The NTT IndyCar Series made its long-awaited return to WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca yesterday in a pre-season test. Twenty drivers hit the track in what would be a rain-shortened test day, with Carlin‘s Max Chilton ending the day as the fastest driver.
It was the first time that America’s premier single-seater category hit the Monterey circuit since 2004. It was also the first test of the year with a majority of the 2019 field on track at the same time. The official pre-season test for the entire field will be run at the Circuit of the Americas next week, but nevertheless, yesterday’s running was an opportunity for the drivers to get to grips with Laguna Seca before they go racing there at the season finale in September.
Sadly, most of the running yesterday took place in the morning session, as rain arrived shortly after the lunch break, with the track action being brought to an early end soon after that.
Once the session was drawn to a close, Carlin’s Max Chilton was the driver on the top of the unofficial time-sheets. The #59 Gallagher Chevrolet driver set a best lap of 1:11.29, a lap-time that was around five seconds a lap slower than those seen back in the years of Champ Car. Expect lap-times to be much faster when the series returns to the track in September.
Crossing the timing-line a fraction of a second slower than Chilton was rookie Felix Rosenqvist. The #10 Chip Ganassi Racing driver was second-fastest with a best lap within four-hundredths of a second of Chilton. The third fastest time would go to Andretti Autosport‘s Ryan Hunter-Reay, with Meyer Shank Racing‘s Jack Harvey in fourth place separating Ryan from his team-mate Alexander Rossi in fifth place.
The #23 Carlin Chevrolet was not driven by Charlie Kimball in yesterday’s test. Instead, American RC Enerson took to the track and set the sixth fastest lap. Yesterday’s running, coupled with a rookie test held at COTA in December, are seemingly pointing toward the imminent signing of Enerson for at least a part-time schedule with the British team this season.
Zach Veach took the seventh-fastest time in the #26 Andretti Honda, but the sophomore driver was one of a handful of drivers who had an off-track excursion during the day. Just behind Veach was the reigning champion, Scott Dixon, in eighth place; with Team Penske‘s Simon Pagenaud and Ed Carpenter Racing‘s Spencer Pigot rounding out the top ten.
Further down the order, rookie Santino Ferrucci was fifteenth-fastest for Dale Coyne Racing. He was two places and two-tenths of a second ahead of fellow rookie Marcus Ericsson, who took seventeenth place for Arrow Schmidt Peterson. Juncos Racing was represented by their part-time 2018 driver Kyle Kaiser, who has yet to be confirmed to be driving the Juncos Chevrolet this year. Kaiser ended the day in eighteenth place.
The final driver to set a lap-time during the day’s running was Penske’s Will Power. The reigning Indianapolis 500 champion completed just eleven laps during the day after suffering an apparent engine failure. His best lap was just over two seconds slower than Max Chilton’s time at the top of the time-sheets.
A.J. Foyt Enterprises had been present at Laguna Seca yesterday and had intended to turn some laps, but ultimately, neither Tony Kanaan or Matheus Leist would run laps, with the team packing up early on so as not to waste one of their allocated days of testing.
Twenty-five drivers are expected to be back out on track at the Circuit of the Americas on Tuesday, February 12 and Wednesday, February 13 next week for the official pre-season test. On-track action will be streamed on IndyCar’s Facebook page.
The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series will kick-off next month, with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg taking place on Sunday, March 10.
2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Laguna Seca pre-season test – Unofficial results:
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