If you were waiting to find out which of the engine manufacturers had the upper hand coming into 2012, then wait no longer for your answer: it's Chevrolet, who wiped the floor with their opposition in the first qualifying session of the new IZOD IndyCar
Series season at St Petersburg.
"This is an exciting day in St Pete and Chevy is back in IndyCar
with five of the top six in the field running Chevrolet,” said Jim Campbell, the US vice president pf performance vehicles and motorsports for Chevrolet.
With the pole shootout virtually an all-Chevrolet affair that included all three Penske cars and two of the three Andretti Autosport runners, it was far less surprising to see Will Power pop to the top spot with a new series record lap time of 1:01.3721s.
Power has started from the pole at St Petersburg for three consecutive years: he won in 2010, and was runner-up to Dario Franchitti last year.
"I'm very happy to get the first pole for Chevy as they return to the series,” he said afterwards. Ever cautious, he added: “It's only the beginning of the weekend. We need to have a good strategy for the race and see what comes.”
The only man who has ever driven faster here in previous years was Sebastien Bourdais, who posted a lap of 1:00.928s in the sole Champ Car race held in 2003 albeit using a different-specification car to that used by the then-competing Indy Racing League. Unfortunately Bourdais was never going to be a factor this year, with all the Lotus cars eliminated in the first round as expected.
But far more stunning than the quick cull of Lotus cars was how all but one of the Honda-powered cars were similarly eliminated at the end of round 2, the sole exception being the #77 Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports car of Simon Pagenaud.
The domination continued into the final round - the Firestone Fast Six - with Pagenaud finishing firmly at the bottom of the timing screens. Even worse for the Frenchman, he'll have to take a ten-spot grid penalty after the team were forced to replace his Honda engine on Friday, so his heroic efforts to fly the Honda flag were in vain.
Having taken pole, Power will start Sunday's race with his team mate and fellow Australian Ryan Briscoe alongside him. Briscoe overcame some technical glitches at the start of the session to put in a late flier that was more than good enough for second spot. However the third member of the Penske team will start back on the third row, after Helio Castroneves hit the barrer pretty hard in the concluding moments of the round 2 and needed some urgent repair work to be done to his now rather second hand 2012 Dallara chassis in the interval. He said the incident was a by-product of a communications problem that left him out of touch with his pit crew.