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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]
Helio Castroneves leads the field down the frontstretch to start the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday April 26 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves leads the field to the green flag to start the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Sunday April 26 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves wins the Verizon P1 Award for winning the pole for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday April 25 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves wins the Verizon P1 Award for winning the pole for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday April 25 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves wins the Verizon P1 Award for winning the pole for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday April 25 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves wins the Verizon P1 Award for winning the pole for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday April 25 2015. (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 AAA.com Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, races fastest to win the pole during qualifying Saturday, April 24, 2015 for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves, driver of the #3 AAA.com Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, celebrates winning the pole during qualifying Saturday, April 24, 2015 for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #1 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet V-6 IndyCar, finishes second fastest during qualifying Saturday, April 24, 2015 for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Power will start in the front row next to teammate Helio Castroneves who won the pole position. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Simon Pagenaud, driver of the #22 Penske Truck Rental Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, finishes third fastest during qualifying Saturday, April 24, 2015 for Sunday`s Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. Pagenaud and Team Penske teammates Helio Castroneves and Will Power had the fastest qualifying times. Castrovenes won the pole position. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday April 25 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday April 25 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday April 25 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday April 25 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves celebrates winning pole position for the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park on Saturday April 25 2015. (Photo by: Chris Jones for IndyCar Media)

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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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