Motegi: Will Power tops Friday practice
Will Power topped the time chart with a lap of 1 minute, 39.4745 seconds on the 2.983-mile, 14-turn Twin Ring Motegi road course in the initial practice session for the Indy Japan.
Power, seeking to wrap up his second consecutive Mario Andretti Road Trophy, was among the three Team Penske drivers in the top five. Helio Castroneves (1:39.5965) was second and Ryan Briscoe (1:40.1887) was fourth.
Rookie James Hinchcliffe placed third in the No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing car, while Marco Andretti was fifth in the No. 26 Team Venom Energy entry for Andretti Autosport. The top 10 were separated by less than a second. Local favorite Takuma Sato was 10th in the No. 5 KV Racing Technology-Lotus car.
It's the first time the IZOD IndyCar Series, which has competed at Twin Ring Motegi since 2003, has utilized the road course. Damage to the 1.5-mile oval from the March 11 earthquake prompted the switch to the road course.
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): (About the new circuit): "It's a lot of fun to drive. It's challenging. I enjoyed my first session." (About where they can make gains on track): "I'm sure everyone is going to go back and look at their teammates data to find out the areas where they are really good and areas they are really bad and try to tie it all together for tomorrow. That's the usual thing on a new track. The Target boys did a good job showing up with a car that was quite close. I think a lot of people ran a second set of tires. We ran just one set so I'm fairly happy. We'll work hard tonight and see where we come out tomorrow. "
RYAN BRISCOE (No. 6 Hitachi Team Penske): "The Hitachi car felt pretty good out there today, although we have a little work to do to get the most out of the car. The Motegi road circuit is very nice, but it's very slippery out there. I'm sure the track will grip up and we have a bit left in the car so tomorrow should be good."
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Racing): "The track is smooth. It's a lot more slippery than we thought. Next time, I will make sure to play (the Motegi course on) Gran Turismo like James did. Obviously our car is not bad with James running as well as he is. I just need to pick it up a little. As expected, we received a great welcome from the Japanese people. Yesterday was interesting to feel the earthquake but I hope there are no more. The fans are great as usual. I really hope this isn't the last time we come back to race in Japan. My visor went for 50,000 yen which, I think was a high number. It felt good to help raise money for a good cause."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing): "Now I can justify to my girlfriend why I was in the basement on Playstation for three days. The track is quite cool. You can tell that everything was laid out well here. The place is immaculate and it's the smoothest place we run on all year. The layout is cool with some technical sections and great braking zones. The track is very slippery though. It felt like an out lap every lap because it's so slippery. The big challenge will be to predict what will happen tomorrow. Since there are no support series here with us, the track won't come up to grip as quick as a normal weekend. This weekend will be about hard work and trying to stay ahead of everything. (About jetlag:) "Yesterday was pretty rough. I had to force myself to stay up to 9 p.m. but then I managed to sleep 11 hours straight and I feel right as rain."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske): "It's a very, very nice circuit. It's smooth, flowing. It's one of the nicest circuits we've been to all year. I think it is going to be tough to pass. I think (the best opportunity is) Turn 11, after the long backstraight, that's a potential area to pass. Maybe down in Turn 3. It seems like it's going to be hard to pass.
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom): "The track is fun and I think it's going to race well, but there's just no grip out there right now. Even the guys in the top five aren't totally happy with their cars I'm sure. We'll go through our data tonight and hopefully keep the Venom car running in the top and qualify well tomorrow."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda): "We started out really well with the DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop car - when everybody was still learning the track, but we ended up too far off. I think we're going to have to change the game plan for tomorrow. Weather might play a factor as well with the chance of rain, but regardless we're going to have to change the car quite a bit."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 @FollowAndretti): "The circuit is cool and I had a lot of fun but we still have a long way to go on getting the @FollowAndretti car right. It's still quite difficult to get around at the moment but we can work on it. One of the team cars is in the top five so we'll see what we've got and go from there."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy): "The track is really nice and it seems relatively straight forward to get going. It's not extremely tricky and that's probably in part because it's so nice and smooth you can put the car where you want it. But we're struggling for grip out there, it's very slippery and the Go Daddy car never really took a set like it needs to in corners. I was just waiting for it as it slid through corners and the corners here are so long so you lose so much time when that happens. We continue to make little improvements along the way but we still have a ways to go."
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Hitachi Team Penske): "This track is more like Elkhart Lake. It's impressive. The runoff areas are pretty nice. The track is very smooth, especially coming from our last race on a street course. It looks like there are a lot of places for overtaking. It's very challenging. The corners are long. Sometimes we got too hot coming into a corner and it upset the exit. Sometimes we were too slow coming in and we had plenty of exit. It's very technical. We're very lucky that the car came out of the plane with the brakes set up."
JP de OLIVEIRA (No. 34 Ceremony Conquest Racing): "The car feels very different from what I'm used to, so I need to re-adapt in terms of driving style, but I feel like we progressed through the session. We had an issue with the pedals as my feet are not touching the floor when I have to push the brake and throttle pedals. That compromised a lot our lap time through the session, however I was able to get the feeling from the car and start chipping away."
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