It's most unfortunate, but the weather forecasters were correct for today's practice sessions for the 38th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
While the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) slogged through their early morning session, the IZOD IndyCar Series did have about two-thirds of the hour-long practice on a drying 1.968-mile, 11-turn Long Beach street circuit.
The second hour was a washout, with only two cars even exiting the pits.
Once the spray settled, Andretti Autosport's Marco Andretti's 11 laps netted the top speed of 91.373 mph, quite a ways off Will Power's 2011 pole speed of 102.582 mph. Still, the third-generation Indy car star was pleased with the performance, after running both wet Firestone Firehawk tires and dry slicks over the course of the single practice.
"I tried to get as much of a feel as I could on the dry tires and I think we're close," Andretti said. "We were the first to put on slicks and I was glad we were able to put a good time in the books. With so little running today in the dry, it doesn't really show anything. The real key is going to be practice three (on a hopefully dry Saturday morning)."
Because he drives one of 11 Chevrolet-powered Dallara DW12 Indy cars, Andretti will have a 10-position grid penalty on Sunday; all Chevrolet engines were changed before practice began.
Takuma Sato took the Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda-powered Indy car to second place in the morning session, completing seven laps total and posting 90.895 mph.
"It's a shame for the fans that the weather was unlike the usual Long Beach weather. The first practice session started with damp conditions and we ran very few laps just to see how the initial setup was in terms of ride height and those sorts of things," he said. "I was on a wet patch on dry tires and touched the (turn 10) wall, which damaged the front wing, but the team fixed it and we will be ready for a good day tomorrow," the former Formula 1 pilot said.
Mike Conway was third for AJ Foyt Racing (Honda) at 90.553 mph, completing six laps for the day. Tony Kanaan took all of five tours of the Long Beach circuit and was fourth overall at 89.432 mph for KV Racing Technology (Chevrolet) and JR Hildebrand took Panther Racing's Chevy-powered DW12 to fifth place at 89.303 mph, completing 13 laps.
In all the Indy cars ran 164 laps on the day and only 20 drivers ventured onto the track. Reigning champion Dario Franchitti didn't even go out in the morning session and did an install lap in the afternoon; teammate Scott Dixon (10th overall) went out in monsoon conditions this afternoon and promptly banged the first turn wall. “I just aquaplaned out there. I saw a puddle and thought it was really no big deal. I was waiting for the tires to come up to temperature and asked the team if I should come into the pit lane. Before I even had the chance I hit the puddle and couldn’t turn,” the two-time IndyCar champion said.
Quickest in the five-car Lotus class went to Sebastien Bourdais (11th) who, like Dragon Racing teammate Katherine Legge (18th) and Lotus DRR driver Oriol Servia (15th today) have 10-place penalties for engine changes this week. A three-time winner at The Beach Bourdais said, "I think this car seems to fit my driving style; I don't think last year's car was bad for me but I just think you couldn't oscillate around as much, there wasn't as much downforce and the rear of the car was a little more nervous."
Firestone Fast Six qualifying should be an interesting affair tomorrow as penalty-plagued Chevy and Lotus teams vie for good qualifying positions in their respective initial knockout groups. Below is the list for groups one and two for the [hopefully] sunny and mild sessions:
Simona de Silvestro