Bourdais and Power fastest in opening Portland practices

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Sebastien Bourdais (FRA), Dale Coyne Racing, 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, Portland
Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

Sebastien Bourdais and Will Power have finished the opening two practice sessions for the 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series Grand Prix of Portland as the fastest drivers. Bourdais took the top spot in the opening session, with Power taking over for the second session later on in the day. There were plenty of off-track excursions and incidents as the drivers got to grips with the returning circuit.

Despite the eleven year gap between today and the last IndyCar event held in Portland in 2007, Sebastien Bourdais proved that he had not lost his edge at the road course. Bourdais won the 2007 Champ Car race and managed to go back-to-back to return to the top of the timesheets when he finished practice one as the fastest driver.

The Dale Coyne Racing driver topped the session with a 57.3975-second lap, a lap-time that is already two-tenths of a second faster than the previous lap record set by Justin Wilson back in 2005.

The championship leader Scott Dixon recovered to take the second fastest time of the session having spun earlier on when the track was damp after some rain hit the circuit. Dixon was half a tenth of a second slower than Bourdais. Third-fastest would go to the reigning series champion, Josef Newgarden, with the Team Penske driver almost two-tenths of a second off of Bourdais.

Marco Andretti and Will Power completed the top five in the first session, with the rookie Jordan King putting in a strong run to take the sixth-fastest time. King, driving the #20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, has been out of the car for over a month whilst his team-boss Ed Carpenter has been racing in the final two oval races of the year. Jordan will be hoping to impress well enough in the final two rounds of 2018 to try and earn himself a full-time ride for 2019.

Alexander Rossi was seventh fastest for Andretti Autosport. The Californian, who remains twenty-six points off of Dixon in the standings, was right with Scott on pace for much of the session, but he couldn’t improve the same way that Dixon did in the closing stages of first practice. He will hope to be right up with Scott for the remainder of the weekend.

Takuma Sato and Ed Jones took the eighth and ninth fastest times respectively, leading a trio of rookie drivers who completed the remaining spots inside the top twelve. Zach Veach continued his run of decent pace, taking tenth for Andretti, just ahead of the returning part-time British driver, Jack Harvey, in the #60 for Meyer Shank Racing; with the squad competing in their first race since Mid-Ohio. It was another returning driver that would take twelfth place in the session, with Santino Ferrucci taking the spot in Dale Coyne Racing’s new #39 Honda.

A number of the usual suspects that you would find running near the front were further down the time-sheets than you might have thought in the first session. These included thirteenth placed Simon Pagenuad, fourteenth placed Ryan Hunter-ReayGraham Rahal in fifteenth place and James Hinchcliffe further back in eighteenth place. The four drivers will be wanting to show an improvement in pace for the rest of the weekend.

It was a rather uneventful session until the final few minutes rolled by. Two red flags punctuated the session, with Veach causing the first after stopping out on the track. The session was restarted with a handful of minutes remaining, but the green flag was brought back in as quickly as it was put out. Alfonso Celis Jr spun through the grass in his #32 Juncos Racing Chevrolet and could not get back going again. The session would not be restarted after that.

2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of Portland – Practice one top twelve results:

[table id=3377 /]

Full results of practice one can be found by clicking the following link:

Will Power (AUS), Team Penske, 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, Portland

Credit: Chris Jones / Courtesy of IndyCar

Will Power took over the top spot on the time-sheets when the cars headed out onto the track for their second practice session of the day. However, Power failed to beat Bourdais’ best time from the session earlier on. The Team Penske driver set a 47.4053-second lap-time, which was less than a tenth off of Sebastien’s time in practice one.

It was another strong session for Marco Andretti in the #98 Andretti Herta Honda. The American was the second fastest driver in practice two, with a time within a tenth of a second of Power’s best.

There was another driver within a tenth of the fastest time too. That was third-placed Santino Ferrucci, who continued to impress on his return to the series in his #39 Dale Coyne Honda. It will certainly be interesting to see if the twenty-year-old can continue his good form into the rest of the weekend, as he looks to earn a full-time seat next year.

Scott Dixon had another strong session for Chip Ganassi Racing. The championship leader was once again faster than his rival Alexander Rossi; with this weekend potentially being a chance for the New Zealander to stop Rossi’s run of consistently picking away at the deficit between them in the standings.

Jack Harvey backed up his top twelve finish in practice one with a top five in practice two. The British Meyer Shank Racing driver was fifth fastest, with a lap-time two-tenths of a second slower than the fastest time. A strong result this weekend would be a great achievement for Meyer Shank Racing and would put the team in good spirits as they look to expand their 2019 programme to more races, if not a full-time schedule.

Josef Newgarden once again featured inside the top ten, taking sixth place in the #1 Penske Chevrolet. Just behind him was, impressively, the #88 Harding Racing car of Gabby Chaves, who took the seventh best time of the session.

Zach Veach and Jordan King were in the top ten for the second running, taking eighth and ninth respectively, with Sebastien Bourdais falling from P1 in practice one to tenth place in practice two. Spencer Pigot and James Hinchcliffe completed the top twelve.

Slightly further back in sixteenth place would be Carlos Munoz, who made his return to the Verizon IndyCar Series earlier in the day as the substitute for the injured Robert Wickens in the #8 Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda. His first day back was uneventful but productive and the Columbian will be hoping to have a solid finish this weekend.

It quickly became apparent in the second session of the day that the final corner of Portland International Raceway would be somewhat of a trouble spot this weekend. Both Simon Pagenaud and Takuma Sato went straight on and into the barrier on the entry to the fast right-hander, with both drivers causing red flags as a result of their incidents.

Another driver who flirted with danger at the final corner on numerous occasions was Alexander Rossi. The Californian Andretti driver seemed to struggle in the session, as he made numerous mistakes en-route to an eventual twenty-third place on the time-sheets at the end of the day. If he wants to continue to make in-roads on Dixon’s points lead, Alexander will be wanting to make some serious improvements into final practice and qualifying tomorrow.

Scott Dixon (NZL), Chip Ganassi Racing, 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series, Portland

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

2018 Verizon IndyCar Series – Grand Prix of Portland – Practice two top twelve results:

[table id=3376 /]

Full results of practice two can be found by clicking the following link:

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Reporter from the East of England. Covering the NTT IndyCar Series for The Checkered Flag. Also an eSports racing driver on iRacing.
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