Simon Pagenaud ended up the fastest man after first practice on the 2.24-mile, 13-turn temporary circuit constructed at Edmonton City Centre Airport for this weekend's Edmonton Indy Sunday afternoon race.
The hour long session under overcast skies was divided into two halves, with the first half hour limited to those drivers listed as rookies or outside the top ten in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship That meant that the earliest fast laps were set by the likes of Justin Wilson, Graham Rahal, Alex Tagliani, Takuma Sato, EJ Viso, Ed Carpenter and Rubens Barrichello.
Simona de Silvestro hit early problems when she was ordered to the pits after reports about the rear of her car emitting smoke, but she was able to resume running again soon after. There were no significant incidents in the first 30 minutes other than brief common-place run-offs and recoveries, with turn 5 being the most notably problematic spot on the track.
The first half of the session concluded with Josef Newgarden fastest with a lap of 1:17.1461s, eight hundredths of a second faster than Simon Pagenaud, after which the top names of the series joined the fray for the second half of the session. They had a relatively quiet time of it, with Dario Franchitti taking 15 minutes before becoming the first of them to move into the top ten times, slipping into second with a lap of 1:17.1985s by which time just one second covered the top 19 positions.
Josef Newgarden was finally ousted from the top spot in a late five minute rush of fast laps which saw Simon Pagenaud set a new top time of 1:16.8366, 0.3918s ahead of Mike Conway and significantly faster than last year's pole time of 1:18.5165s set by Sato. Justin Wilson moved into third as the only other driver to duck into the 1:16s; Graham Rahal also managed to nose ahead of Newgarden, who ended up fifth place just ahead of Ganassi duo Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon.
However it seemed that many of the expected front runners were keeping their powder dry in this early session and perhaps focusing on long race set-ups rather than raw pace: Ryan Briscoe was the top Penske runner in 12th with Helio Castroneves in 16th and Will Power lounging in 21st, just ahead of his main rival for the championship Ryan Hunter-Reay, who finished in 22nd in the Andretti Autosport #28.
There continued to be no significant incidents requiring a red flag during the practice, although Hunter-Reay came close to clipping the back of James Jakes in the Dale Coyne Racing #19 toward the end of the session, and turn 1 became the new problem zone with many drivers finding it difficult to calibrate their braking points and going for brief overruns as they continued to get the measure of the track.
There is a second hour-long practice session at 2.30pm local time, 9.30pm BST on Friday evening, with a third on Saturday morning ahead of the afternoon qualifying session. The forecast suggests a chance of rain on Saturday, but bright and sunny conditions on Sunday for the race.
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