Seat time, not lap time, key element of tests
It's hard to judge results at any IZOD IndyCar Series test sessions, as teams and drivers concentrate on different aspects of performance aside from pure speed.
Some teams work on aerodynamics. Some focus on race setups and others take time to learn and develop their cars into race-winning machines.
Add in the changing track and weather conditions over a week in Central Florida and the results can be even more skewed.
Looking at statistics, two-time IZOD IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was the top overall driver during of the Open Test on March 5-6 and 8-9 at Sebring International Raceway.
Dixon had the only sub 52-second laps during the sessions, with his best time of 51.7932 seconds on March 8 in the morning session on the 1.67-mile, 11-turn course.
But according to most drivers, the most important aspect from testing is seat time and learning the nuances of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series car.
That was accomplished at the two days each team received at Sebring, and teams hope to apply those lessons using additional private testing days at Barber Motorsports Park this week.
"Any track time that we get is so valuable," said Team Penske's Ryan Briscoe, who is among the 16 drivers expected to test at Barber. "As we get closer to St. Pete, every bit of mileage gets more and more important. From getting used to all the new features on the car like the brakes or the clutch and other things like that, those are things that we will have to have mastered before the first race. I did a fair bit of testing during the winter and I feel quite acclimatized to the car, but you can never have too much running time."
Drivers won't admit to looking at lap times while testing, but they are watching what others are doing and measuring themselves against the competition.
"It's super important to do tests days like these where there are other cars out because you do have to get a feel for how quickly other people are figuring things out," said Panther Racing's JR Hildebrand. "At the same time, when (Sebring) gets gripped up, it's like no place else. It's rough like a street course and super grippy like a road course. We try to take it for what it is, but it's great to do this much running this close to the season."
IZOD IndyCar Series drivers turned a combined 4,107 laps during the four days of preseason Open Testing. That equals 6,158 miles, approximately the same distance as driving three round trips from Indianapolis to Sebring International Raceway.
Also scheduled to participate March 13-14 at Barber Motorsports Park
No. 2 Ryan Briscoe (Team Penske)
No. 3 Helio Castroneves (Team Penske)
No. 4 JR Hildebrand (Panther Racing)
No. 5 E.J. Viso (KV Racing Technology)
No. 8 Rubens Barrichello (KV Racing Technology)
No. 11 Tony Kanaan (KV Racing Technology)
No. 12 Will Power (Team Penske)
No. 20 Ed Carpenter (Ed Carpenter Racing)
No. 26 Marco Andretti (Andretti Autosport)
No. 27 James Hinchcliffe (Andretti Autosport)
No. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay (Andretti Autosport)
No. 18 Justin Wilson (Dale Coyne Racing)
No. 19 James Jakes (Dale Coyne Racing)
No. 38 Graham Rahal (Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing*
No. 67 Josef Newgarden (Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing)
No. 83 Charlie Kimball (Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing)*
Rahal and Kimball will be on the circuit March 13 only. Also, Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon will be testing on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course March 14.