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Briscoe fastest at Long Beach on Friday

15 April 2011

Will Power continued his run of dominating performances on road courses with the morning practice session for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, leaving it late before coming out and bumping Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay off the top spot

But Power's attempt to do the same in the afternoon session was thwarted by a late flier from his Penske team mate Ryan Briscoe. With the warmer afternoon conditions resulting in the faster times of the day, Briscoe duly ended up with the top combined time of the day's two practice sessions.

Ryan Hunter-Reay continued to perform strongly in the afternoon session as well, and was only pipped by the Penske duo in the final minutes and pushed down to third place on a circuit that clearly suits him - he was victorious on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn track this time last year, a win that led directly to a deal putting him in the car for the rest of 2010.

The first 45 minutes of the morning practice session were reserved for rookies and for drivers outside the top ten, and Dreyer & Reinbold's British driver Justin Wilson dominated this stage despite his ongoing wrist injury causing him some issues which increased as the day wore on. Wilson continued to hold the top spot for some time even once the leading drivers joined the fray, with Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Alex Tagliani and Penske's Ryan Briscoe also topping the times at various points.

Briscoe was responsible for an early yellow in the morning when he spun into the tyre wall, which left him requiring a new rear wing to be fitted to his Penske car. James Hinchcliffe's Newman/Haas Racing suffered a small fire at the rear of the car mid-session that sidelined him, while Dale Coyne Racing's James Jakes and Dreyer & Reinbold's Ana Beatriz - the latter returning to active duty after missing last week's race in Alabama due to sustaining a broken wrist at St Petersburg - also had on-track incidents.

During the afternoon session, Paul Tracy ended up in the tyre barriers early on in only his third lap, failing to set a genuinely representative time in the Dragon Racing car and duly ending up at the bottom of the practice 2 timesheets. James Jakes also triggered a yellow in the afternoon session in the Dale Coyne Racing car with another incident, while others including Oriol Servia had spins that were quickly cleared up.

Topping the combined practice times means that Briscoe now gets to choose whether he heads up Group 1 or Group 2 in the first round of qualifying on Saturday. Under adjusted procedures announced on Thursday, one group is made up of the cars in the odd positions in the combined times and the other is made up of the cars in the even positions, which has meant an added edge to proceedings today as drivers have more in stake in delivering a good performance in Friday practice than has previously been the case.

With 27 cars in the field, there had been a chance that one would be 'cut' under new IndyCar rules to limit the starting grid to the top 26 qualifiers. However, with more space available on pit road at Long Beach than other venues this rule has been suspended this week as long as the runners manage to set a time within 105% of the pole.

Full practice times available in the results section.


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