Thirteen Verizon IndyCar drivers from five teams shook out their cars in an all-day test session Tuesday at the Sonoma Raceway. This was the largest IndyCar test so far this season on the 12-turn, 2.38-mile elevated road course; and served as a lead-up to the upcoming Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. There are 21 drivers entered for the 41st running of the granddaddy of all street races.
In the morning, the weather was sunny, breezy, but cool, and grew cooler and breezier as the day wore on. No doubt it was working up to the first Spring storm due late Thursday night-Friday morning. Some of that storm is also headed south to Long Beach, although Sunday is forecast dry. It’s said it’s never rained on LBGP race day.
Ryan Hunter-Reay/No.9 DHL Andretti Autosport Honda said “Sonoma Raceway is a good track for us,” while admitting that the good Sonoma test conditions do not translate for Long Beach. “Nothing transfers.” But, he’s ‘found direction’ at Sonoma and things went well. He also said “With the cooler temperatures, there’s a lot of downforce in the car and a lot of grip. It’s a bit different than when we’re here at the end of the season, when the track temps are hotter and we’re sliding around a bit more. It’s great to get back in the car here. It’s a very demanding track and there’s a small window to get it all right. We’re trying to tweak the settings a bit to make that window a bit bigger
RHR was asked some Sonoma Raceway non-racing stock interview questions: His one word to describe Sonoma Raceway – after a very long pause …. ‘Punishing.’ He rates Michael Andretti as the best driver on the track; he prefers beer over wine or other liquor; his favorite food is Mexican, and Kale is not on his short list.
Takuma Sato of Japan switched over the off-season from AJ Foyt Racing Honda to No.26 Andretti Autosport Honda. He said “It was quite different.” He joked that “He didn’t have to deal with a Texas accent anymore. A real difference was that while the aero package is not frozen, it is a different philosophy in dealing with it.”
Graham Rahal/No.15 PennGrade Motor Oil Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda is the only driver racing all season on a one-car team.
One driver returning with a noticeably different livery was Charlie Kimball/No.83 Tresiba Honda, with splashy eye-catching neon. Mikhail Aleshin is new to the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Team; and he has a shiny candy-apple livery for his No.7 Honda, rivaling his teammate’s shiny gold metallic paint – a hold-over from last year for James Hinchcliffe in No.5 Arrow Honda.
One team making an even livery update is the four-car Chip Ganassi Racing Team, which changed from Chevrolet to Honda, for its drivers Scott Dixon/No.9; Tony Kanaan/No.10; Max Chilton/No.8 and Charlie Kimball/No.83.
On hand to coach the Honda drivers in the Ganassi stable was Dario Franchitti.
Those testing were: Andretti Autosport (Marco Andretti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Takuma Sato); Chip Ganassi Racing (Scott Dixon, Tony Kanaan, Charlie Kimball, Max Chilton); Dale Coyne Racing (Sebastian Bourdais and Rookie Ed Jones Jr.); Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (James Hinchcliffe, Mikhail Aleshin); and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (Graham Rahal). Ed Jones is the only full-season Rookie. It was an all-Honda lineup. None of the eight Chevrolet drivers from three teams were present.
Alexander Rossi is the local driver for Sonoma Raceway, hailing from nearby Nevada City. The 2016 Indy 500 winner is back again with Andretti Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian in No.98 NAPA Auto Parts/Curb Honda.
In addition to the IndyCar test, fans and the public were able to donate blood to the mobile unit of the Blood Centers of the Pacific, which came to the track for the day. They collected 20 pints of blood, which can serve/save 60 people.