Team Penske team-mates Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves topped the time sheets as IZOD IndyCar Series teams opened a two-day Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park - but casual observers won't have been able to immediately recognise either after Penske Racing unveiled its new livery.
Briscoe toured the 2.3-mile road course in 1min 10.5020secs in the now black, white and red #6 Dallara-Honda, while Castroneves was only just behind after lapping at 1min 10.7146secs in his familiar #3 version. Both laps were set in the afternoon session when the sun helped heat the track surface on an unseasonably chilly day at the picturesque venue.
"It's nice to be at the top of the speed charts," Aussie Briscoe admitted, "It's important because it is our only test before the first race, so we're all comparing times. It's nice to have the Team Penske cars on top. It's a great way to start the year."
"Today was about getting a rhythm," Castroneves added, "The last time I was in a Team Penske car on a road course was Infineon [last August], and you need testing to get your muscles back into shape. Even if you've been working out, you still need to get your rhythm back and get to work. That was the goal today. Tomorrow we'll work on the small details."
The unveiling of a new livery on the #3, #6 and #12 cars ahead of the test at Barber Motorsports Park marked the end of Penske's relationship with the familiar red-and-white paint scheme that had been in place since 1990, replaced by black sides, a white centre strip and red accents on all three cars. With all three cars looking largely the same, observers will have to rely on the rear wing endplates to distinguish between them, with those on Castroneves' #3 being painted red with a black numeral, Briscoe's white with a black numeral, and third team member Will Power's #12 black with a red numeral.
Power took the Verizon-backed third car to fourth quickest time, lapping in 1min 10.7637secs, as road course ace Justin Wilson slid the Dreyer & Reinbold entry into the top three. Scott Dixon, last season's championship runner-up, was fifth fastest.
"The first day in the car was really good," Wilson said of his maiden outing with DRR, "It was a pretty positive day and we kept making improvements - all in all, I think that it went well and I'm pleased with P3. I'm getting comfortable in the car and with my new engineer and crew, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow. Unfortunately, at the end of the day I just clipped the grass going into Turn 1 and the car snapped around on me. The car isn't too badly damaged and I'm okay."
Returning from back injuries sustained in practice at Infineon, Power admitted that it was good to be back in harness.
"This has been the longest off-season of my career," he conceded, "We were able to learn a few things today, and the #12 Verizon Team Penske car ran great. The team worked together nicely and we had a productive day. I am looking forward to getting back on track tomorrow."
Dixon reported that he and the Target Chip Ganassi team had been working on a combination on aero and mechanical items, with a lot more work to be done, while champion team-mate Dario Franchitti, who ended the day ninth fastest, confirmed that the team had been working through a list of test items that they had been working on in the off-season.