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Penske finds early pace at Motegi on Friday

A lack of familiarity with the Motegi road course didn't deter Peneke team mates Will Power and Helio Castroneves, with James Hinchcliffe the only other driver to dip under 1:40s on Friday.
It was very hot (into the 90s) and also very humid at Motegi for the 75-minute first IndyCar practice session on the 2.983-mile, 14-turn clockwise natural-terrain road course. With Motegi presenting the longest circuit of the year, few people had problems finding space to work with or had issues falling over traffic for once.

Dario Franchitti and Will Power settled into the top two spots after initial runs during the first half an hour, with a time of 1:40.4652s for Dario setting the benchmark at this point. Ryan Hunter-Reay in third was the only other driver to set an early time under 1:41 and he expressed surprise that he had, saying that he felt the car was more like a P20 given how much it was sliding around with balance and understeer issues affecting the rear end.

It was not until 18 minutes to go that Dario Franchitti finally improved on his earlier best time with a 1:40.3108s. Takuma Sato, James Hinchcliffe, Helio Castroneves and Scott Dixon all bumped Will Power down (to sixth), at which point many teams switched to new tyres for ten minutes of fast lap attempts which began with James Hinchcliffe going top with 1:39.8531s and Alex Tagliani jumping into second

The final five minutes saw many new fastest laps posted on the timesheets, and when the dust settled it was Penske duo Will Power and Helio Castroneves who popped in ahead of Hinchcliffe, the only three cars under the 100s mark for the session with Ryan Briscoe next up in fourth with 1:40.1887s as the chequered flag came out to end Friday's proceedings.

That left Dario Franchitti in seventh, just two hundredths of a second ahead of 2010 Formula Nippon champion Joao Paulo de Oliveira who is making his first IndyCar appearance, but on a road course that unlike the rest of the field he knows very well indeed - having won here last year.

The times are still some way off de Oliveira's most recent Formula Nippon pole position lap of 1:35.012s, but that series has cars designed specifically for road courses while the current ageing IndyCar chassis was originally intended for ovals-only. A new chassis is being introduced in 2012 and is currently undergoing testing in the States in the hands of Dan Wheldon and Bryan Herta Autosport.

There were no full course cautions. The track remained green despite an early spin out of turn 14 onto the frontstraight by Alex Tagliani, and James Jakes overcooking his run into turn 1 and going off into the sand trap midway through which was also handled under waved yellows. There was a minor spin in the closing minutes for Giorgio Pantano, and Will Power and Scott Dixon both struggled to make it into turn 1 after their final flying laps and Power ran off, triggering brief local yellows.

The usual pattern for the first practice session of a race weekend is to give rookies and those outside the top ten the run of the track for the first 45 minutes with the top drivers only joining the fray for the last half hour, but there was no split session today as the track was new for everyone.

There are two further practice sessions planned for Saturday at 9am and midday local time before qualifying at 3pm (7am BST).

Full Friday practice times and positions available.



Related Pictures

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Joao Paulo de Oliveira in the cockpit of an IZOD IndyCar Series car for the first time at Motegi. [Photo credit: Daniel Incandela for IndyCar Media]
Will Power on track on the road course at Motegi. [Photo credit: Daniel Incandela for IndyCar Media]
Will Power runs wide off the track on the road course at Motegi. [Photo credit: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media]
Chevrolet sweeps the podium with winner Mike Conway (center), driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka / Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrating his victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the second of two IndyCar Series races through the streets of Exhibition Place, in Toronto, Canada. Tony Kanaan (left), driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet celebrates his second-place finish. Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet celebrates his third-place finish. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Mike Conway, Tony Kanaan and Will Power celebrate on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Mike Conway, Tony Kanaan and Will Power pose for a selfie on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan and Will Power pose for a selfie on the podium after the second round of the Honda Indy Toronto doubleheader on Sunday July 20 2014. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Chevy Racing sweeps the podium with race winner Sebastien Bourdais (center), driver of the #11 Hydroxycut KVC Racing Technology Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrating his victory Sunday, July 20, 2014 during the first of two IndyCar Series races in Toronto, Canada. Second-place finisher Helio Castroneves (left), driver of the #3 PPV Automotive Refinish Team Penske Chevrolet, and third-place finisher Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, join the celebration. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Sebastien Bourdais chats with his team on pit lane during practice for the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Shawn Gritzmacher  for IndyCar Media)
Sebastien Bourdais exits Turn 8 during practice for the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Chris Owens  for IndyCar Media)
Sebastien Bourdais passes by the Princes` Gate at Turn 1 during practice for the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Eric Anderson  for IndyCar Media)
Josef Newgarden walks the paddock prior to practice for the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Simon Pagenaud enters Turn 4 during practice for the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Josef Newgarden waits on pit lane for practice to begin for the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Josef Newgarden enters Turn 4 during practice for the Honda Indy Toronto (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
James Hinchcliffe`s car in Canadian mode (Photo By Chris Owens for IndyCar media)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to a fourteenth-place finish Saturday, July 13, 2014 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Power lost the championship points lead to teammate Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Hitachi Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, who finished eighth. (Photo by Dan Streck/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 TNT Energy Drink Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, races to a third-place finish Saturday, July 12, 2014 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V6, takes over the championship points lead with an eighth-place finish. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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Julie - Unregistered

September 16, 2011 3:30 PM

It should be noted that Dario Franchitti was P7 in the first practice on old tires...everyone above him went to new tires to post their faster times. While all tires were equal, Dario was right up there matching and beating the times of Will Power.



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