Forsythe Racing sweeps Sebring test

Despite an abbreviated final day of Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda testing at Sebring International Raceway for their team, teammates James Hinchcliffe (#3 Forsythe Championship Racing) and David Garza (#7 Forsythe Championship Racing) found themselves standing atop the time charts at the end of the two-day test session.

For the second consecutive day on the 1.669-mile circuit in Central Florida, Hinchcliffe led the field with a best lap at 57.366 sec. (104.738 mph). The Canadian turned his quick lap within the first hour of the test session and posted several more laps in the 57-second range before running off course at Turn 3 and making contact with the barrier. Hinchcliffe escaped injury but his day came to a premature end.

“It was an interesting day for us," Hinchcliffe said. “It’s great to end up on top again. We were able to improve our time from yesterday where a few other guys weren’t, so I think we managed to make a good car even better. There are three things you set out to achieve on any test day. The first one is go fast, the second one is to get through your test plan and the third one is to bring the car home in one piece. We did two out of three, because on our first run this morning, we did some quick times and set that fast lap and then had a bit of an incident that sent me into the wall. It was my mistake. It damaged the car a bit, but we could have gotten the car back going if we wanted to, but the weather started to change a bit and we didn’t have many miles left in the motor anyway, so we figured it was probably safe to just pack it up.

“It wasn’t that we thought we were too good to run anymore or anything like that. We accomplished what we needed to do, what we set out to do, and we didn’t see much point in running around any more laps. For us to finish today 1-2—I mean, David was right behind me and I think we had really strong cars today—it’s just such a huge boost for the team. We’ve worked really hard in the preseason and for the first time running with everyone and for it to all come together like this and to end this test 1-2, it’s huge for everyone. David did a great job, both engineers are working really hard and the crew is awesome. Now we’re just looking forward to when it really counts in Long Beach."

Just a tick behind his teammate was Garza, who posted a best lap at 57.413 sec. (104.652 mph). In light of changing track conditions, the No. 7 team decided to sit out the final afternoon of testing at Sebring and turned its focus toward the next open test for Atlantic during Spring Training at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca next month. Entering his second year of Atlantic competition in 2008, Garza was pleased with his first official outing with Forsythe Championship Racing.

“It went really well today," Garza said. “We made some improvements on the car, reviewed data overnight and we were there. James put in a very quick lap time and we were just under a tenth behind him. It’s a good step forward for the team and we kept the momentum going from yesterday. You can’t ask for more from the team than to run 1-2 in the first test. I’m extremely happy and really excited to get on with the season."

The third-quickest driver in the open test was American racer Jonathan Bomarito (#6 Sierra Sierra Enterprises), who could not go quicker on Wednesday than his best time of 57.542 seconds (104.418 mph) from Tuesday’s second session. Bomarito was quick to point out that the track conditions at Sebring presented unique challenges to the drivers and teams.

“The track has a lot of grip and it’s more physical that way, especially with the bumps," Bomarito said. “It’s definitely more physical, but the cars like it and they’re a lot of fun to drive. A lot of times we come to Sebring to test for street courses, since it is bumpy and there are concrete patches. Now that you’re here and there’s so much grip, it doesn’t really simulate the first day, especially, of a street course. It starts to simulate the second day a little bit, but it’s still a little bit too grippy for that."

J.R. Hildebrand (#17 Genoa Racing) concluded a successful two days of testing by taking fourth on the final time sheet with a lap at 57.712 seconds (104.110 mph). Finnish rookie Markus Niemela (#8 Brooks Associates Racing) also impressed with a fifth-quickest lap at 57.762 seconds (104.020 mph). The top 14 drivers in the test were covered by less than one second.

Twenty-five drivers turned a total of 4,646 laps (7,754.174 miles) over the two days at Sebring. In addition to Hinchcliffe’s incident, rookie Brett Van Blankers (#13 Jensen MotorSport) twice made contact with the barriers in Wednesday’s sessions, while second-year competitor Simona De Silvestro (#34 Newman Wachs Racing) also had a shunt on Wednesday. None of the drivers were injured.

Up next for the Champ Car Atlantic Championship will be Spring Training at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on March 10 and 11, followed by the third and final preseason open test at MSR Houston on March 25 and 26. The 35th Anniversary season of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship gets underway at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 20.

Final combined times from the Sebring open test (pos., driver name, team, best lap time, mph, total laps):
1. James Hinchcliffe, #3 Forsythe Championship Racing, 57.366 sec., 104.738 mph, 151 laps.
2. David Garza, #7 Forsythe Championship Racing, 57.413 sec., 104.652 mph, 201 laps.
3. Jonathan Bomarito, #6 Sierra Sierra Enterprises, 57.542 sec., 104.418 mph, 196 laps.
4. J.R. Hildebrand, #17 Genoa Racing, 57.712 sec., 104.110 mph, 204 laps.
5. Markus Niemela (R), #8 Brooks Associates Racing, 57.762 sec., 104.020 mph, 207 laps.
6. Simona De Silvestro, #34 Newman Wachs Racing, 57.948 sec., 103.686 mph, 219 laps.
7. Jonathan Summerton (R), #36X Newman Wachs Racing, 57.971 sec., 103.645 mph, 90 laps.
8. Kevin Lacroix, #25 Walker Racing, 58.004 sec., 103.586 mph, 255 laps.
9. Daniel Morad (R), #70 Eurointernational, 58.013 sec., 103.570 mph, 228 mph.
10. Sebastien Chardonnet (R), #18 Conquest Racing, 58.062 sec., 103.482 mph, 165 laps.
11. Carl Skerlong, #28 Pacific Coast Motorsports, 58.116 sec., 103.386 mph, 179 laps.
12. Alan Sciuto, #26 Mathiasen Motorsports, 58.167 sec., 103.296 mph, 217 laps.
13. Dane Cameron (R), #9 Sierra Sierra Enterprises, 58.273 sec., 103.108 mph, 231 laps.
14. Greg Mansell (R), #5 Walker Racing, 58.303 sec., 103.055 mph, 219 laps.
15. Juho Annala (R), #21 Conquest Racing, 58.446 sec., 102.803 mph, 193 laps.
16. Mike Forest, #32 PR1 Motorsports, 58.540 sec., 102.638 mph, 242 laps.
17. Adrian Herberts, #45 Paladin Motorsports, 58.594 sec., 102.543 mph, 228 laps.
18. Frankie Muniz,#29 Pacific Coast Motorsports, 58.711 sec., 102.339 mph, 215 laps.
19. Filip Salaquarda (R), #10 Brooks Associates Racing, 58.714 sec., 102.333 mph, 144 laps.
20. John Edwards, #36 Newman Wachs Racing, 58.787 sec., 102.206 mph, 107 laps.
21. Leo Mansell (R), #15 Walker Racing, 58.881 sec., 102.043 mph, 204 laps.
22. Tim Macrow (R), #2X Jensen MotorSport, 58.924 sec., 101.969 mph, 102 laps.
23. Larry Connor (R), #27 Genoa Racing, 59.042 sec., 101.765 mph, 173 laps.
24. Brett Van Blankers (R), #13 Jensen MotorSport, 59.047 sec., 101.756 mph, 172 laps.
25. Imran Husain, #37 Genoa Racing, 1:00.800, 98.790 mph, 104 laps.

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