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Will Power quickest on Friday as IndyCar makes Motegi road course debut

Will Power was quickest in Friday practice as the IndyCar Series drivers got to grips with the Motegi road course for the first time

With Helio Castroneves second and Ryan Briscoe fourth, only Newman/Haas' James Hinchcliffe prevented an all-Penske top three.

Hinchcliffe had been quickest going into the closing stages, before Castroneves grabbed the top spot with a 1m39.5965s. He then had a spin at the first corner, and while recovering his team-mate Power deposed him with a 1m39.4745s. The times are still some way off the 1m35s pole mark for the recent Formula Nippon event at the track.

The championship is using the venue's 2.983-mile road course for the first time this year, as the oval was damaged during March's earthquake in Japan. A further 6.2 magnitude quake struck the region late on Thursday afternoon, but did not cause any additional problems beyond being a little disconcerting for the visiting teams and drivers.

With IndyCar leaving Motegi after 2011, this weekend will be the only time the series races on the road course - and is also the last non-oval appearance for the current Dallara-Honda, with the Kentucky and Las Vegas speedways rounding out the calendar before the car is replaced by the new generation machine in 2012.

Behind the Penske trio and Hinchcliffe, Marco Andretti was fifth for Andretti Autosport, ahead of Sam Schmidt driver Alex Tagliani.

Championship leader Dario Franchitti (Ganassi) was quickest for some time before ending up seventh.

Guest driver Joao Paulo de Oliveira - a winner here in Formula Nippon last month - acclimatised to IndyCar very rapidly and made the most of his local knowledge to take eighth for Conquest Racing.

Sebastien Bourdais continued his recent strong form in ninth in the Dale Coyne car.

The two local heroes were next up - Takuma Sato completing the top 10 in the fastest of the KV entries, and returnee Hideki Mutoh going 11th for AFS/Sam Schmidt.

The session ran uninterrupted, with the only other incidents being quick spins for Tagliani and Giorgio Pantano (Dreyer & Reinbold), and a trip through the first corner gravel for Dale Coyne Racing's James Jakes. The British rookie was still an encouraging 13th.

Today's 75-minute practice was the only Friday track action. Tomorrow there will be two more one-hour practice sessions before qualifying.

Pos  Driver                  Team               Time        Gap
 1.  Will Power              Penske             1m39.4745s
 2.  Helio Castroneves       Penske             1m39.5965s  + 0.1220s
 3.  James Hinchcliffe       Newman/Haas        1m39.8531s  + 0.3786s
 4.  Ryan Briscoe            Penske             1m40.1887s  + 0.7142s
 5.  Marco Andretti          Andretti           1m40.2584s  + 0.7839s
 6.  Alex Tagliani           Sam Schmidt        1m40.2649s  + 0.7904s
 7.  Dario Franchitti        Ganassi            1m40.3108s  + 0.8363s
 8.  Joao Paulo de Oliveira  Conquest           1m40.3299s  + 0.8554s
 9.  Sebastien Bourdais      Dale Coyne         1m40.3948s  + 0.9203s
10.  Takuma Sato             KV                 1m40.4435s  + 0.9690s
11.  Hideki Mutoh            AFS/Sam Schmidt    1m40.5328s  + 1.0583s
12.  JR Hildebrand           Panther            1m40.5435s  + 1.0690s
13.  James Jakes             Dale Coyne         1m40.5580s  + 1.0835s
14.  Tony Kanaan             KV                 1m40.6600s  + 1.1855s
15.  Scott Dixon             Ganassi            1m40.7175s  + 1.2430s
16.  Ryan Hunter-Reay        Andretti           1m40.7389s  + 1.2644s
17.  Vitor Meira             Foyt               1m40.7961s  + 1.3216s
18.  EJ Viso                 KV                 1m40.8351s  + 1.3606s
19.  Oriol Servia            Newman/Haas        1m40.8577s  + 1.3832s
20.  Charlie Kimball         Ganassi            1m40.9505s  + 1.4760s
21.  Giorgio Pantano         Dreyer & Reinbold  1m40.9659s  + 1.4914s
22.  Graham Rahal            Ganassi            1m41.2056s  + 1.7311s
23.  Mike Conway             Andretti           1m41.2987s  + 1.8242s
24.  Danica Patrick          Andretti           1m41.4164s  + 1.9419s
25.  Simona de Silvestro     HVM                1m41.4495s  + 1.9750s
26.  Ana Beatriz             Dreyer & Reinbold  1m41.4711s  + 1.9966s

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