Rahal tops opening IndyCar practice at Mid-Ohio
The Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course ranks second -- a mile back, mind you -- to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its premier event, the Indianapolis 500, on Graham Rahal's list of venues where he'd love to win an IZOD IndyCar Series race.
He recorded a first step Aug. 5 by topping the time chart on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio circuit in the initial practice session for the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio with a best lap of 1 minute, 9.6031 seconds.
Mid-Ohio is the "home track" of Rahal, who grew up less than 80 minutes away in New Albany, Ohio. As a youth, he'd spend weekends at the track watching his father, Bobby, compete ... and driving around the sprawling facility at dusk in a golf cart, which was verboten. He also competed on the natural-terrain course in junior formulas.
"It’s such a fantastic track and has a lot of history with our family," he said. "We tested here on July 28th and we improved the No. 38 Service Central car quite a lot, which I think is going to work to our advantage. It’s a big weekend for NTB and Service Central, so I hope we can make everyone proud and have a great result.”
Rahal was second quick in the test (to Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Scott Dixon, a two-time IndyCar winner at Mid-Ohio who was seventh fastest in the practice session).
E.J. Viso, who also tested at Mid-Ohio last week, was second quick in the No. 59 PDVSA-KV Racing Technology-Lotus car (1:09.6522) and series championship points leader Dario Franchitti was third (1:09.6936) in the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car. Franchitti is the defending race winner.
"It is very refreshing coming back to a place where we tested last week and the improvements paid off," Viso said. "This result is very important. It shows us that we have a fast car for the weekend and hopefully we have the control to bring a good result. We certainly deserve it, we have been so close so many times this year."
Will Power, the 2010 pole sitter, was fourth quick in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske entry (1:09.7198) and Justin Wilson was fifth in the No. 22 RollCoater/Dreyer & Reinbold Racing car (1:09.7912). The top 16 cars were separated by less than a second.
GRAHAM RAHAL (No. 38 Service Central, fastest of the day): "It feels good to start the weekend off this way for sure. I think we showed the grip is low, but at the end of the day it felt pretty good. I can't complain too much. We're definitely sliding around a lot, but I felt like I had a pretty strong car in the test. We didn't change anything at all. We just showed up. We worked with it a little bit in the session, but not much. Nothing big. I was satisfied that we didn't run a second set of tires. I know others around us did and we were still quickest. And that lap wasn't really a good one. I think Dario was struggling and he was dropping wheels left and right and I was following him. I missed some apexes, but to get the speed out of it feels pretty good."
MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 Team Venom Energy): "We're having some electrical problems with the car so we were only able to run five laps during practice. There's a disconnect of some kind between the paddle shifters and the gearbox, so basically we can't really shift. It's a shame to miss basically an entire session. Luckily we tested here last week so we at least have that information we can go back to for now, and we'll see what my teammates came up with. Hopefully the Venom guys can get everything sorted tonight and we'll be okay for practice and qualifying tomorrow."
ORIOL SERVIA (No. 2 Telemundo Newman Haas Racing): "We don't really know what is going on but there is something not right with the Telemundo car. The car setup has to be decent because my teammate is obviously showing the pace and the speed. The car wasn't the same turning right to turning left so that is a sign that something is out of place. And in such a short session we had to run and didn't find the problem but I'm sure we will find it now."
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE (No. 06 Sprott Newman Haas Racing): "We started with Oriol's setup from the test here last week. Obviously not testing here put us on the back foot a little bit. The car was a little bit of a handful to begin with but I think that was more about the track conditions more than anything. And then as the Firestone rubber went down our car seemed to get better and better with each run. We made very few changes to the car and sort of let the track come to us. It says a lot about the work that Oriol and Bruno (Couprie; race engineer for Servia) did here at the test. There are a lot of different series here this weekend and a lot of different rubber is going to go down. For us, its just going to be about staying ahead of the track and predict what the conditions are going to be like and what the car balance is going to do."
DANICA PATRICK (No. 7 Team GoDaddy): "Today's practice session's track conditions were not ideal but we made adjustments to the car and showed some improvement. With all of the different series running, the track didn't have a chance to rubber in to our advantage. Hopefully the weather and the track conditions will work more in the favor of the GoDaddy.com car."
SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing): "I think we're in a good position in the Target car. The track was a bit slippery today but we just need to get a solid, clear lap without traffic to see what we have in the car tomorrow."
DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 10 General Electric): "We're still working on the car at this point. The track wasn't in great shape and we spent the majority of the session struggling to get grip in the GE car."
RYAN HUNTER-REAY (No. 28 Team DHL/Circle K/Sun Drop Citrus Soda): "It was a short session due to the lack of grip on the racing surface. We had very few laps. The track was green and the grip level was building every lap. Tomorrow (Saturday) will be the real test. We really can't use much from what we learned today. It is almost like a street circuit as the grip builds throughout the weekend. It has only been like that for the last few years here. I don't know what causes that. It is just a lot different from last week's testing here."
MIKE CONWAY (No. 27 @FollowAndretti): "Compared to our test last week, the track is much different. Seems like the rubber that was down on the surface for the test is all gone. Towards the end of the session, the track was gaining grip. We have a few things to do with the car overnight. The track had no rubber lines at all in the beginning. It was like they cleaned the rubber off the track since the test. Then it was pretty dusty and slippery early. Then the last five minutes the track started to grip up. I'm sure it is the same for everyone. A lot of people got their fast times on their very last lap. We'll work on the setup for tomorrow. Qualifying on Saturday will be a key for Sunday's race."
E.J. VISO (No. 59 PDVSA - KV Racing Technology - Lotus, second in practice): "It is very refreshing coming back to a place where we tested last week and the improvements paid off. We finished second which is good however, we could have been faster but a yellow flag came out on the final lap so I wasn't able to complete it. This result is very important, it shows us that we have a fast car for the weekend and hopefully we have the control to bring a good result. We certainly deserve it, we have been so close so many times this year.
TAKUMA SATO (No. 5 KV Racing Technology - Lotus): "I had an installation lap and I had just started to run a couple of laps to warm-up the car. I immediately felt that the power was down and heard a noise. It disappointing because the track conditions are extremely different from the test and I was hoping to get some testing in under these conditions. I will rely on the team data and hopefully we will come back strong tomorrow."
ALEX TAGLIANI (No. 77 Bowers & Wilkins/Sam Schmidt Motorsports): "I love this track. The team is doing a great job, considering I didn't drive here in the test. We had a pretty good outing I would say. We have some work to do, but we improved quite a bit in this session. There were certain things that weren't right as soon as we unloaded, but we totally know what was wrong and can go in a different direction. Overall, we were decent. I think we were six-tenths off, and all those guys came to the test. So, I'm happy."
MARTIN PLOWMAN (No. 17 Snowball Express/AFS/Sam Schmidt Motorsports: "It felt great to get back out on the track after my test. The track was very slippery to begin with and we had made some pretty aggressive changes since the test and I think that, matched with the grip level of the track, made it pretty scary to drive during the first two sessions. So, we started to doubt ourselves on some of the changes. We tried to make the car safer to drive to give me the confidence to drive mid-session. When we put on a new set of tires at the end, we picked up a lot of grip just from the tires. So that's indicative of how bad the rubber from the ALMS tires affected our tires."
WILL POWER (No. 12 Verizon Team Penske): "It was a pretty good session for the Verizon car. This track is really physical. That combined with the heat makes this place tough. We have a good starting point after the practice session and we should be good for tomorrow."
RYAN BRISCOE, No. 6 Penske Truck Rental): "It was really slippery out there. The track, right now, is about 3-4 seconds off the pace of what it's going to be. It was good to get out there; it feels like it's been a while since we tested here, but it was just a few weeks ago. The general balance of the Penske Truck Rental car is good. We know the track will change quite a bit over the weekend - we just need to keep up with it."
HELIO CASTRONEVES, No. 3 Penske Truck Rental): "The Penske Truck Rental car ran smooth, but it was very loose. The track was pretty dirty at the beginning of the session and it made it tough out there. It felt like I spun out like three times! It was tough in the high-speed corners, and there's a lot of those here. The car is OK. We know what we need to do tomorrow to improve."
TONY KANAAN (No. 82 GEICO-KV Racing Technology-Lotus): "The track was really green to start with, but every time I went out we would pick up some time. But being such a short practice we couldn't get everything we wanted dialed in. Tomorrow will be able to get it to where we want to be."
||Simona de Silvestro