Even though it’s not technically May yet, Takuma Sato, Colton Herta and Ed Carpenter Racing made a good start for this year’s Indianapolis 500 during Wednesday’s rain-abbreviated test at IMS.
Driving the RLL Honda, Sato posted the two fastest laps of the session (delayed by four hours because of rain) – a 226.9 mph in traffic and a lap of almost 223 mph by himself.
“The conditions were far from different from the end of May. I think it might be a lot hotter, of course, so today is a little bit artificial,” said Sato of the 60-degree, overcast weather. “We have more downforce because it’s cooler conditions,;the engine pulls really well with getting cool air. I think it was a very fast day.”
The 2017 Indy winner’s non-tow lap was over one mph quicker than anyone else among the 28 cars posting speeds.
“It was a good start, for sure, and my car was very consistent so an overall good day,” he said. “I got a big tow on that fast lap and then tried to run by myself, so I was happy.”
Herta had to throttle back in order to complete his rookie test, and then the 19-year-old Californian cut loose at 226.4 in his Harding/Steinbrenner Honda.
“The first few laps was the same speed as an Indy Lights car, so it wasn’t too impressive,” said the youngest winner in IndyCar history, who claimed victory at COTA last month when he was still 18. “But once they kind of let me run at 215 plus on the third stage, it was pretty awesome. Definitely a dream of mine for a long time to be able to run an Indy car here. Even though it’s just testing, it’s still really sentimental.”
Carpenter, who claimed his third pole position a year ago and finished second to Will Power, began like always – near the top – as he had a lap of 226.4mph in his Chevy while teammate Spencer Pigot was close behind at 226.3mph.
“It was a little odd, but all in all, it was good,” Carpenter said of the fractured session “We got a decent amount of stuff done – not everything we wanted to do, just with the pauses and intermissions. At the end of the day, I think we ran more than what I thought we were going to the first time it started raining. It kind of sets us up for a decent starting place for when we come back for the full week of practice.
“It’s still good to get that physical gratification and confidence back that things are looking all right.”
Former Indy winners Ryan-Hunter-Reay, Scott Dixon and Power also topped 225 mph, but it was a rough start for Fernando Alonso. The two-time world driving champion, who wowed everyone two years ago in his Indy debut, only turned 29 laps because of an electrical problem in his McLaren/Chevy and could only manage 218 mph.
“For us, obviously, we lost a little bit of time at the beginning,” said Alonso. “This was more or less expected because, as I said, it was a brand-new chassis, brand-new car. Everything fit in the last week. We expect to run slowly, step by step, short runs at the beginning. It’s what we did.
“If we could probably have (run) the (install) laps at midday, maybe you discover these issues, then you have hours to work on the car, be ready for the afternoon. The weather delays everything. You do the lap at 5:30 p.m. and there is no room to get back on track on time.”