Colton Herta continued a rollercoaster week for Harding Racing by putting the team’s No.88 Honda on top for the morning session on the opening day of IndyCar Spring Training at COTA.
Herta – now Harding’s sole focus for the season following Pato O’Ward’s departure yesterday – went to P1 with his final lap before the lunch break, posting a 1m48.7443s to move ahead of fellow rookie Marcus Ericsson, who’d been a regular toward the top of the timing screens all morning for Arrow SPM.
Ericsson finished the session second-fastest, 0.09s down on Herta.
“I’ve had to change how I drive quite a bit, but this is obviously a venue I’ve been to before” said the Swede, who finished 10th with Sauber in Austin at last October’s U.S. Grand Prix.
“The first couple of laps were a reset for me to understand how an IndyCar should be driven around here, but towards the end of the morning I started to feel more comfortable. But it was fun – the car is moving around a lot!”
Josef Newgarden was third-fastest for Team Penske ahead of the industrious RC Enerson, who topped the lap count at Friday’s shortened Laguna Seca test and repeated the trick this morning, pounding out a field-high 26 trips around the COTA layout for Carlin Racing. Andretti’s Zach Veach edged out Marco Andretti to complete the top five.
Drivers with previous experience on the track figured heavily among the frontrunners early on, with Alexander Rossi briefly holding P1 during the first hour and Max Chilton also running strongly, but that might also have had something to do with many of their rivals choosing to keep their powder dry – and their tires fresh – by limiting their own track time until the surface had started to rubber in.
Only Juncos Racing was unable to learn much from the outing; its morning ending when Kyle Kaiser came to a stop on his out lap and brought out the session’s only red flag.