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Dixon and Franchitti top Sebring test

10 March 2012

Ganassi driver Scott Dixon set the fastest time of the final day of open testing at Sebring International Raceway on Friday with a late afternoon lap of 52.1615s (115.257mph) on the 1.67-mile, 11-turn short road course in Florida.

"We did the work on the car and as the sun went down a bit and the clouds came in, the track picked up some time," said Dixon about his final flying lap of the week. "We definitely worked to make the car better as well. I was good to do something for the lads at the end and it worked out."

Getting the fastest lap in the afternoon made up for a slightly troubled start to the day for Dixon. "We got started late because of some issues, and probably didn't get accomplished what we needed to in the first part of the day.

"We made a big suspension change at lunch time, and I actually didn't like all of that stuff, but we came out around 3pm, and didn't have time to go back on those things, so we stuck with it," he added. "We made steering changes and damper changes and seem to find a bit of a compromise for what we had."

His pre-lunch issues meant that Dario Franchitti topped the timesheets instead on Ganassi's behalf with a lap of 52.1464s (115.291mph) which he improved to 52.0157s (115.580mph) in the afternoon.

"The team always does a good job, they're very, very good," said Franchitti at the end of the day. "We're trying to learn these new cars. We're trying to learn the new car, what might break on them, where the weak spots are, how to make them go fast. Honda is learning very quickly too so we're just trying to get through all of this stuff just now."

Franchitti's testing time on Thursday was delayed while his car was fitted with Dallara's new brakes package allowing him to continue using his right foot for controlling the braking, and he was relieved that this was proving to have been worth the wait.

"I'm very happy with the two days we've had, obviously the first two days for me right foot braking," he said. "We had a lot of questions coming in to this test and we got answers to most of them, so hopefully we can put the pieces together for St. Pete and onwards."

Also delighted with the way things had gone was IndyCar's newest star, with Rubens Barrichello instantly parleying his F1 experience into strong form in the DW12 that made him the third fastest man again on Friday.

"Overall though we have had a very good two days of testing," he said. "We were able to run a good amount of laps again today and look at some different setups. We also practised pit stops which will served me well. I was able to see how the car reacts coming in on warm tires and leaving on cold tires and seeing where to position the car, all things that are very different to what I am used to."

Perhaps the most surprising strong performances of this second block of testing on Thursday and Friday was the consistently strong showing of Panther's JR Hildebrand and AJ Foyt Racing's Mike Conway.

"We struggled all day to find speed," insisted Conway, who still wasn't happy with the margin that the leaders had over him by the end of the open test. "We need to go quicker because four tenths is massive around here. We learned some things but we have more work to do, we just have to keep working at it."

Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's Josef Newgarden also made steady improvement on the second day of testing, with Newgarden finishing ahead of Ganassi's Charlie Kimball in both morning and afternoon sessions just two days after getting their hands on their Honda engine.

There was relief, too, in the Lotus camp which got all three cars out on track during the day without significant issues and which even saw Bryan Herta Autosport's Alex Tagliani in the top ten in the morning.

There was also the first track time for Lotus Dragon Racing's Sebastien Bourdais, who borrowed his team mate Katherine Legge's #6 car for the morning session and achieved 69 laps before lunch, with Legge herself adding another 45 in the afternoon.

"Nothing is ideal, we would have loved to get more done, but at least I will show up in St. Pete having done some laps in the car," said a relieved Bourdais after his spell in the cockpit. "Knowing a little bit, making sure the car was right and was doing everything it was expected to do, and to get the communication going with the engineers is what we need to address and to get the communication going with Lotus as well.

"Now we're just having to deal with balance issues and fixing stuff, so it's more what I'm used to and what my job is rather than worrying if we're going to get the car on the track," he continued. "Just slowly starting, really."

Ed Carpenter's new team was continuing to have teething problems, causing two cautions in the afternoon including one for going off-roading at turn 10. Despite finishing at the bottom of the timesheets in the morning and only just ahead of Legge in the afternoon, Carpenter was still confident that progress was being made.

“All in all, it was a good two-day start for the team,” he insisted. "“We had a few hiccups during the two days but we wanted to get in some testing for the car, engine and the crew.

"We missed some time each day with a couple of teething pains as everything was new," he continued. "You always want to be better, but for the amount of new stuff that we're dealing with, from the car, to the engine to all the new people, I was encouraged by the team effort this week."

Carpenter is among the majority of drivers to be heading to Barber Motorsports Park next week for another two days of on-track testing, in a March 13-14 slot opened up by the series organisers' decision to postponed the originally scheduled Texas oval test.

After that, there will be just a week remaining before the cars arrive in St Petersburg for the season opener on March 25 - which is the first time we'll know for sure how the new teams, drivers, chassis and engines shape up in head-to-head competition.

Additional information available:

Group 1 - day 1 times and report (Monday, March 5)
Group 1 - day 2 times and report (Tuesday, March 6)
Group 2 - day 1 times and report (Thursday, March 8)
Group 2 - day 2 times (Friday March 9)
Combined times for the full week


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