Power fastest at COTA Open Test, McLaughlin impresses in third

by Jordan Groves

Team Penske‘s Will Power has ended the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series Open Test at the Circuit of the Americas as the fastest driver. It was, thankfully, a day with a huge amount of running after an almost total washout on the first day, with a combined total of 1,480 laps completed by the twenty-seven drivers that took part in the second day’s running.

An extended day of testing awaited the drivers on Wednesday after rain and cold temperatures put pay to any hopes of meaningful running on Tuesday. After a delayed start due to weather, the drivers were finally turned loose with just over six hours of running left in the day.

The first few hours of running saw the drivers running on the Firestone wet tyres as the track continued to dry out. With five hours to go, the track had dried to a sufficient level where slick tyres could be bolted onto the cars, with Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud the first to venture out onto the race track on dry tyres.

Soon, the lap-times began to slowly get faster and faster. Pagenaud would be the first to get a sub-two minute lap-time and would set a lap-time of 1:57.0946 a few minutes later. By the time the session entered it’s final few moments, the drivers were beginning to set lap-times that would have been relatively competitive in last year’s qualifying session at the Circuit of the Americas.

In the end, it would be Will Power would hold the fastest lap when the chequered flag was waved to mark the end of the day’s running and the end of the Open Test at the Circuit of the Americas. Power’s best lap came inside the final hour of the day, with the Australian setting a 1:46.7603.

By comparison, the pole position time for last year’s race at the Circuit of the Americas – also set by Will Power – was a 1:46.0177. That time was set on the fastest alternate tyre compound – which was not available to the drivers at the test – and with a track surface that was much more rubbered in and had no wet patches leftover from the morning’s showers. All things considered, Power’s best lap from the test was not bad at all, with it also being worth noting that the cars are now heavier with the new-for-2020 Aeroscreen.

The second-fastest lap of the day would be set by Andretti Autosport‘s Alexander Rossi, with the Californian the only other driver to set a lap in the 1:46’s. Rossi was one of a handful of drivers who sat out the opening few hours to wait for the track to dry.

Credit: Chris Graythen (Getty Images) / Courtesy of IndyCar

The third-fastest lap of the session would, impressively, go the way of Penske’s rookie, Scott McLaughlin. The two-time Virgin Australia Supercars champion would lap the track just half a second slower than his veteran team-mate despite having only driven an IndyCar for a day of testing at Sebring International Raceway a few weeks ago. The New Zealander seems to be taking to the new surroundings of open-wheel racing like a duck to water and may well be one to watch when he makes his IndyCar racing debut at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis in May.

The reigning series champion, Josef Newgarden, would set the fourth-fastest lap of the day after completing fifty-three laps during the day. Sixth-place would go to the COTA race winner from last year, Colton Herta, who led the time-sheets for a while until spinning into the gravel and causing a red flag in the final hour of the day.

Reigning Indianapolis 500 champion, Simon Pagenaud, would be the seventh-fastest driver of the day. Arrow McLaren SP‘s rookie, Oliver Askew, would be just one-hundredth of a second slower in eighth-place; capping off a decent day for the team as they continue to prepare for the first year of their new partnership.

The second McLaren car of Patricio O’Ward was a little further back in tenth place, with Dale Coyne Racing‘s rookie, Alex Palou and Chip Ganassi Racing‘s Scott Dixon sandwiched in-between in eighth and ninth respectively. Palou was another driver who impressed during the test as he continues to get used to the differences between IndyCar and his former habitat in Super Formula.

The top ten were all under a blanket of one second, with the reigning rookie of the year, Felix Rosenqvist just over a second off of the pacesetter Power in eleventh place. Further back, Meyer Shank Racing‘s first test after allying with Andretti Autosport ended in thirteenth place for Jack Harvey; with the team confident of great things in the next few months. Harvey’s fellow countryman, Max Chilton, was just behind in fifteenth-place.

Credit: Chris Graythen (Getty Images) / Courtesy of IndyCar

The most laps completed by a single driver over the course of the day’s running went to Ed Carpenter Racing‘s rookie, Rinus VeeKay. The Dutchman lapped the Circuit of the Americas eighty-two times on his way to taking the eighteenth-fastest lap of the day. For comparison, VeeKay’s eighty-two laps are well in excess of the race distance of sixty-laps. Rinus was one of ten drivers who completed a race distance worth of laps or more during the day.

