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Hunter-Reay leads test times at Sebring

5 March 2012

"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."

Less happy with how the day had gone was Penske's Will Power, who had several offs in the car during the early part of the day and then had a small fire in the engine bay of the Verizon #12 car in the afternoon which he put out himself. Even so, he insisted that "I was really happy actually, the times we were putting up on really old tyres were really good."

Simona de Silvestro had a misfire problem with her car that saw the HVM car taken to the hauler while the team tried to resolve the wiring issue that was leaving the Lotus engine with only five cylinders.

"I think it was a difficult day for HVM Racing and for Lotus, but I hope we'll come back strong tomorrow," she said at the end of the session. "We have a lot of work ahead of us and we just need to go through the process. I think we see that we are a little bit behind, but if we keep improving."

But the driver with the biggest problem was Lotus Dragon Racing's Sebastien Bourdais, who was left unable to get out on track at all after his Lotus engine failed to make it to the raceway in time to take part in the track activity. It was unclear exactly why this was the case, with some media reports talking about unconfirmed contractual problems between Dragon and Lotus.

Bourdais is now expected to take part instead in the second block of testing on Thursday and Friday with his team mate Katherine Legge. The other 14 cars scheduled to take part in that test include all four Ganassi cars and all three KV Racing Technology cars, including the newly signed Rubens Barrichello.

Before that, the current ten cars will have a second day of testing on Tuesday. The Wednesday will see the track handed over to the Firestone Indy Lights team for their own pre-season test session.

Details of the Monday test times are available.


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