's given us a great opportunity to spend time in the race shop to talk about how we can improve and be stronger in 2009.
"We haven't been in the car since Australia and everyone is excited to get out there. We don't get to do a lot of testing throughout the year, so I think we'll really be looking to take advantage of the track time in Miami and at the Barber test so we're ready to go racing when the season starts in St Petersburg."
Briscoe also made use of the time off to spend ten days at Formula Medicine in Viareggio, Italy. The facility, led by Dr Riccardo Ceccarelli, was founded to provide racecar drivers with an opportunity to learn about and implement successful training regimes, and Briscoe spent a significant amount of time there in the early stages of his career. This month's return was his first since moving to the United States in 2005, however.
“I wanted to return to Formula Medicine for a refresher before the 2009 season started," he admitted "I needed to make sure that I'm at the top of my game and my performance level is at its highest so we can shoot for a successful season.”
Fellow Australian Power will get behind the wheel of Castroneves' familiar #3 Penske Dallara for the first time at the Homestead test in preparation for a possible race campaign should the two-time Indy 500 winner be prevented from driving by tax evasion allegations.