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Pagenaud on top at IMS as weather turns wet

Simon Pagenaud proved to be the wet weather master on the new road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Friday morning practice.
It was a thoroughly grey morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Friday morning, with the forecast rain arriving even sooner than meteorologists had been expecting. The wind was brisk, the skies threatening, and the outlook for qualifying not much better, writes Lynne Huntting of from trackside.

Friday's schedule consists mostly of practice and qualifying, with the first group on track being the Verizon IndyCar Series for the 45-minute morning practice ahead of qualifying for Saturday's Grand Prix of Indianapolis later in the afternoon

The session started out with drizzle before slowly clearing up, and there were a few rooster tails until the cars dried out the track. There were several different drivers who took their time on the top spot before it was Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports' Simon Pagenaud who posted a lap of 1:23.1597s (105.585mph) that proved the best of session, albeit still some 13 seconds slower than the times set in the dry on Thursday.

The drivers were made to work hard in the greasy conditions, and only a few cars were actually out on the new 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course at any given time. All 25 drivers bar Graham Rahal posted double-digit laps, with Sebastian Saavedra running the most in the KV-AFS Racing #17 car with 22 laps completed..

Second through fifth were Jack Hawksworth (Bryan Herta Autosport), James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport), Will Power (Team Penske) and Carlos Munos (Andretti Autosport).

Ryan Briscoe triggered a red flag some 15 minutes into the session when he became the first to be caught out by the slippery conditions, spinning out onto the wet grass and into the tyres in turn 6. Damage appeared minimal to the #8 NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing car, but it brought out the red flag to enable Briscoe to be towed back to pit road. a tow. Once his car had been checked over in the pits, Briscoe was back out on course and went on to finish with the 20th fastest time of the session after spinning again on tarmac on his final lap.

Also off during the session was was championship leader Will Power, which allowed him to show off his version of soggy doughnuts on the wet grass, but he nonetheless recovered on his own and continued. There was a final incident involving Pagenaud's rookie team mate Mikhail Aleshin spinning in the final seconds which meant that the session ended under a red flag.

However all in all it had been a safe session with a couple testing limits and duly finding them - no harm, no foul, even though die hard Indy traditionalists were probably still left with their heads spinning not only by the sight of open wheel cars going the 'wrong way' down the speedway frontstraight but also running in wet conditions, something that never happens in oval races.

That means qualifying will go ahead on Friday afternoon using the three-round elimination format, even if the rain picks up again as expected. Fortunately the race day forecast is for dry conditions, with partly sunny skies and a high temperature in the low 70s Fahrenheit.

Also confirmed on Friday morning was the line-up in race control for this weekend, with Beaux Barfield designated as the IndyCar Series Race Director and Johnny Unser as the Driver's Steward. The third member of the line-up, responsible for handles all the data used and needed during a session, is Gary Barnhart.

Reporting from trackside by Lynne Huntting,

Full Thursday practice 1 results
Full Thursday practice 2 results
Full Friday practice 3 results

Tagged as: Indianapolis

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