Just because it's a brand new circuit that no one has ever run on before doesn't mean it's going to stop Will Power from assuming his familiar position at the top of the timesheets.
His late lap of 1:22.1379s was enough to put him 0.0783s ahead of Ganassi arch-rival Dario Franchitti with whom he'd been trading the top spot for much of the 75-minute single practice session of the day, with Helio Castroneves and Ryan Hunter-Reay also looking strong on the brand new street course.
"I think it will be a great race!," said Power. "You are working the entire time, and it is a pretty cool track."
Power said was happy with his first experience of the new circuit: "They did a really good job creating the circuit. It takes a lot of commitment and there are several technical bits, it's bumpy ... It is very tricky in certain places, but that is typical of a street course."
Dario Franchitti was still catching is breath after a busy, compressed Friday session. "Well, that was pretty busy out there! I'm just figuring my way around, I still think there's a couple of areas that I could improve on. It's a challenge for the engineers [and] for the drivers."
The Friday schedule was extensively rewritten after the track preparations were not complete in time on Friday morning, but shortly after noon the circuit was at last ready to get running underway with the support events. Finally at 4.30pm local time (9.30pm BST) the IndyCars came out for what turned out to the the sole track session of the day after all, the delays having squeezed out plans for a second hour-long practice later in the early evening.
"It was a tough day for the fans because of the wait, but they stuck it out and on that first lap the stands were pretty full there," said Dario. "We want to make sure that it's a good day for the fans since they're very excited to be here. We're glad to be here, we're looking forward to it."
Drivers struggled with the tight, technical corners and the incredibly bumpy street surface, and inevitably some drivers fell foul of the rough edges inevitable on any new circuit.
"It was a tough practice session to get a rhythm on because it was interrupted so much by yellows," said Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay. "But we're fourth right now and I think we have a pretty good starting point ... Hopefully tomorrow we'll make the usual steps that we do on street courses and keep moving forward."
There were two lengthy early cautions, beginning with Scott Dixon's Ganassi car which crashed in turn 4 after he overcorrected through the narrow entrance. He missed the tyre wall and ended up impacting the wall, at a point of the track so narrow that adding tyres was simply not viable.
"Unfortunately I locked up under braking and got into the wall early in the session. Not the way we wanted to start but the Target team will bounce back," he said afterwards.
A second caution followed 15 minutes later when Penske's Ryan Briscoe took a hard hit in turn 6, the first part of the tricky double chicane. Briscoe was concerned that this happened when he was running at only about 70% of the car's speed and wondered what would happen when car were fully on it in qualifying and the race itself.
"It's a shame because we were really feeling good in the car before we hit the wall," said Briscoe. "I was a little worried about that corner and maybe I jinxed myself because I said something the lap before. It's kind of a dangerous corner - very fast - and I got in a little hot and the right front wheels clipped the tire barrier and that was it; we hit the wall."
Both cars sustained damage that put them out of the remainder of the day's running, but neither driver was injured and it didn't dampen their enthusiasm for the new event.
"The track is very cool," said Dixon. "A bit bumpy in places and the chicane is pretty tight. Turn one will be good under braking so there will be some good opportunities for passing maybe in turns two and three."
"We were really fast out there and it's a fun track," agreed Briscoe. "It's busy out there but a lot of fun. It's going to be an interesting race, for sure."
A brief caution was also trigged by a spin and stall by Tomas Scheckter in the SH Racing car in turn 9 with less than half an hour to go, and a final caution with a little under 15 minutes remaining caused by EJ Viso spun into the run off area at turn 1 at the same time that Giorgio Pantano had a problem in the double chicane. Viso stayed put until the end of the session, while Scheckter and Pantano were both able to get re-fired and return to pit lane.
"I'm very happy with today," insisted Pantano, appearing in his second race of the season in the #22 Dreyer & Reinbold machine usually driven by the current injured Justin Wilson. "The car seems to be okay. Right now, we are working on fixing some things. With the cars that we had today we weren't able to get a good lap time. Tomorrow, I'm sure we will be at the top."
Wilson put in an appearance at the track for the first time since his accident at Mid Ohio Sports Car Course, sporting his unflattering back brace that means he will be out for the rest of the season while his vertebrae fractures heal.
Full practice times