Takuma Sato fastest at Indianapolis open test

by Jordan Groves
Takuma Sato (JAP), Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, Indianapolis

A number of the teams and drivers of the 2019 NTT IndyCar Series field were on track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday for an open test in preparation for next month’s Indianapolis 500. Veterans of the race took to the track at the start of the day, with the day ending with the rookies and returning drivers, including the likes of Fernando Alonso, taking to the famed 2.5-mile oval.

Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing‘s Takuma Sato set the fastest lap of the entire day’s running, setting a best lap speed of 226.993-mph. The lap by Sato was an impressive benchmark for only the first day of running this year. The Japanese driver will be hoping to remain towards the top of the time-sheets throughout the upcoming month of May so that he can try and replicate his Indy 500 victory back in 2017.

The second-fastest time of the day went the way of last year’s Indy 500 pole-sitter, Ed Carpenter. The owner-driver led the charge for his three-car team, with team-mates Spencer Pigot and Ed Jones setting the third and eighth fastest laps of the day. Carpenter and Pigot were closely matched by the reigning Indy 500 champion, Will Power, who set the fourth fastest lap of the day for Team Penske.

Later in the day, Harding Steinbrenner Racing‘s Colton Herta would set the fastest time of the rookie and veteran refresher session. His best lap of 226.108-mph would be good enough to put him fifth overall during the entire day’s running; an impressive effort for the Teenager on his first day at Indianapolis in an IndyCar.

Herta, along with his fellow rookies, were all aiming to pass rookie orientation; the mandatory process by which rookie drivers have to complete consistent laps within a set speed range before progressing to higher speeds.

Colton Herta (USA), Harding Steinbrenner Racing, 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, Indianapolis

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

By the end of the day’s running, Herta, Marcus Ericsson and Felix Rosenqvist had all passed all three phases of rookie orientation and will thus not have to worry about it when they return to the oval for the first official practice session next month. Santino Ferrucci and Patricio O’Ward will be amongst the drivers who will have to pass rookie orientation next month, with O’Ward not permitted to drive in today’s rookie session as the session was only for full-time rookies.

Naturally, much of the attention of the day was on Fernando Alonso, who took to the Speedway in his #66 McLaren Racing Chevrolet for the first time. His first run was somewhat curtailed after a battery issue caused him to stop shortly after leaving pit road. He would return to the track later on in the session but would be unable to complete his refresher test before the day’s running ended.

Alonso was not the only Spanish driver out on the track yesterday. Oriol Servia made a somewhat surprising appearance driving a #77 Honda for Arrow Schmidt Peterson. Servia has yet to have an official Indy 500 entry confirmed as of yet, but his entry looks very likely to be announced in the coming weeks.

Of the veterans completing their refresher test, which included the aforementioned Servia and Alonso as well as Helio CastronevesJR Hildebrand and Conor Daly, only Daly was able to complete the program before running ended. Conor and his #25 Andretti Autosport crew spent part of the day trialling various windscreen designs to prevent buffeting on Conor’s helmet; an issue that plagued him throughout the session.

After the rookie and veteran refresher session, one last session was due to take place that would see all the cars out on track at the same time. Sadly, however, due to persistent rain earlier in the day, all the prior track action had been delayed, thus leaving no time for the final session.

The full field of drivers for this year’s Indianapolis 500 will return to the famous speedway on Tuesday, May 14, for the first official day of practice for the race. Four practice days will take place from Tuesday to Friday that week before the field is set and grid positions are determined during the two-days of qualifying from Saturday, May 18, to Sunday, May 19. The race itself, the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500, will take place the following weekend on Sunday, May 26.

Fernando Alonso (ESP), McLaren Racing, 2019 NTT IndyCar Series, Indianapolis

Credit: Joe Skibinski / Courtesy of IndyCar

2019 NTT IndyCar Series – Indianapolis Open Test – Top Twelve combined results:

POSNO.DRIVERNATTEAMTIMESPEED (MPH)
130Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing39.6488226.993
220Ed CarpenterUSAEd Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa39.7502226.414
321Spencer PigotUSAEd Carpenter Racing39.7658226.325
412Will PowerAUSTeam Penske39.7834226.225
588Colton Herta (R)USAHarding Steinbrenner Racing39.8040226.108
628Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport39.8262225.982
79Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing39.8927225.605
863Ed Jones UAEEd Carpenter Racing Scuderia Corsa39.8955225.589
93Helio CastronevesBRATeam Penske39.8998225.565
1022Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske39.9014225.556
1118Sebastien BourdaisFRADale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan39.9316225.385
1227Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport40.0113224.936

Full results of yesterday’s veteran session can be found by clicking the following link: http://www.imscdn.com/indycar_media/documents/2019-04-24/04-24-19%20Indy%20veterans.pdf

Full results of yesterday’s rookie orientation/refresher session can be found by clicking the following link: http://www.imscdn.com/indycar_media/documents/2019-04-24/04-24-19%20Indy%20ROP.pdf

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