Keen to get his title defence underway, the reigning Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power mad an emphatic opening declaration with the fastest time in the first practice session of the 2015 season at St Petersburg.

Power set the pace with a flying lap of 105.416mph (1:01.4709s) on the 1.8-mile, 14-turn Florida tree circuit in Florida on Friday afternoon, in the first 75 minute practice session of the opening weekend of the year.

Full practice 1 times from St Petersburg

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Power led a good showing from Team Penske, which also took up the second and third spots with Juan Pablo Montoya clocking in just over two tenths back from Power and Helio Castroneves just four thousandths of a second further back.

Ganassi's Scott Dixon claimed fourth place on the timesheets and was a little over seven hundredths of a second slower than the Penske drivers. KV Racing Technology's Sebastien Bourdais was next, just ahead of Jack Hawksworth who has moved to AJ Foyt Racing over the off-season for his sophomore year in IndyCar.

The top five drivers all et lap times faster than the 2014 pole position lap time of 1:01.8686s set by Takuma Sato, showing once again that the cars are going considerably faster now that they are fitted out with the new bespoke aerodynamic bodywork component kits from Honda and Chevrolet that are being used for the first time in raining conditions this weekend.

"As we are starting to understand the new Chevrolet aero kits, it's clear that they have done a proper job in the design and development," said Power. "The kits produce massive downforce, low drag and the cars are absolutely glued to the track.

"Obviously, as we go along in the year we are going to learn more and more about what we need to push for wins," Power added.

Among the new faces lining up on the 2015 grid, GP2 veteran Luca Filippi impressed with the 11th fastest time, six tenths off Power, ahead of his first race weekend with CFH Racing, the new team created by the merger over the winter of Ed Carpenter Racing and Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing.

Despite weather forecasts suggesting that thunderstorms may be an issue this weekend, the weather stayed fine for the first practice session. Several drivers including Power, Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport) and Francesco Dracone (Dale Coyne Racing) nonetheless had moments running off during the session as the cars worked at laying down some rubber to add to the available grip on the temporary street circuit.

The session did see two brief red flags, one for Stefano Coletti getting into the turn 10 tyre wall in the second KV Racing technology car some 45 minutes into practice, and another for debris on the track at the one hour mark.

See full times from practice 1 at St Petersburg.