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New DW12 off to a fast start at St Pete

To no one's surprise given the lateness of the the engine manufacturer's entry into the series, the Lotus-powered cars were generally languishing around the bottom third of the times set on Friday. Even so, HVM's Simona de Silvestro impressed with a 16th fastest laptime of 1:02.9136s (102.998mph).

"We've started creeping up a little bit and it's been going better and better," said the Swiss driver. "We made really big improvements this afternoon on the car side. I know we still have a bit of work ahead of us for qualifying, but I think we're moving in the right direction on the car and also on the engine."

The biggest achievement of all for the Lotus stable of teams was that they were all out on track at all - something that didn't seem likely to happen even as recently as Wednesday, when Lotus Dragon Racing feared that the engine they needed for their second car driven by four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais wasn't going to get to St Pete in time.

"Overall, I'm pretty damn happy that everything went the way that we wanted to," said Bourdais. "Honestly, if you had told me that we would run two sessions with no problems, I would have signed straight away."

Proving that he still had all his US open wheel racing skills, Bourdais ended up as the second-quickest of the Lotus cars in what had been his first full day in the #7 car.

"We're near the top of the Lotus teams, pretty much," he pointed out. "We're seven hundredths behind Simona, who was the fastest. We're just learning about the car and making it better every run and making progress."

His team mate Katherine Legge was not as fast and ended up with the slowest time of the 26 drivers out on track thanks to some early issues.

"We had some minor issues in the first session with brakes and drivability, which the team quickly addressed. In the second session we were working on several things, including my learning of the track," she said. "[The time] is certainly not representative of what this team is capable of."

Right now, everyone's still having to work hard to get any real idea of just what is representative of what their own equipment is truly capable of - let alone having a good picture of the state of the rest of the field. But that's just going to make Saturday's qualifying and Sunday's race day so much more fun and fascinating for all concerned - the fans most of all.




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