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Teams head west for latest pre-season test

After last week's testing at Sebring in Florida, a number of drivers and teams have decamped to the West Coast for a day in the California sun at Sonoma.
Last week's test at Sebring International Raceway in Florida caught the headlines thanks to AJ Allmendinger turning out alongside his possible future team mates at Team Penske - Will Power and Helio Castroneves - in what was the NASCAR Sprint Cup driver's début in an IZOD IndyCar Series car. The test was a first step toward a possible appearance by Allmendinger in the 2013 Indianapolis 500. (See separate story.)

The Penske trio were joined on track last Tuesday by ten other drivers, including AJ Foyt Racing's Takuma Sato who went on to set the fastest time. The following day it was the turn of the four Andretti Autosports team mates (Ryan Hunter-Reay, James Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti and EJ Viso) to get to work, along with Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports' new signing Tristan Vautier who took test duties for the day over his French compatriot team mate Simon Pagenaud.

Times weren't made available at the end of the Wednesday session, but Vautier was reported to be well on the pace at the 1.8-mile, 11-turn circuit. Unofficial reports clocked him at 52.04s, just ahead of Hunter-Reay who was lapping around 52.1s. Curiously, Hunter-Reay was made to use the same engine as Will Power has employed the day before, at Chevrolet's specific direction.

The 2012 Firestone Indy Lights champion picked up where he left off this week when the team joined others at Sonoma Raceway on the West Coast for another testing opportunity, this time on a 2.38-mile, 12-turn circuit. Vautier's best lap late in the day in the #55 Honda was 1:18.56s, just pipping the third Frenchman on the 2013 grid - Dragon Racing's Sebastien Bourdais - who posted a time of 1:18.63s late in the day in the #5 Chevy. Pagenaud himself was third fastest for the day with a time of 1:18.90s in the #77 car.

“It was a good day, very different from Sebring,” Vautier told reporters afterwards. “It was a positive experience to run at Sonoma in an Indy car, but I have a lot to learn."

"I'm happy; it was a pretty good day,” agreed Pagenaud. "We worked on qualifying to extract the best out of the tyres in a short amount of time, we didn't go for lap times."

Unofficial time estimates put KV Racing Technology's Tony Kanaan in fourth with a lap around 1:19s despite an early engine bay fire for the #11. Panther DRR's Oriol Servia was about a tenth further back after having led the timesheets in the morning stint, and was clearly a lot happier than he had been a week previously where he had posted the slowest time of the drivers.

"Sebring didn't go so well, but we really made some big strides with the car today," he agreed. "I'm going home quite pleased."

Dragon Racing's Sebastian Saavedra was in sixth place about half a second further back, followed by Ed Carpenter who actually handed over his car to reigning series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay for much of the day as part of a knowledge sharing agreement between Ed Carpenter Racing and Andretti Autosports.




Related Pictures

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Will Power in the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet during pre-season testing at Sebring. March 2012. [Photo Credit: Michael Levitt - LAT for IndyCar Media]
Justin Wilson in the #18 Sonny`s Barbecue Dale Coyne Racing Honda during pre-season testing at Sebring. March 2012. [Photo Credit: Michael Levitt - LAT for IndyCar Media]
Simon Pagenaud in the #77 Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsports Honda during pre-season testing at Sebring. March 2012. [Photo Credit: Michael Levitt - LAT for IndyCar Media]
Conor Daly tests at Sebring International Raceway (Photo Credit: John Hendrick for IndyCar Media)
Tristan Vautier testing at Sebring International Raceway (Photo Credit: John Hendrick for IndyCar Media)
Will Power celebrates with his team owner Roger Penske after winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series championship (Photo by: Chris Owens for IndyCar Media)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, races to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Gregg Ellman/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Team Chevy sweeps the podium as Tony Kanaan (center), driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates his victory Saturday, August 30, 2014, during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Teammate Scott Dixon (left), driver of the #9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet V6, finishes second, and Ed Carpenter, driver of the #20 Fuzzy`s Ultra Premium Vodka/Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet V6, finishes third. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Gregg EllmanLAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, takes the chequered flag while racing to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan, driver of the #10 Target Chip Ganassi Chevrolet IndyCar V6, makes a quick pit stop while racing to victory Saturday, August 30, 2014 during the last Verizon IndyCar Series race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. This is the third consecutive win for Chevrolet at Auto Club Speedway. Chevrolet wins the Manufacturer`s Championship for the third straight season. (Photo by Brian Cleary/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by posing with the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by hoisting the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship by kissing the Astor Challenge Cup Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Michael L. Levitt/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Will Power, driver of the #12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the 2014 Verizon IndyCar Series Championship with his wife Liz Saturday, August 30, 2014 after the last race of the season at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Chevrolet clinches its third straight Manufacturer`s Championship. (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)
Tony Kanaan takes a selfie with his Target Chip Ganassi Racing crew in Victory Lane following the MAVTV 500 at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
The #12 Penske crew celebrate title success (Photo by: Richard Dowdy for IndyCar Media)
Mikhail Aleshin slides into his machine prior to the evening Open Test session at Auto Club Speedway (Photo by: Joe Skibinski for IndyCar Media)
Helio Castroneves, Driver of the #3 Automobile Club of Southern California Team Penske Chevrolet IndyCar V6, celebrates winning the pole with the fastest qualifying time Friday, August 29, 2014, for Saturday`s Verizon IndyCar Series race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California. Castroneves will start in the front row with teammate Juan Pablo Montoya, who qualified second fastest.  (Photo by Phillip Abbott/LAT for Chevy Racing)

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