First day of COTA Open Test curtailed by weather conditions

by Jordan Groves

Ed Carpenter Racing‘s Rinus VeeKay set the fastest time on the first of two days of 2020 NTT IndyCar Series pre-season testing at the Circuit of the Americas. However, Rinus was one of only a handful of drivers to set a lap-time during the course of the day, with much of the duration of the day’s running being curtailed by red flags due to the weather conditions and the very low temperatures at the circuit.

The opening day of 2020 pre-season testing was scheduled to comprise of a morning session and an afternoon session that would equal six hours of total track time. However, heavy rain in the morning and very low track temperatures throughout the day would force much of the day’s running to be cancelled.

Representatives from Firestone, the tyre supplier for the NTT IndyCar Series, stated during the day that they generally work off of a benchmark of a combined total of 100 degrees (when adding the ambient track and air temperatures) to allow cars to be run. Tuesday’s temperatures never exceeded this, with a track temperature in the afternoon of 47 degrees (8.333°C) and an air temperature of 46 degrees (7.778°C).

The conditions would mean that each session would only see ten minutes of running under yellow flags; limiting the drivers to very low-speed installation laps. The opening session of the day would be led by Team Penske’s Josef Newgarden, who set a best lap time of 2:42.600s. This would be bettered in the second session by Ed Carpenter Racing’s rookie, Rinus VeeKay, who would set a 2:37.441s lap-time. This laps, however, would be well off of the fastest time seen during last year’s race at the Circuit of the Americas, with Will Power having taken pole position with a lap-time of 1:46.018s.

Other drivers who bravely ventured out onto the track for some tentative laps during the day included the likes of Scott McLaughlin, who continues to try and get acclimatised to IndyCar before his race debut at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. He will be hoping for much more running on the second day of testing so that he is as best prepared as possible before he jumps into the deep end.

Alexander Rossi, Will Power, Felix Rosenqvist, Marcus Ericsson, Alex Palou, Conor Daly, Zach Veach, Jack Harvey, Oliver Askew, Charlie Kimball and Felipe Nasr were among the handful of other drivers who turned at least one lap during the day. Surprisingly, given how tricky the conditions were, only Veach suffered a spin, with the Andretti Autosport driver briefly losing control of his #26 Honda in the final few minutes of the day’s limited running.

The only real takeaway from today’s test was seeing, albeit briefly, how the new-for-2020 Aeroscreen would cope in wet conditions. There seemed to be no major issues with the Aeroscreen during the day, with only Will Power reportedly talking about slight leaks in the cockpit of his #12 Penske, caused most likely by a sealing issue.

Other than this, the only other major talking points during the day was the presence of seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion, Jimmie Johnson. Speculation continues to circulate that Johnson may contest a number of IndyCar races next year following his retirement from NASCAR at the end of this year.

The weather forecast for Wednesday’s second day of the two-day Open Test looks a lot more promising. Rain is set to hit the circuit in the morning before drying up over the course of the rest of the day. Teams and drivers seem to be very optimistic about getting out on track a lot more in the final planned day of running.

The second day of testing will be able to be streamed on IndyCar.com and the IndyCar app. The three-hour morning session will begin at 10:00 AM ET (15:00PM GMT), with the five and a half-hour afternoon session taking place later in the day, starting at 12:30 PM ET (17:30PM GMT).

The 2020 NTT IndyCar Series will kick-off with the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on Sunday, March 15.

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