18 May 2012
Indy 500: Dixon top as big names move up
The team started with a specially scheduled 90 minute session first thing, during which time Sebastien Bourdais shook the car down, helping to set the car up from a seriously shaky start first thing. Once things started settling down, Bourdais went on to comfortably complete two thirds of the refresher program he'd been asked to do given that it's been seven years since he last raced here.
"It's great to be back, but if you had asked me that this morning, I would have had a different answer," the Frenchman said. "We had something that completely messed the car up, and it made for the toughest car that I've ever driven.
"I'm just glad we found the reason and now we are good to go," he continued. "The car is easy to drive and has a good balance. We can drive flat out and not even think about it, which is what you want around here. Pretty happy with that."
That left the team with insufficient time in the morning to put Katherine Legge out on track to attempt her mandatory Rookie Orientation Program, and so the team were then given an additional hour from noon and a follow-up 40 minute slot after the main practice wrapped up at 6pm in order to get the British driver through phases 1 and 2 of ROP, which she did without incident - even needing to be told to slow down by the team to fit within the 205-210mph window for phase 2. In total, she ran 77 laps on Thursday.
"It's unbelievably satisfying," said Legge of finally getting her chance to run at IMS. "This morning, we had a small issue with the car, but we were still able to complete the first phase," she added, giving thanks to the team and also to her team mate for his set-up work: "He shook down the car and made sure everything was fixed from this morning. I can go home now very happy."
Now that Legge has completed the first two phases she will be able to run with the rest of the cars on Fast Friday to finish off ROP with phase 3 in time for Saturday.
The Lotus-powered duo of Jean Alesi (Fan Force United) and Simona de Silvestro (HVM Racing) were once again the slowest cars of those that did set flying lap times, although Alesi's time was certainly improving.
"I tried to follow some cars. I feel happy to run with cars. Less lonely!" he laughed. "Now tomorrow we have to prepare for qualifying. Every day is new for me, so I go step by step."
De Silvestro was also feeling a bit more buoyant. "Today we tried a little different setup, and it was pretty good. I think we found a little bit of speed," she said. "We're just working through the program, and I think it was a good day. We know where we are. We're just taking it slow and getting ready for qualifying to get in the show."
There were 29 cars out on track on Thursday during the practice session, not including Katherine Legge in her two separate rookie orientation solo sessions. Rahal Letterman Lanigan's Michel Jourdain Jr. put in the most laps during the day with 92 circulations. There were three cautions for a total of 22 minutes, all for debris with no spins or accidents.
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