Today was the first of several upcoming test days for teams in the Verizon IndyCar Series. The first stop was the scenic Barber Motorsports Park, where a familiar face strapped into an IndyCar again. Helio Castroneves got back into a Team Penske machine, as he prepares for the IndyCar Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 12. The Brazilian didn’t miss a beat, as he finished with the third fastest time during the test.
The two drivers ahead of Castroneves were his teammates, Josef Newgarden and Will Power. St Petersburg winner Sebastien Bourdais was fourth fastest, and Rookie Zachary Claman De Melo rounded out the top five on Tuesday. There were 24 drivers that participated in the test, with a total of 510 laps turned around the 2.3-mile road course.
Barber Combined Practice Results
There were several red flags during the morning and afternoon sessions, but no major incidents were reported. Newgarden’s fastest lap was 1:07.9793 seconds, and he was thrilled to be back at Barber, where he won last season. Strong winds and rain in the afternoon limited the on-track activity, with the exception of Castroneves, who turned the most laps (41) on the day. Takuma Sato ran just 11 laps, but was sixth fastest overall.
The time on track was vital for Helio, as this was the first time he has been able to drive the new car. He will have more time to test next week, at IMS. He will be focused on learning how the car handles with less downforce.
“It’s big-time different,” he said. “In some corners you feel the rear moving. My first impression was, ‘Whoa, this is going to be tough.’ But as you get comfortable, you make changes. I forgot how a small change is a big change on the racetrack. There are a few details that I have to work out, but muscle memory kicks in and we’re getting there.”
Up next will be an engine manufacturer test on the IMS road course on March 23. Following that, there will be three days of testing on the 2.5-mile oval, in preparation for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500. The big open test is scheduled for March 27, and a rookie and refresher day follows on the 28th. Both of those days will be streamed live on IndyCar’s YouTube channel. March 29 will be a manufacturer test day, which runs from 9-5 weather permitting. Fans may watch the tests from the IMS Museum parking lot, the Turn 2 viewing mounds, or South Terrace grandstands.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar