Helio Castroneves didn't appear to be too bothered by the fact that his primary car had been damaged in a transporter fire on the way to this weekend's IndyCar Series round at Infineon Raceway, jumping into his back-up to go fastest on the first day of practice for the PEAK Antifreeze & Motor Oil Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma County.
The Brazilian, who finished second at Infineon last year, lapped the revised 2.303-mile circuit in 1min 17.1703secs during the afternoon session, bettering Tony Kanaan's effort of 1min 17.3920secs from the morning.
"If there is a team that knows how to rebound, it's Team Penske," Castroneves enthused, "Again, they did a fantastic job. They tried to make sure I don't feel a difference and, to be honest, I don't. The car is basically the same.
"I keep joking that the seat I loved burned up, but the one I have here is very similar. It's a good start for what's been a tough two days. To finish the day [in P1] is a great deal, but tomorrow is a bigger deal and so is the race, so we're going to keep working hard. I'm not surprised to be fast as we tested here last week for the first time since about January. I didn't test, and it wasn't even Ryan, it was [Penske ALMS driver] Romain Dumas, but it just proves that a little bit of laps around this place helps a lot. We may not have gone fast, but it helps eliminate some things we may have tried today."
Kanaan was happier than of late with his practice performance, despite being pipped to top spot by his countryman.
"It was a good day for the Team 7-Eleven guys," he confirmed, "We worked on the qualifying set-up in the morning, and concentrated on the race in the afternoon session. I'm pretty pleased with how today went.
"We're going to try and maximise our situation and finish as high as we can in the championship, but I'm just working on winning some more races for the team. After you win the championship, finishing second, third, fourth, or fifth I don't think will make a big difference. Obviously, we are working toward a real possibility that there will be a big fight between me and Dan [Wheldon] for the third position in the championship but, if you look at Helio and [Scott] Dixon, they are so consistent right now that I think it's going to be really difficult to catch them. I'm focused on winning races."
KV Racing Technology team-mates Oriol Servia and Will Power continued to underline the road course potential of the series 'newcomers' in third and fourth respectively.
"It helped KV Racing Technology to come here to test last week," the Catalan admitted, "It brought us closer to the established teams, which is where we want to be - but we still need to keep working. It's getting very close to the end of the season and everyone is very eager to win, so it is good that we are in the ballpark. We still have all day tomorrow and then the race on Sunday before it is decided and, until then, we will keep on learning and trying new things with the car."
Power admitted that he was slightly surprised to have been as high as he was, after encountering traffic throughout the day.
"It was very difficult to get a good lap in with so many cars on track, but the car was quick," he noted, "We still need to work some things out to make the car a little bit better, but our aim for tomorrow is to not only make the Firestone Fast Six, but to be right up at the front."