A long offseason of preparation has come to an end for Verizon IndyCar Series teams as the last major test has reached its conclusion. According to unofficial times that were set during two sessions at a hot and steamy Sebring International Raceway, Takuma Sato led the way in the morning with his Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda (51.64s).
IndyCar rookie Jack Harvey was second in his Michael Shank Racing Honda (51.90s), RLLR’s Graham Rahal was third (51.97s), Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot and Jordan King were tied for fourth in their Chevy-powered entries (52.00s), and the rest of the early runners – all using Chevys – had Carlin Racing’s Max Chilton (52.10s) and Charlie Kimball (52.22s) in sixth and seventh, Harding Racing’s Gabby Chaves in eighth (52.32s), and Juncos Racing rookie Rene Binder in ninth (52.92s).
In the afternoon, RLLR’s Rahal took over the top position with the fastest lap of the day (51.39s) as Pigot (51.60s) and King (51.79s) jumped to second and third for ECR. Sato and MSR’s Harvey set the same lap time (51.81s) to tie for fourth, Carlin’s Chilton was sixth (52.10s), Juncos’s Binder was seventh (52.19s), Harding’s Chaves was eighth again (52.66s) and Chilton’s teammate Kimball closed out the list with a 52.87s).
“I feel like we made some good gains with the car,” Rahal told RACER. “Takuma and I were all over the board with the car trying different things. I can’t say the car was feeling the best at that exact moment, but we were trying things that we hope will work well at other tracks. In general, we’re pleased with what we’ve done here.”
The fastest lap set on Tuesday went to Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden (51.37s), but as history has shown, comparing lap times from different days at Sebring is a fruitless exercise with the differences in wind, temperature, and grip as more rubber is worked into the surface.
“We found some things, pointed ourselves in a good direction for St. Pete, but we know how much things change from day to day at Sebring,” Rahal added. “I tested here Monday for Firestone, and I thought the track was at its best then, at least if I compare it to how it was today. So knowing that, and I wasn’t on track like Josef was yesterday, but it feels like the track’s gotten slower since Monday, so I’ve got to be pleased with the 51.39 I turned.”
MSR is expected to spend one more day at Sebring early next week to further prepare for its debut, but for the most part, the next time IndyCar drivers will see on track action, it will come Friday morning at St. Petersburg as the 2018 championship gets under way.