Herta fastest again on final day of COTA test

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Colton Herta (USA), Harding Steinbrenner Racing, 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, Circuit of the Americas Test
Credit: John Cote / Courtesy of IndyCar

The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series pre-season test at the Circuit of the Americas came to a close yesterday, with Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta setting the fastest time of the day once again. The American teenager set a lap-time within two-hundredths of a second of his best lap set on the first day of testing, which was enough to see him end Wednesday’s running with the fastest overall time.

Herta would just miss out on claiming the fastest time in all four sessions over the two-day test, with Alexander Rossi setting the best time in the final afternoon session with a lap-time that was still slower than either of Herta’s previous bests.

Rossi’s lap in the afternoon session came within the final two minutes of running. The Andretti Autosport driver put in a 1:46.8535 to take what would be the second-fastest lap of the entire two-day test. Colton Herta attempted to re-take the top spot of the afternoon with a last-gasp lap but ultimately fell short by two-tenths of a second.

Rossi’s team-mate Ryan Hunter-Reay would take the third-fastest time of the day, with Team Penske‘s Simon Pagenaud and Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Felix Rosenqvist rounding out the top five in Wednesday’s running. Graham Rahal and Scott Dixon set near-identical times in sixth and seventh respectively. Arrow Schmidt Peterson‘s James Hinchcliffe was just behind in eighth place, with Dale Coyne Racing‘s rookie Santino Ferrucci and Penske’s Josef Newgarden completing the top ten.

Rookie drivers, Marcus Ericsson and RC Enerson both put in a lot of laps over the day’s running; with both completing over the Formula 1 Grand Prix distance of fifty-six laps. Neither would complete the most laps of the day, however. That accolade went the way of Josef Newgarden, who completed seventy-six laps.

Helio Castroneves went from running the most laps of the first day of the test on Tuesday to completing the fewest on Wednesday. The Brazilian completed just thirty-nine laps, but his overall total of ninety-five laps over the course of the two-days would add to Penske’s incredible tally of 420 laps completed between their four drivers during the test; by far the most laps run by any team.

Andretti Autosport’s quartet would trail Penske in the total laps leader-board by fifty-two, with Andretti having 368 laps to their name. British team Carlin would end the test with the third-highest tally of laps, with RC Enerson and Max Chilton amassing 212 laps over the two-days. In total, the twelve teams that took part in the test would complete 2366 laps; equalling over forty-two Grand Prix distances or over 8100-miles.

Felix Rosenqvist (SWE), Chip Ganassi Racing, 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, Circuit of the Americas Test

Credit: Stephen King / Courtesy of IndyCar

The most laps completed by a singular-driver over the course of the two-day test was, again, Penske’s Josef Newgarden. The 2017 champion completed 115 laps over the two-days, with Ganassi and Schmidt Peterson’s rookies, Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson, both completing just one lap fewer on 114 each. The least laps run by a driver went to A.J. Foyt Enterprises‘ Tony Kanaan, who completed a lowly fifty-six laps; with forty-three of those coming on the second day of running. Foyt would wind up being one of the teams with the lowest total laps, with only the single-car teams of Harding, Juncos Racing and Meyer Shank Racing running fewer.

When you combine the results of both days of testing at COTA, you will not be surprised to see that Colton Herta once again is at the top. Whilst pre-season testing times must be taken with a grain of salt when it comes to predicting results for the upcoming season, Herta’s performance over the last two days has been impressive to watch; especially as the Teenager is amongst the least-experienced in IndyCar machinery and has never driven at COTA.

A majority of the fastest times on the combined leaderboard were set on the second day of the test, perhaps due to the track being much more rubbered in than it was on the first day. Eight of the top ten times came on the second day, with only Colton Herta and Will Power having set their personal best laps on the opening day of running. You can see both the leaderboard for yesterday’s running, as well as the combined leaderboard for the two-day test, at the end of this article.

As mentioned in our report on the first day of running at COTA, Herta’s best lap of 1:46.6258 is approximately fourteen-seconds slower than Lewis Hamilton‘s pole position time at the circuit during the 2018 United States Grand Prix.

Many casual observers were quick to point out the gap between the two championships, but it is important to note that IndyCar’s technical regulations put more emphasis on the cars being able to run closer together in races rather than sheer one-lap pace. Formula 1 cars have far more aerodynamic grip, too, which makes the gap even more prominent at a circuit such as COTA, which has plenty of high-speed corners.

You can also expect the IndyCar drivers to be lapping a little faster when the COTA race weekend comes around next month. Very early predictions could suggest that the IndyCar’s might lap around two seconds faster than they managed during the pre-season test.

A handful of further private test sessions for some of the teams and drivers are likely to take place over the next few weeks in preparation for the first race of the season. Also, keep an eye out for the first running by IndyCar newcomers DragonSpeed, who have yet to turn any laps with British driver Ben Hanley in preparation for their debut at St. Petersburg next month.

The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series will kick-off in just under a month’s time with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which will take place on Sunday, March 10.

Alexander Rossi (USA), Andretti Autosport, 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, Circuit of the Americas Test

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – COTA pre-season test – Day two results:

[table id=3673 /]

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – COTA pre-season test – Combined results:

[table id=3674 /]

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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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