Robert Doornbos took the first laps of his new relationship with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in rookie-only session preceding this week's opening IndyCar Series group test at Homestead-Miami Speedway, as the team confirmed that Milka Duno would also be in action during the week.

After a mating dance that has gone on for several weeks, Doornbos finally consummated the partnership by completing a day of running on the Florida oval, taking over the #06 Dallara-Honda previously campaigned by 2009 team-mate Graham Rahal, who moves to the #02 reluctantly vacated by Justin Wilson at the end of last season.

With the 2007 Champ Car World Series schedule not including a single oval, the run was 27-year old Doornbos' first on one of the uniquely American circuits, and he admitted that it took him a while to get adjusted, before going on to complete 111 laps alongside three other IndyCar virgins.

"Driving on an oval is definitely different than I expected," the Dutchman commented, "It felt like going to a new school on the first day. I didn't really know what to expect.

"I got a lot of information from the team, but you still have to do it for yourself. The first five laps, I thought 'oh my god, where did I end up?', but that's because you have to run at a certain pace and, once you reach that pace, it's actually quite fun. We ended the day on a good note and I can go to bed with a smile."

Having been forced to sit out the first year of unification after Paul Stoddart decided not to continue the Minardi Team USA programme, Doornbos dabbled with the new Superleague Formula and A1GP, but admits that he is already hooked on the IRL after exceeding the sort of pace he managed during his brief stint in Formula One.

"I already got the bug and want to go faster and faster, so that's a good thing," he smiled, "Today was definitely the fastest I have gone in a racecar and I am quite proud."

He was wise enough to admit, however, that running with three other cars on track would be vastly different to running as part of the full IndyCar field when the two-day Open Test kicks off later today [Tuesday].

"I have no idea what to expect with traffic," the former Jordan and Minardi racer confessed, "It must be something like driving in the middle of the night in China - the traffic is quite bad there. I will just take it as it comes. It's a steep learning curve, but I enjoy it like this."

The Homestead test will give the IRL regulars a first chance to get back on track after the long winter lay-off, with sessions scheduled between 4-10pm on both Tuesday and Wednesday to give drivers practice in both daylight and under the floodlights that play a major part in the IndyCar season.

Doornbos will continue to run the #06 entry, while Rahal debuts in the #02, but a degree of interest will surround the appearance of Milka Duno, who NHLR has confirmed 'will join the team in a testing capacity for the two days'.

The Venezuelan had been tipped to join Doornbos and Rahal in a third entry this season but, as happened with the Dutchman, the trail has gone slightly cold of late, with no new information coming from either side. Attention will be paid to Duno's car to see if it gives any clue to potential sponsors, which could be key, not only to seeing her in an NHLR entry this season - if only for the Indianapolis 500 - but also to the strength of the team as a whole.



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