Will Power made the most of his past experience at Surfers Paradise to lead practice for the non-champion Nikon Indy 300 on Australia's Gold Coast.
At a circuit where he raced in the Champ Car World Series, the Team Australia driver lapped more than a second quicker than his nearest rival, with a best time of 1min 34.8084secs.
“It was a very good day for the our whole KV Racing Technology team and the Aussie Vineyards - Team Australia car was good right out of the box,” he said. “It's still early and qualifying isn't until tomorrow. That and Sunday are all that matter to me. I am glad we are quick, but we still need to improve the car a bit tonight. This is a very competitive field and we will have to be faster tomorrow.”
Power topped the times ahead of Penske driver Helio Castroneves, although the Brazilian was only able to post a quickest time of 1min 36.1609secs. That put him a fraction of a second clear of the returning Dario Franchitti; the 2007 IndyCar title winner making his first outing this weekend with Chip Ganassi Racing.
“I wasn't sure how we were going to do,” the Scot reflected. “I've been out of the car for a year, driving stock cars and others. I have to thank the guys for giving me a good car. I haven't been here for five or six years, and I was surprised how quickly it came back to me. First lap out it felt like I haven't been away. I was really happy with our performance and we'll keep pushing tomorrow.”
Power's team-mate Oriol Servia slotted into fourth place on the time-sheets as the former Champ Car runners made the most of past circuit knowledge, with Newman Haas Lanigan Racing duo Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson rounding out the top six.
“This morning went a little smoother than this afternoon for the McDonald's team,” Wilson, who was second quickest during the morning, said. “On old tyres we were very quick but this afternoon wasn't as good and we lost a little bit of performance but I'm confident we can come back tomorrow and fight for pole. We went back on some things we changed and got the performance back but never got to complete a lap after that because there were so many yellows.
“We're learning all the time. We're still developing the car and still haven't tested this car on a road or street circuit yet so we're still out there in pit lane changing big things because its our chance to learn what the car can do. Its just part of the process of coming over to a new series. You make two steps forward and one step back and try to work out what's good and what's bad.”
Current IndyCar champion Scott Dixon took seventh on the times, while Ryan Hunter-Reay, Ryan Briscoe and Tony Kanaan rounded out the top ten.