The first of the two scheduled pre-season IndyCar Series tests concluded with teams and drivers happy to have had the opportunity to see how off-season developments have translated to performance on track - and find out where they need to improve, both before the Barber test and opening race in St Petersburg in April.
The ten hours of testing on the 1.5-mile oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway not only allowed teams to prepare for similar venues on the 2009 schedule, but also provided a yardstick by which to measure the competition. The verdict was pretty unanimous: 2009 promises some of the closest on-track action in the history of the series.
The field of 21 was separated by just 0.7196secs after 4698 incident-free laps, with Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe, who finished fifth in the championship last year, recording the fastest run at 25.1984secs. Reigning champion Scott Dixon was second fastest, just 0.0394secs behind.
“I'm really happy with the way our only pre-season oval test went this week,” Briscoe reported, “We were able to work on a lot of different things and I'm satisfied with what we were able to accomplish. I think that what we learned here at Homestead will help us on all the 1.5-mile ovals this season, starting with Kansas and moving forward. I think we're in great shape, and now we're one step closer to the beginning of the season.”
Andretti Green Racing drivers Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan were third and fourth respectively on the time chart, showing that the team that won three of the last five championships will once again be a contender.
“I'm really happy,” Andretti said, “We were able to test different set-ups that are going to benefit the Meijer car and the entire AGR team. It definitely has been a productive couple of days. I'm so confident in the set-up we found that I wish we were racing tonight or tomorrow. We had a decent time but, that aside, I think we are strong overall.”
Dario Franchitti, returning to the IndyCar Series as Dixon's team-mate at Target Chip Ganassi Racing after a year's absence, was fifth overall, while 20-year old Mario Moraes made light of his move to KV Racing Technology by finishing sixth.
“We were not worrying about speed,” the Brazilian claimed, “We were concentrating on finding a good set-up for the races. It was great to be back in a race car after five months and to be with KV Racing Technology. I felt very comfortable with the team, and it was fantastic to work with such an experienced group. From the engineering to the preparation of the car to the pit-stops, I could not have asked for anything more. I learned a lot and I am pleased with what we achieved.”
Four rookies participated in the test, paced by Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Mike Conway, who was ninth fastest overall.
“It's all about learning each time I go out - learning about running with traffic, how the tyres come in, just things with set-up, like aero changes, mechanical changes,” the Briton said, “They all feel quite different. I've really got a feel as to what the car is doing and how it's reacting to each change. I've been learning how to run in different lines and how to react in traffic, and each day was another positive step. I can't wait to get back on the track again.”
After analysing what data they collected from Homestead, the teams will begin preparing for the road course test at Barber Motorsports Park over 22-23 March.