Power tops rookie orientation day
|By Robin Miller||Monday, May 5th 2008, 02:23 GMT|
It's the largest rookie crop since 1997 but there's as much quality as their is quantity in Gasoline Alley and it showed Sunday afternoon during rookie orientation.
A dozen drivers, let's label them first-timers instead of rookies, completed 642 error-free laps at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on an opening day that saw 10 of them breeze through their four-phase driving test.
The daunting oval that's shaped the landscape of American motorsports for nearly 100 years offered no surprises or horror stories on a mild, sunny day.
"Surprisingly, I wasn't nervous at all," said 19-year-old Graham Rahal after taking only 34 laps to complete his test with a top lap of 218 mph. "I think if you get yourself all worked up about it, you get really nervous and then you makes mistakes.
"Obviously, it's great to get this ROP out of the way and I guess I didn't expect to go as fast as we did right away. But I'm a rookie so I don't know what to expect."
Teammates Will Power and Oriol Servia, who logged almost 100 laps apiece and topped 220 mph for the KV Racing entries, had different perspectives of their debut.
"Man, it's a scary place at first and going into the corners off those long straightaways it's really fast," said Power, the recent winner at Long Beach who posted the fastest lap at 220.694 mph. "I kept thinking, how do you get around this place flat?
"I was thrilled we were finally able to get to that point (flat out) near the end of the day but getting those next five-six mph is probably going to be the challenge.
"You've just got to be smart and you don't want this place to bite you."
It's actually Servia's second time at IMS. He tried to make the show at the last minute in 2002 and was running quick enough but broke a fuel pump.
"It's definitely going to be fun having the whole month to work with the car and try to get competitive," said the 32-year-old veteran from Spain. "I've been racing over here for 10 years and never had a real shot at Indy so I'm very excited.
"This place is all about getting into a rhythm and today was a good way to start. But this is like no other oval you ever see."
E.J. Viso was warned about Indy's tricky turns but had no trouble adapting in his HVM Racing Dallara/Honda.
"I heard from some other drivers how difficult and scary the track is but I didn't think it was too bad," said Viso, who was second fastest at 220.445 mph. "For sure, the speeds are higher and it's quite a long lap but it's nice we get so much time to prepare.
"It's going to be much better than my first two ovals because it seemed like we got very little practice."
The last time Justin Wilson ran Indy, Turn 1 was actually the last corner of the United States Grand Prix, where he finshed eighth in 2003.
"This definitely feels like the proper way around this track and I wondered what it would feel like when I was here in F1," said Wilson, who ran just over 218 mph for Newman/Haas/Lanigan.
"Someone said it was like four quick corners on a road course and that's kinda how I found it. Unlike some ovals, the car goes where you point it and I rather like that. It was fun to drive today."
Alex Lloyd, the defending IndyPro Series champion who Chip Ganassi has farmed out to Rahal/Letterman this month, quickly reached 219 mph as did Hideki Mutoh and Ryan Hunter-Reay.
Jamie Camara and Jay Howard were the other drivers completing all four phases of their test, while Enrique Bernoldi and Mario Moraes expect to get theirs finished Monday.
Pos Driver Team Speed 1. Will Power KV 220.694 mph 2. EJ Viso HVM 220.445 mph 3. Oriol Servia KV 220.102 mph 4. Alex Lloyd Rahal Letterman 219.964 mph 5. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 219.824 mph 6. Ryan Hunter-Reay Rahal Letterman 219.797 mph 7. Jaime Camara Conquest 219.175 mph 8. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 218.619 mph 9. Justin Wilson Newman/Haas/Lanigan 218.142 mph 10. Enrique Bernoldi Conquest 217.338 mph 11. Jay Howard Roth 217.247 mph 12. Max Papis Schmidt 214.068 mph 13. Mario Moraes Dale Coyne 186.445 mph