ST. PETERSBURG, Fla.—IndyCar’s dff-season has ended and the teams have started practicing for this Sunday’s season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It seems most teams made good use of the off-season; already drivers are almost as quick as the best times of 2012.
Three-time series championship runner-up Will Power started his 2013 IndyCar season in the best possible way, turning in the fastest lap of the two Friday practice sessions.
The Penske Racing driver lapped the 1.8-mile, 14-turn street circuit in 101.467 at an average speed of 105.457 mph—just a hair slower than his 2012 pole-winning qualifying lap of 01:01.3721 at 105.585 mph.
Power told the press corps after the session he thinks drivers will crack 59 seconds in qualifying this year. The track will continue to build up rubber and will probably get a second faster, he said, and softer, stickier Red tires should be worth half a second or a second.
Second by .1785 seconds was 2012 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay. The Andretti Autosport driver beat his 2012 qualifying time of 01:01.9321, completing the course in 101.6895. Hunter-Reay was fastest in the morning session, followed by team mate James Hinchcliffe.
Third was Simona di Silvestro, finally fulfilling the potential she showed in her first two years in the season. Di Silvestro spent 2012 saddled with an underperforming Lotus engine. Now with KV Racing and running a Chevrolet engine, she was quicker even than her KV team mate the veteran Tony Kanaan.
Only two Honda-powered cars cracked the top ten: Takuma Sato in his first drive for A.J. Foyt Racing, finished fifth, and rookie Tristan Vautier, driving for Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports, came in tenth.
Surprisingly the usually dominant Ganassi pair of Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon, didn’t turn a lot of laps or finish particularly well; Franchitti was 17th and Dixon 19th in the second session. Obviously the crews of these multiple-championship winners will be looking hard for some more pace this evening.
Practice resumes Saturday with a final sessions starting at 10:25 a.m., and qualifying kicks off at 2:05 p.m. The IndyCar Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg starts at 12:40 p.m. on Sunday March 24. Tickets are available at the gate or through the IndyCar Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg website.
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(All photos: James Fish/The Epoch Times)