6 March 2012
Penske trio top second day of Sebring test
Team Penske's Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe ended up with times only 0.0646s apart at the end of the second and final day of pre-season testing at Sebring.
Helio Castroneves' lap time of 52.1413s was the best that any of the ten drivers involved in the first block of pre-season testing at Sebring International Raceway could achieve during their two days on track - but it was under seven hundredths of a second faster than the times of both of his Penske team mates, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe, on the 1.67-mile, 11-turn circuit.
"Certainly it is great to be on top of the charts, but it doesn't pay anything," pointed out Castroneves at the end of the day. "The first race of the season is what we are looking for. But, it feels great to have a good practice."
Power's performance was particularly impressive. After losing almost all of the morning session while the team cleared up the #12 after his engine bay fire caused by a fuel leak on Monday, he suffered a second minor fire later on Tuesday that forced him to abort what looked to be his fastest run of the day in order to pull into the pits, where his crew were ready to administer highly sophisticated fire suppressants - in the form of buckets of water.
"It wasn't a big issue," Power said about Monday's incident. "Fortunately, we got it out soon enough that we didn't do too much damage that would have lost us the test day today."
As for the test overall, Power was struck by how close the cars were. "It is clear that it is pretty even so far," he said. "Everyone is going to have what they've got. There is no sandbagging or anything. We shall see."
Certainly the Chevrolet-powered runners seemed happy with how things were shaping up. "The more miles we get on these Chevys, the better. I feel like we're ready to go racing in St. Pete," said Briscoe. "The car is feeling strong. Working with the engine guys on the driveability side as well - I think we made a lot of gains there."
Simon Pagenaud and Justin Wilson were the fastest Honda runners at the session, with Pagenaud less than a third of a second off Castroneves best time and feeling positive about the first race of the season.
"It's an exciting moment for IndyCar with three different engines. You can tell the Chevys and Hondas are really close," said the Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports driver. "It will come down to qualifying [at St. Petersburg] to see who's strongest."
"Not a bad day, it was a reasonable test overall," said a more cautious Wilson, back at Dale Coyne Racing after two years away from the team. "The Honda engine has been really strong and very consistent," he added. "There are a lot of components to this car that are new to us and we are still working hard to see how everything responds to changes, but I think we are getting better every time out."
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