"We're happy to be on track with all the IndyCars painted and starting our season," said Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay after setting the fastest time of the first day of official pre-season testing at Sebring International Raceway.
Despite running only 60 laps during the day, Hunter-Reay's time of 52.5826s (114.334mph) was 0.1266s faster than the best that Penske's Helio Castroneves who put in 83 laps on the track on Monday, the second-most of the eleven runners eligible to take part in this two-day test.
"Everybody is making a lot of adjustments to their cars, and the car is a lot of fun," said Hunter-Reay. "I think the lap times at St. Pete will be quicker, and this car will certainly go faster and faster as we develop it."
Hunter-Reay was also amazed at the difference that turbo power made to the way the car felt. "The funny thing is if you didn't have any lap times you'd think you were two or three seconds a lap quicker just because of the power delivery of the turbo," he said of the Chevrolet engine. "When it gets going, it really sets you back in your seat."
For his part, Castroneves said that Penske were just concentrating on doing their own test program. "We just have to keep focusing on our job," he said. "We're just focusing on our jobs and not even looking at times. It doesn't matter who it is, we just have to keep working and chipping away."
Third fastest on Monday was Simon Pagenaud, who is now officially the driver of the rechristened Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports #77 car following the agreement between veteran driver Davey Hamilton and Sam Schmidt Motorsports to join forces in 2012.
"I'm very excited about this new opportunity with Sam," said Hamilton. "Nobody has worked harder to get to victory lane in the series than Sam, and I want to help make that happen."
“I'm thrilled to welcome Davey to the team,” said Sam Schmidt in turn. "He's a great friend who is trusted and liked by everyone. He's also experienced in just about every facet of the racing business, so he'll be a huge asset for the team."
Of his first day driving for the newly-named team, Pagenaud was very happy with how it had gone. "It was a good day," he said. "We made some big steps forward. I'm very happy tonight. The Honda engine is really good. I'm improving every time I go out. The Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports team is doing a great job and that's making me feel more and more confident."