Series rookie Sebastian Saavedra paced the final Firestone Indy Lights open test of the winter, pushing the #27 AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing entry to the head of the timesheets with a lap of 1min 15.6714secs around the 15-turn, 2.38-mile road course at Barber Motorsports Park.
Saavedra, who has grown up on road courses in FBMW and, most recently, the German F3 Cup, headed a ten-car field, with AFS/AGR team-mate JR Hildebrand providing the closest opposition, at 1min 15.7648secs, and Vision Racing's James Davison taking third spot at 1min 15.8599secs.
Other teams opted not to attend the test and use private test days from their seasonal allocation to prepare at Sebring for the double-header round on the streets of St Petersburg.
"We did an awesome job as a team," Saavedra commented, "We divided what we wanted to test with JR's crew and we did a good job finding out the areas we need to improve on for the future. It's just a shame we had an engine malfunction and had to cut the test a little short and to show what we learned the whole day to the very end.
"Still, I'm happy with everything we learned because it's only my fourth time in this car. Being able to get up to speed this quickly is good, but I also have a lot to learn. I'm really excited to be part of the AFS/Andretti Green Racing team and looking forward to the season opener in a couple of weeks."
Hildebrand, a racewinner in 2008, admitted that his first impressions of the Barber facility, while generally positive, were that it did not necessarily help the team when it came to sorting the car for the season ahead.
“It's really a cool track but, looking at the layout, it's unclear whether it would be beneficial because there aren't that many slow corners," he explained, "There's a lot of fast increasing and decreasing radius corners and a lot of bending and braking but, once you get out there, with the elevation changes, it really is a place where you can learn something set-up-wise that will help us at places like Watkins Glen and Sonoma - and even Mid-Ohio. It is definitely an interesting place in terms of set-up - and the team is working really hard to find the right one - but the driver is working hard too, because the line isn't what you expect.
“We started with a generic set-up and realised we needed to go to the road course set-up. And, once we did that, we picked up speed. But we're not too concerned with that today. We're using this test just to figure some things out. Later on this year, when we get days at tracks we race on, we'll look to find speed.”
Behind Davison, who made a late move into third spot, rookies Daniel Herrington, Martin Plowman, Pippa Mann, Mario Romancini and Rodrigo Barbosa sandwiched the experienced Andrew Prendeville in ninth spot on the timesheets.
“It was a very productive test for us as a team," Davison reported, "We were quick all day but, at the end of the day, we should have trimmed out, and that cost us a chance at fast time.
"It's only testing though. St Pete is when they start giving points but, still, I feel good about today. Last year, ovals were my strength but, with my new engineer Lee Dykstra, I can get from the car what I need. The car had the speed to be fastest in it. We just learned something new at the end.”