MARCO ANDRETTI/Andretti Autosports Chevrolet was the fastest IZOD IndyCar driver Friday morning for opening day of the 38th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, with a time of 1:17.2298. The session was declared ‘wet’ so all cars had to run intermediate tires. The strong wind no doubt assisted in drying the track after an earlier downpour. As the track dried in the latter portion of the session, the drivers were allowed to change tires, and at least one driver – HELIO CASTRONEVES/Team Penske Chevrolet did just that. He finished ninth.

All of the eleven Chevrolet-powered open wheelers had new engines, and with one exception, did well – placing seven in the top ten cars. Although JAMES HINCHCLIFFE/Andretti Autosports only turned one lap near the very end, don’t read anything into it. He echoed the sentiments of several drivers – why go out in this weather when it’s not going to be this way on race day. Chevrolet said there were no issues.

Three Honda-powered cars were in the session, filling out the top ten – TAKUMA SATO/Rahal Letterman Lannigan-top Honda in second place; the 2011 Long Beach winner, MIKE CONWAY/ABC Supply Co./A.J. Foyt Racing finishing third ; and two-time IndyCar champion, SCOTT DIXON/Target Chip Ganassi Racing, who was tenth.

All five Lotus cars ran the session. Again, SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS/Lotus-Dragon Racing was the top Lotus, in his gold and black car reminiscent of the old JPS Special Formula 1 car.

Simona de Silvestro
Simona de Silvestro

Nineteen drivers of the 26 car field were on track. SIMONA de SILVESTRO/Nuclear Clean Air Energy Lotus HVM Racing was towed after she hit a tire  wall, knocking off her rear wing. While that caution flag was out, Sato kind of squirreled around, hitting the wall, causing a Red Flag. He knocked off his front wing. As the incident was during practice, there is no time penalty for causing a Red Flag.

Both drivers are alright, but have at least cosmetic damage to their respective cars.

In the near-dark hour before cars were on course, the corner workers held their morning meeting with a visit by the Holmatro Safety Team from IndyCar. The tutorial regarded handling fires on the new Indycar, with its enhanced body work and rear wings and side pods. Due to more enclosure, the extinguisher has to be positioned differently in order to reach the fire. The right side pod houses the oil cooler, so more emphasis is needed in that area.

The IndyCars have another hour-long practice Friday afternoon.