Rahal Letterman Lanigan rookie Christian Lundgaard was one of three drivers to test on Monday at Sebring International Raceway, and the young Dane wasted no time in demonstrating the impressive form shown last year on the IMS road course.
Testing alongside the Meyer Shank Racing duo of Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves, Lundgaard (52.43s) ended the outing in the No. 30 Honda 0.1s behind Pagenaud’s best (52.33s) and 0.26s ahead of Castroneves (52.69s) after rain brought a premature end to the running.
“I’m quite satisfied with today,” Lundgaard told RACER, who noted that he was unable to join Pagenaud in making a new-tire run shortly before the showers arrived. “I think we started off well, we ended pretty well as well. But there was something in the end that we wanted to try that we didn’t have the time to do, just due to the weather. But we are quite happy with where we ended up and we got some valuable data. So that’s the most important.”
— Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (@RLLracing) January 10, 2022
Lundgaard arrived at the second Indy road course race in August and made an immediate impression by qualifying fourth and running towards the front before settling for 12th on his NTT IndyCar Series debut. Given the long period since his last outing in a Dallara DW12, one might have expected Lundgaard to need extra time to refamiliarize himself with the car while learning the Sebring short course.
“It took me five laps and I was straight on pace,” he said. “And I think actually on my fifth lap, I was faster than Simon and Castroneves, and they’ve done tons of laps, if not 100,000 (at Sebring). But for me, it’s not so much about being straight on the pace; I think you learn by doing. It’s to understand how you’re quick, and to understand the car.
“I didn’t really care about being quick here, because we don’t race here. It’s to understand how the car behaves on bumps, and all these different things and and give the best feedback that I can give to the engineers so they can understand the car better for the races that we actually do.”
Owing to the limited number of test days made available to IndyCar teams, Lundgaard has one more outing planned in the No. 30 Honda – a total of two days of running – to prepare for the season opener on February 27 at St. Petersburg. Thankfully, it’s not an unfamiliar scenario for RLL’s Rookie of the Year contender.
“To be honest, that’s not far away from what I’m used to, because in F2, we only have six days of testing during the whole year,” he said. “I drive the car and I try to drive it as fast as possible. And yes, it’s not a lot of days. But I’m fortunate enough to have had the test (in 2021) at Barber and the race in Indy. So I’ve had my share (of time) in the car already.
“I know a lot about the car. But obviously street circuits, I don’t know, I don’t know the actual tracks. So for me, track time, in the actual race weekends, in practice, is absolutely crucial. So crashing is not on the top of my priorities! That’s for sure.”