Thursday morning in Indianapolis saw the Verizon IndyCar Series drivers getting their first official practice session underway on the new road course circuit at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
KVSH Racing's Sebastien Bourdais posted the best time of the 45-minute session with a lap of 1:10.5150s (124.518mph), already significantly faster than the best time set by Scott Dixon during last week's one-day open test on the redesigned 2.439-mile, 14-turn circuit to allow drivers to familiarise themselves with the brand new layout.
"We had a good test on the new road course last Wednesday," said Bourdais. "We made a lot of progress and learned some things. The new asphalt that was laid down is very, very grippy and actually a lot of fun.
"It's a challenging racetrack," he continued. "You have to commit to it and the grip level, so you can challenge yourself in the car. The last section is very enjoyable. The left, right, left and right again, that's opened up a lot more than it used to be, and they are all third-gear corners.
"The car digs in and goes side to side as you're working the tyres and pushing yourself," he added. "It's quite fun and I see some passing areas."
Bourdais finished the session a comfortable 0.3903s ahead of Andretti Autosport's Ryan Hunter-Reay, with Simon Pagenaud (Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsport) also within half a second of his compatriot's top time. Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's Josef Newgarden was just outside that mark, rebounding after having been the cause of the first red flag of the day when he went off into the gravel at turn 4 and needed to be retrieved.
In all, 16 of the 25 drivers on track were within one second of Bourdais' benchmark. Despite the fastest car (Bourdais) being Chevrolet-powered, the number of Honda cars in the top ten was seven compared with just three for the bow tie brigade.
Other than Newgarden's unfortunate incident early in the session there were no other stoppages for on-track events. However, the track was briefly placed under red around the half hour mark because of a power supply problem up in race control that resulting in safety concerns.
The drivers will have a second practice opportunity from 2pm local time (7pm BST), and a third on Friday morning before qualifying which will take place at 2pm and take the normal three-round elimination format for street/road course events. The race itself will be on Saturday afternoon at 3.50pm (8.50pm BST).
Full times from practice 1