Schmidt Peterson Motorsports topped the first major private test of the year held at Sebring International Raceway with team veteran James Hinchcliffe at the controls of his No. 5 Honda.
Of the 11 cars that spent the day on Sebring’s short course, nine were powered by Honda and two featured Chevy engines. Hinchcliffe’s unofficial best (51.37s) for SPM was slightly faster than Andretti Autosport’s Zach Veach (51.46s) and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Takuma Sato (51.48s). Firestone used the test to evaluate new tire compounds with some entries, while others drivers spent the day on control tires; the developmental tires were said to be at least 0.3s faster per lap.
“It doesn’t hurt,” Hinchcliffe told RACER of being fastest. “This was one of those tests where, across the 5 car, we had a really big list — some ridiculous things you’d never try on a race weekend — and it was important too stick to that and not get lost chasing a fast lap time. We stayed committed to it, found some things that were quick, some that weren’t, and we learned a lot.
“The best takeaway of the day is we stuck to our plan and got better. It’s the first time we’ve all worked together since there was a lot of shuffling on the team side in the off-season. It was a pretty solid day.”
Andretti’s Ryan Hunter-Reay (51.62s) and Alexander Rossi (51.66s) completed the all-Honda top five, and in sixth, Ed Carpenter Racing newcomer Ed Jones (51.85s) registered the quickest time for the Bowtie.
The pair of Swedish rookies claimed seventh and eighth as Chip Ganassi Racing’s Felix Rosenqvist (51.97s) and SPM’s Marcus Ericsson (52.00s) set nearly identical times. ECR’s Spencer Pigot (52.03s), Andretti’s Marco Andretti (52.13s), and RLLR’s Graham Rahal (52.23s) rounded out the runners.
“The first day back is always about acclimatizing to the team, and I wasn’t the only one that was new,” Jones said of his on-track introduction to ECR after spending 2018 with the Chip Ganassi Racing organization. “My engineer, Peter Craig, isn’t new to IndyCar, but he’s just come back from the Furniture Row NASCAR team, so it was his first test with the team. Getting everyone to click was needed, and it happened very quickly.
“The new change for me was driving the Chevy engine after using the Honda in the past. There were some differences that stood out to me, which was good; it helped me to understand why we benefited at some track before, and Chevy benefited at others. It was my first opportunity to see both sides, and it’s great to see how competitive both sides are and I know Chevy is working hard on their end.”
Dale Coyne Racing, which took part in a private Sebring test on Monday with Sebastien Bourdais and Santino Ferrucci, performed alterations to the circuit layout, making a lap time comparison with Tuesday’s runners impossible.