A crowd of 16 Indy cars took over the 1.67-mile Sebring International Raceway short course for the second wave of open testing in anticipation of the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season that begins March 25 on the streets of St Petersburg, FL - not terribly far away.
Just as the first wave ended up in the hands of Team Penske's trio of Helio Castroneves, Will Power and Ryan Briscoe, so the first day for Group 2 fell to Scott Dixon and Dario Franchitti of Target Chip Ganassi Racing. These two teams are, after all the anchor squads of Chevrolet and Honda, respectively.
Nearly out of the box, 15 laps into the day, Dixon became the first driver in this test under the 52-second mark, at 51.9674 seconds, for a lap speed of 115.688 mph.
"The car was good out of the box; it was pretty quick," Dixon said. "We just went through the test program and tried not to just go for lap times. I think we rectified a few of those issues."
Franchitti set his best of 115.305 on the tenth go-round in the afternoon session, after spending the morning working through his own issues.
"It was nice to get this afternoon and see where we were - it's not bad," the reigning champion said. "It is about learning and getting data and when you change something on the car, what's the result and how does it feel."
The quickest Chevrolet on Thursday belonged to Rubens Barrichello (115.122), marking his second trip to the Sebring track and aiding his ability to work through the testing program.
“It's nice to come back to Sebring as I don't have to start from zero,” Barrichello said. “I know the track, so I can go fast and it’s just one less thing to have to worry about. We started a little late this morning, but managed to do a lot of laps this afternoon. It went very smooth and I was happy behind the wheel. I look forward to running more miles tomorrow.”
Mike Conway was next up representing AJ Foyt Racing (tied on speed but a tick slower), followed by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing's Takuma Sato and Ganassi Racing's Graham Rahal, all Honda-powered. Barrichello's teammate EJ Viso, the only driver to go off-course today was next up, shadowed by fellow Chevy driver JR Hildebrand. Charlie Kimball was the Honda meat in that Chevy sandwich. Tony Kanaan (Chevy) had a tough day, while Josef Newgarden got his first test laps in Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's Honda-powered Dallara DW12.
Oriol Servia turned his first laps in Lotus-Dreyer & Reinbold's Lotus/DW12. Ana Beatriz had a one-day test with Andretti Autosport (Chevy) that could see her compete in her Brazilian home race. Katherine Legge worked with the Dragon Racing Lotus for the first time (doing 66 laps) and Ed Carpenter debuted his Chevy, as well. Alex Tagliani was credited with a single lap in Bryan Herta Autosport's Lotus-powered car.
In the total scheme of things, it's Dixon, Franchitti, Castroneves, Power and Briscoe with the top five laps through Thursday. Barrichello, Conway, Hunter-Reay, Sato and Simon Pagenaud complete the overall top 10.
In all there were 1089 laps in the books on Thursday - 680 in the afternoon - with another full day of eight hours available on Friday.