After three back-to-back races on ovals, Sebastien Bourdais was back in his natural habitat of a permanent road course this weekend and it immediately showed when the KVSH Racing driver topped the first practice session at the 13-turn, 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio SPorts Car Course ahead of this weekend's Honda Indy 200.
CLICK: Full Friday practice 1 times from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
A two-time race winner already this season, Bourdais set the best time when he clocked in at 1:06.2034s (122.785mph) on his final run on Friday morning, putting him 0.1624s ahead of Penske's Will Power who is battling to stay in with a chance of retaining his Verizon IndyCar Series championship for a second year.
Bourdais time was less than a second off the track qualifying record set by Dario Franchitti in 1999 and matched by Gil de Ferran in 2000. Bourdais himself won pole last year albeit in inclement conditions; he went on to finish in second place just behind Ganassi's Scott Dixon.
"Last year we had a really good car," he recalled. "We qualified on the pole and put ourselves in a position to win, but Scott was just too strong.
"I like the Mid-Ohio circuit, but it is not a place that has been very good for me," he confessed. "Last year was the first time in five races there that I finished on the podium.
"This is my second year with KVSH Racing and I think we have really come together as a group. We are more consistent and the Chevy engine and aero kit have been great.
"The Hydroxycut-KVSH Racing team has to keep working hard and put up a good result this weekend if we are going to stay in contention for a top-five finish in the championship."
Currently, despite there being only three races left in the 2015 season, no fewer than 13 drivers are still mathematically in the running to take this year's title, partly thanks to the double points on offer at the season finale at Sonoma on August 30.
Will Power's chances of retaining his title have taken a bit of a blow in recent weeks and he's tumbled to fifth place in the standings, but that puts him only 55 points off his team mate Juan Pablo Montoya who has held the lead in the championship since the very first race of the season at St Petersburg in March.
Bourdais on the other hand is a further 24 points in arrears in sixth place and needs a big result this weekend - and moreover for the likes of Montoya, Dixon and Power to suffer setbacks.
Despite Bourdais' fast pace, all but two of the 24 entries participating in today's track activity were within less than a second of the top time. The only drivers outside that benchmark included Ganassi rookie Sage Karam who clinched his maiden series podium position last time out at Iowa Speedway but made few friends in the process.
Also outside of the one second gap to the top was Rodolfo Gonzalez, who returns to the seat of the Dale Coyne Racing #18 which had been filled by Pippa Mann for the last two outings at Milwaukee and Iowa.
Despite the switchback to a road course this week, Honda appeared set to continue their recent renaissance with an equal share of five places in the top ten going to Honda-power teams. The highest of them was Takuma Sato, who was in fourth place in the morning time sheets just behind CFH Racing's Josef Newgarden when the chequered flag came out to end the session.
The drivers will get a second 75-minute session later on Friday afternoon at 3.15pm local time (8.15pm BST), with a 45-minute practice on Saturday morning at 10.45am (3.45pm BST) ahead of qualifying which takes place at 3.15pm.
The teams will also have a half hour morning warm-up on Sunday morning at 9.45am (2.45pm) ahead of the 90-lap, 203.22-mile race which gets the green flag just after 2pm (7pm) on Sunday evening.
See full practice 1 times from Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.