Two cars during the day’s running would be shared between multiple drivers. The #31 Carlin Chevrolet would be driven by former Formula 1 driver, Felipe Nasr for the first few hours of the day. Later on, Nasr would hand the car over to fellow Brazilian, Sergio Sette Camara. With Camara getting the benefit of the better track conditions at the end of the day, he would set the twenty-first fastest lap, with Nasr further back in twenty-sixth place out of twenty-seven drivers. Neither Nasr or Camara have yet to confirm official race plans for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series, but both could end up sharing the #31 Carlin during the season.

Finally, the #14 A.J. Foyt Racing Chevrolet would be shared between Sebastien Bourdais and Dalton Kellett, with Bourdais driving for the opening few hours before handing over to Kellett with enough time for the Canadian to complete around an hour and fifteen minutes remaining in the day. Bourdais would, ultimately, take the twenty-fourth fastest time after thirty-five laps, with Kellet propping up the time-sheets in twenty-seventh place after completing just twenty laps; unsurprisingly the lowest total of the day.

The test would be interrupted on numerous occasions by red flag periods. These would be caused by a number of drivers who would either spin or stop out on the race track. Notable red flag inducers included the likes of Colton Herta, Patricio O’Ward, Marcus Ericsson, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Santino Ferrucci and many more. Thankfully, no driver managed to damage their car during the day’s running, with every team completing a solid number of laps to give them great data heading into the season-opening race in just over a month’s time.

A number of teams and drivers will continue to test in the next few weeks leading up to the first race of the season. A small oval test is set to take place at Texas Motor Speedway on Friday, with teams such as Arrow McLaren SP and Team Penske scheduled to attend. Others will test at circuits such as Barber Motorsports Park and Sebring, before heading to St. Petersburg for the season-opening race.

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

Credit: Chris Graythen (Getty Images) / Courtesy of IndyCar

2020 NTT IndyCar Series – COTA Open Test – Day two results:

POSNO.DRIVERNATTEAMTIMELAPS
112Will PowerAUSTeam Penske1:46.760357
227Alexander RossiUSAAndretti Autosport1:46.999949
32Scott McLaughlin (R)NZLTeam Penske1:47.263062
41Josef NewgardenUSATeam Penske1:47.275053
588Colton HertaUSAAndretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport1:47.367243
622Simon PagenaudFRATeam Penske1:47.556866
77Oliver Askew (R)USAArrow McLaren SP1:47.561176
89Scott DixonNZLChip Ganassi Racing1:47.692152
955Alex Palou (R)ESPDale Coyne Racing with Team Goh1:47.707060
105Patricio O'WardMEXArrow McLaren SP1:47.715167
1110Felix RosenqvistSWEChip Ganassi Racing1:47.779659
1298Marco AndrettiUSAAndretti Herta Autosport1:47.838557
1360Jack HarveyGBRMeyer Shank Racing1:47.890261
1428Ryan Hunter-ReayUSAAndretti Autosport1:47.891451
1559Max ChiltonGBRCarlin1:47.962872
1615Graham RahalUSARahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:47.987051
1726Zach VeachUSAAndretti Autosport1:48.005459
1821Rinus VeeKay (R)NEDEd Carpenter Racing1:48.219882
198Marcus EricssonSWEChip Ganassi Racing1:48.306565
2018Santino FerrucciUSADale Coyne Racing with Vasser Sullivan1:48.364052
2131Sergio Sette Camara (R)BRACarlin1:48.470728
2230Takuma SatoJAPRahal Letterman Lanigan Racing1:48.689640
234Charlie KimballUSAA.J. Foyt Racing1:48.692552
2414Sebastien BourdaisFRAA.J. Foyt Racing1:48.836135
2520Conor DalyUSAEd Carpenter Racing1:49.078162
2631Felipe Nasr (R)BRACarlin1:50.768349
2714Dalton Kellett (R)CANA.J. Foyt Racing1:50.994320

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