Teams and drivers put in some work on the west coast today, as 21 cars participated in testing at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca. The NTT IndyCar Series is returning to Laguna Seca for the first time in 15 years. The 11-turn, 2.238-mile track in Monterey, California will host the season finale this year on September 22.
Drivers from Team Penske, Andretti Autosport, Chip Ganassi Racing, Ed Carpenter Racing, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, AJ Foyt Racing, Carlin Motorsport, Dale Coyne Racing, Juncos Racing, and Michael Shank Racing all took part on Friday. The only team that didn’t participate was Harding Steinbrenner Racing, with rookie drivers Colton Herta and Patricio O’Ward. While Herta’s program seems ready to go, Marshall Pruett and others have reported that Patricio’s ride is going through some rough sponsorship troubles.
Four drivers (Scott Dixon, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Sebastien Bourdais) all raced here in CART/Champ Car earlier in their careers. Graham Rahal and Simon Pagenaud both tested at Laguna in 2007. Spencer Pigot also has great memories at the track. He won both races in 2015, and captured the Indy Lights championship with Juncos Racing.
There were several improvements that have been made to the track recently, namely adding more than a half-mile of safety debris fencing at Turns 1,2, 4, 5, 6 and 9 with additional steel cables affixed to the fences, and secured to every pole. Additional rows of tire bales for cushioning and deceleration as well.
As the threat of rain moved in just hours into the test session, Foyt’s team said they wanted to have a full day of testing. With that likely not possible, they decided to leave before hitting the track, saving them a valuable test day. Max Chilton had the fastest unofficial lap on Friday, pacing the field at 71.2868 seconds. Rookie Felix Rosenqvist was second fastest, followed by Hunter-Reay, Jack Harvey, and Alexander Rossi.
The main focus for most teams on Friday was to find grip and brake balance. Will Power suffered an apparent engine failure early in the day, as he only managed to put in 11 laps. Rain moved in shortly after the lunch break, and the track decided to close as there were supposedly drainage issues around the circuit.
A quick turnaround is up next, as teams and drivers will head east for a two-day IndyCar Spring Training test at Circuit of The Americas on February 12, 13. Tuesday’s action will be streamed live on IndyCar’s social media outlets.
Photos courtesy of IndyCar