SCOTT DIXON/No.9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was the fastest IZOD IndyCar driver Friday afternoon for the second practice session at Sonoma Raceway for Sunday’s GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma. Dixon’s time was 1:18.3145/109.635 mph.
Wind as a considerable factor was cited by every driver with whom I spoke or heard just on Day One. The wind direction and velocity is changeable on the 2.385 road course configuration designed for the IZOD IndyCar Series. During the second practice session, the wind variables changed a lot. Wind variables aren’t as crucial at many other IndyCar tracks, as other courses have wind deflectors such as buildings, trees, barriers, etc.
Dixon said “Tires are not matched that well. It was hard at Barber too, because the track had been ground. This is a low grip course. Longevity is a factor. After 3-4 laps you notice the tires. It’s definitely making it interesting. It takes two or three laps to get it together, but I never got it together in the first session. My teammate (DARIO FRANCHITTI) will be one to watch. It’s really about getting the laps together and getting the laps together.
HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Team Penske Racing Chevrolet, the only other driver to go faster than the morning’s fastest time, was second fastest in the afternoon. “The car seemed to be in good shape. It’s so much due to the track, which keeps changing. It’s the challenge of this place.”
“The tires degrade a lot so the race will be interesting. It’s very positive that things are going in the right direction. Qualifying is important – the championship can be won or lost for someone else’s mistake. Downforce is a factor at Sonoma. You can’t always pass. The Push To Pass feature helps sometimes. It helps to start in front, especially here, as something could happen early on.”
Third through fifth were WILL POWER/No.12 Team Penske Chevrolet; RYAN HUNTER-REAY/No.1 Andretti Autosport Chevrolet, and JUSTIN WILSON/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda.
The overall fastest times set were evenly divided between P1 and P2, with 13 faster drivers in the afternoon and 12 in the morning. All drivers turned double-digit laps, with SEBASTIAN SAAVEDRA/No.6 Dragon Racing continuing to be the driver with the most laps.
For P2, the ambient temperature rose to 72 degrees F/22 C, and the track temperature was 109 F/43 C.
At the other end of the time sheet from the veterans was Rookie LUCAS LUHR/No.97 RW Motorsports/SFHR Honda, the winningest sports car driver in the American Le Mans Series. Apart from two test days at Sonoma, Friday was Luhr’s first real on-track session.
Luhr was good natured about his speed and efforts, especially after listening to Dixon and Castroneves talk about the tire degradation, slippery track and changing wind conditions. ” I feel better now. I’m happy I’m not the only one having challenges. Everything is surprising.
“These cars have a whole different way of driving. The biggest surprise was on the first couple of laps. The car was so heavy I thought I’d broken something. I couldn’t shift. After awhile I got used to it, the cramping of the hands and holding. It’s still heavy, but not as heavy as the first couple of laps. After awhile you get used to it.”
Luhr won a sports car race ten years ago, driving a GT car. Comparing it to an IndyCar is like comparing a 747 airplane to a F16. For sure, it’s not easy. These cars have a whole different way of driving, but I’m learning more and more every lap and going out on new tires helps.”
Castroneves said ” I have a big respect for Lucas to come over here and try. especially for someone coming for the first time on this track.”
During the 45-minute session, the fastest drivers included GRAHAM RAHAL/No.15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda; DARIO FRANCHITTI/No.10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Honda; JUSTIN WILSON/No.19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda; and HELIO CASTRONEVES/No.3 Team Penske Racing Chevrolet.
The IndyCar race is sponsored by GoPro cameras, those tiny, ubiquitous cameras seen everywhere, especially on race cars in unusual places. But it was a first for me to see one perched atop a pole on a baby stroller as Dad and son meandered through the IndyCar paddock Friday morning.
Saturday’s schedule calls for morning IndyCar practice, and afternoon Knockout qualifying/Firestone Fast Six.