Reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay topped the times after a full day of open testing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on Wednesday, posting a final lap of 1:05.6358s (123.847mph) in the #1 Andretti Autosport car on the 13-turn, 2.258-mile permanent road course to go clear of Schmidt-Hamilton Motorsport's Simon Pagenaud by 0.1607s.
"It was a good day," said Hunter-Reay afterwards. "Made some major gains and we're pretty happy with the car. This track is similar to Barber and we've been quick on the big natural terrain road courses.
"Mid-Ohio has a flow to it that no other racetrack has," he elaborated. "It has high-speed corners - we're using fourth gear at 140 mph through Turn 1 and doing probably 4Gs through there - and it just gives you that reward. It's a track that when you get it right it's so rewarding because you're hanging it out on the edge and you can feel the risk is there.
"It has elevation changes, braking zones, fast corners; it has everything you'd want in a racetrack," he continued. "This is one of my favourite racetracks, and you always have to be a student of the game. You have to over-analyse every bit. You have to constantly be digging to find the place in your driving style to put it all together."
Will Power was looking pacy on Wednesday and ended up with the third-fastest time only two hundredths off the back of Pagenaud, while Helio Castroneves was a similar margin off the back of Dragon Racing's Sebastien Bourdais after the Frenchman managed to set the fourth fastest time and split the two Penske team mates by the end of the day's activity.
"It was a good day," said Power. "This track takes rubber all day and with that becomes quicker and quicker. The team made great changes to the car and we will continue to work on it during practice on Friday and see if we can improve. Overall, I'm happy with the day and look forward to the rest of the week."
"We got a bit of a late start due to the rain this morning," explained Castroneves. "But we were able to use the entire afternoon session to test a few things for the race this weekend. I am happy with the set-up of the car and the track seems to be getting faster and faster every time we went out.
"Today gave us a good gauge as to where we are and I'm excited to get back behind the wheel on Friday," he added.
Certainly Hunter-Reay seems to think that the duo will be among the biggest threats this weekend: "I expect the Penske and Ganassi boys to be right up there on Friday," he said. "It's going to be super-tight as it always is here. Hopefully, the #1 DHL Chevy can stay up front."
Ganassi's Scott Dixon is coming off three back-to-back wins in July (at Pocono and by sweeping the Toronto double-header) and is keen to keep the momentum rolling.
"I hope so, I hope we can keep these results coming," he said. "It was much needed. It was a big turning point for us in the championship. Before Pocono, we were 92 points out and now 29 and second in the championship.
"Typically, Mid-Ohio has been a great circuit for us. Hopefully, that transfers" he said of Ganassi's overall team showing at Mid-Ohio in the past. "I think it's a combination of the team. They've always had good results here and both cars have been very quick. If you could put your finger on it, you would try to replicate it at every track. It makes it tough to work out why, but if you are, you just roll with it, and hopefully, you can continue to each year."
Also in action at Mid-Ohio was Oriol Servia, returning to Panther this weekend in place of the injured Ryan Briscoe. Former GP2 star Luca Filippi made his first outing in an IndyCar for Barracuda Racing/Bryan Herta Autosport ahead of what could be his first race outing in the series this weekend in place of the team's regular driver Alex Tagliani, and was 18th fastest on Wednesday. That put him ahead of former Indy Lights racer James Davison who was 21st on the end-of-day timesheets, having already been confirmed as making his maiden championship outing in the #18 Dale Coyne Racing this weekend at Mid-Ohio.
“It's the day I've worked for my entire life and to see my name on the timing charts with all these superstars is a pretty cool feeling,” said the 26-year-old Australian, who had to borrow his injured compatriot Briscoe's helmet for the occasion as his own didn't match IndyCar's latest safety specs.
"Result equals happiness and if I feel like I get the most out of myself you go into the weekend with confidence," he said. "Since I have a one-race deal and I've been out of the open-wheel seat for going on four years it does add pressure because what I do this week with this opportunity can certainly shape my career,” he added, admitting: "It does put some pressure on me, but I use that to get the most out of myself."
This weekend's event at Mid-Ohio will be the 14th round of the 19-race 2013 IndyCar championship and comes after a short three-week break in the drivers' schedules in the series. One man at work on Wednesday at Mid-Ohio with no need to knock the rust off his racing was KV Racing Technology's Tony Kanaan, who had been keeping busy in the meantime at Indianapolis Motor Speedway last weekend, the scene of his earlier victory in this year's the Indy 500.
Kanaan finished ninth in his Daytona Prototype début in the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series, co-driving the #02 NTT Data BMW/Riley Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates car alongside the experienced Joey Hand. He finished just ahead of two other 2013 IndyCar drivers, AJ Allmendinger racing the #6 Ford/Riley Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian car with Gustavo Yacaman, and Sebastien Bourdais in the #4 Corvette 8 Star Motorsports partnered with Venezuelan racer Emilio DiGuida.
All three were a lap off the pace of the winners of the Brickyard Grand Prix, who were Ryan Dalziel and Alex Popow in the #2 Starworks Motorsport Soloson BMW/Riley claiming their second consecutive win in the event. Eight cars in total finished on the lead lap, among them the #77 Ford/Dallara Doran Racing car which saw Rubens Barrichello back at IMS for a one-off outing alongside Doug Peterson. It had been only Barrichello's second GRAND-AM race, and was his maiden outing in a Daytona Prototype.See full times for the Mid-Ohio open test.