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.