After a disappointing time of it in qualifying last weekend, the Ganassi squad were looking distinctly more on form in the hour-long Carb Day practice, the final track time at Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the IZOD IndyCar Series teams ahead of Sunday afternoon's 2012 Indy 500.

Dario Franchitti posted the fastest time of the session with a speed of 222.360mph (40.4749s) which was just 0.0157s ahead of his team mate Scott Dixon. Marco Andretti was the third fastest man on the track with a speed of 221.702mph (40.5950s). Drafting played a role in some of the faster times, but that will also be the case in the race itself.

"The car is real good," said Franchitti said. "We've got a good set-up for Race Day. It would have been nice to have had that motor for qualifying!"

It was also a good day for Ganassi in the IZOD Indy 500 Pit Stop Competition, with Scott Dixon and the #9 pit crew walking away with the $50,000 first prize, defeating Oriol Servia's Panther/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing crew in the final. The winner of the competition has gone on to win the Indianapolis 500 six times, so it could be a good omen for Dixon on Race Day.

The Carb Day session was principally a shakedown for all teams to test their cars after being issued with new Race Day engines from their suppliers to use in Sunday's 500-mile event, but was also one final opportunity for everyone to test last-minute setting tweaks that the teams had been planning since their last run out on track on Sunday.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Takuma Sato was feeling particularly buoyed up with his car's strong showing on Friday: "We improved the car in a few areas, I was reasonably happy with the balance," he confirmed. "We still need to improve some areas we weren't very happy with, but we improved the car from Sunday. I was able to run in traffic, which was definitely good preparation [for Race Day.]"

Race polesitter Ryan Briscoe was content to run fifth fastest on Friday with a fastest lap of 221.025mph (40.7194s), and revealed that "We actually had to adjust the car a lot during that session," adding: "We made a lot of changes and made good use of the time. This was a good session for us. We learned a bit, and this positions us nicely as we head into the race."

Not everyone was happy with the way things went. Sebastian Bourdais for example admitted that everything Dragon Racing had tried had pretty much backfired on them today. "Reset everything and go racing," he said later.

While there were no on-track incidents, James Jakes found just how important the shakedown aspect of Carb Day was when his car experienced technical problems from the start. "We had a gearbox problem all morning ... The guys have got to go back, take the car apart again and find out what the problem is," he said. "Better that we found it today so that we can prepare for the Indy 500," he added on Twitter.

Andretti Autosport's Ana Beatriz also failed to turn any laps on Carb Day, with her car suffering a suspected oil leak after fitting the new Chevy engine.

Despite the positive signs of improvement since their last on-track runs, the Ganassi team were still wary of what Race Day would bring: "There's still a lot of unknowns," warned Dixon. "Previously, we knew what to expect because we knew everybody had the same stuff ... I think our car seems good. I think we can expect to see a very tight race with a lot of passing."

Among the unknowns is the effect that the weather will have on the handling of the cars, with forecasts suggesting that Sunday afternoon in Indianapolis will see temperatures well into the 90s Fahrenheit. With uninterrupted sunshine, that could see track temperatures spike into the 140 degrees region.

"It'll be a hot day," confirmed Franchitti. "We've known that for weeks, so we know what we're going to be setting up for. It's definitely going to be slippery. We'll deal with that (heat) on Sunday, but it's going to be hard work behind the wheel in those conditions; hard for the pit crews to keep their focus in that heat."

Another question still very much up in the air was just how much the extra 40-50 horsepower turboboost that the teams had available to them over last week's qualifying weekend had affected the relative performances of the Honda and Chevrolet cars. The Honda drivers seemed to struggle to match the gains in speed of the Chevys in qualifying trim, but now that the boost has been reset to its former limits the two engine marques seemed back on a more even footing for the race itself - even if questions remain about the Honda's fuel mileage compared with that of the Chevrolet units.

During the week, the IZOD IndyCar Series organisers confirmed that the boost wouldn't be allowed to be retained by any teams for Race Day, not even for Lotus who are struggling to put in anything like the same speeds as their two rival engine suppliers.

"After evaluating a variety of options and speaking with all engine manufacturers, we feel it is best from a both a competition and safety standpoint to maintain the current superspeedway boost level for our Lotus-powered entrants," explained IndyCar's vice-president of competition Will Phillips midweek. "There are too many unknown variables in allowing an engine to run a full-race distance at the increased boost level."

If the Lotus-powered cars of Jean Alesi and Simona de Silvestro really do prove to be 10mph off the speed of the leaders on Sunday, there is a very real possibility that they will be quietly ordered to report to pit road early in the proceedings.

"From a safety standpoint, we will be keeping a close eye on speeds as the race progresses to ensure that all cars are within 105 per cent of the race leader's pace," confirmed the race director for the Indy 500, IndyCar's president of competition Beaux Barfield.

Full Carb Day practice times available.


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