With only a little over two months to go before the first race of the new season, teams and drivers from the IZOD IndyCar Series have been at Sebring International Raceway this week for their first real on-track road course experience of the new 2012 car, the DW12 IndyCar Safety Cell chassis.
Ryan Briscoe, Will Power, Helio Castroneves, JR Hildebrand, Scott Dixon, Graham Rahal, Tony Kanaan, EJ Viso, Marco Andretti, Simon Pagenaud and Simona de Silvestro were all in action this week on the 1.8-mile, 10-turn short road course in the heart of Florida state.
“This car is a bit of a handful!” was Will Power's opinion via Twitter as he got his first proper extended taste of the DW12 on Tuesday.
This was also the first genuine opportunity that the teams have really been able to test the car from their own perspective, after previous tests that have mainly been focused on pure engine development.
“The first impression was pretty nice, better than expected. For a first day test, we were right there with performance on the old car" said Power's Penske team mate Ryan Briscoe, who got his chance to run the day before.
His track time was curtailed on Monday by a persistent engine misfire in the Chevrolet engine and he was only able to post four or five timed laps, but he got in much more time on the Tuesday once the glitches were sorted out
"It was a slow test to start off, but picked up after that," Briscoe told reporters. "We had some teething problems in my car: nothing major, mostly electronics stuff we're getting used to. Some of that's expected at this stage."
No official times were released, but observers estimated laps to be in the low 53s range, with Scott Dixon believed to be fastest in the Ganassi Honda-powered cars and the Penske trio currently some half a second further back with their Chevrolet engines. Those times would be about a second off the best available comparison times for the DW12's predecessor, the long-serving IR07.
"Everyone is in the first stages of figuring the car out, so it's not like we all know the cars and what makes them tick - that's gonna take some time," said Ganassi driver Graham Rahal, who described the car as "fun as hell" to drive. "It's pretty wicked: it clearly has a lot of potential on road courses and has plenty of grip."