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Mann tops Firestone Indy Lights test
During the 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season, there may have been no better team on ovals than Panther Racing.

Based on the results of the first Open Test of the 2009 season, Panther may not be so willing to give up that title.

Pippa Mann topped the speed charts for a second consecutive day at Homestead-Miami Speedway with a lap of 28.4776 seconds, 187.726 mph, on the 1.5-mile oval.

“I’m really, really pleased,” said Mann, who topped the rookie testing session on Feb. 24. “My Panther Racing Firestone Indy Lights car has been really fast every time I’ve been in it on both days. It’s been a huge learning experience. I got better running in traffic. I can’t not be happy with how we ran. I hope when we get to the race weekend, we have a similar performance.”

Irish rookie Ali Jackson was second fastest after leading most of the morning session with a lap of 187.488 mph. Rookies Sebastian Saavedra (187.437 mph), Martin Plowman (187.172 mph) and Mario Romancini (187.136 mph) rounded out the top five cars.

“We had a good start of a day,” Jackson said. “I got a good tow off of Mann and then Pippa, pardon the pun, pipped us at the end. Then we had a mechanical issue. We broke an input shaft and lost a lot of time, but that’s not the fault of the team. It’s just one of those things. But we’re still quick, so I’m happy.”

Overall, 20 drivers turned laps over the two-day test. Ana Beatriz was the fastest veteran driver, recording a best lap of 186.418 mph.

Daniel Herrington had the only incident of the session, making contact with the SAFER Barrier in Turn 2 with the rear of the car. The car was not seriously damaged, but ended the test for Bryan Herta Autosport a bit early.

“We had made two pretty big changes to the car and went out hoping it would be better,” he said. “I think we got caught out by the wind. It had picked up quite a bit since we made the changes. In retrospect, maybe we could have been more conservative and not made such a big change, but we got away with not too much problem.”

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