Scott Dixon began his time at Sebring with a statement. He ended it with one, too.
Dixon saved the best for last Friday as the IZOD IndyCar Series open test wrapped its four-day run at Sebring International Raceway, recording the best lap of the day on his very last lap. Dixon's final lap in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara DW12-Honda was 51.7938sec around the 11-turn, 1.67-mile Sebring short course. It was nearly identical to his lap of 51.7932 on his sixth lap Thursday, a number that stood as the fastest of the four days.
“We did the work on the car and as the sun went down a bit and the clouds came in, the track picked up some time,” Dixon said. “We definitely worked to make the car better as well. It was good to do something for the lads at the end and it worked out.”
The lap times of Dixon and teammate Dario Franchitti (second best Friday with a 52.0157) were indicative of Honda's answer to Chevrolet's results earlier in the week. While Chevy's Team Penske dominated the first two days of the four-day test, Honda's flagship Ganassi team was impressive during the final two days.
“Overall, it was a good day for Team Target,” Dixon said. “We got started late because of some issues, and probably didn't get accomplished what we needed to in the first part of the day. We made a big suspension change at lunchtime, and I actually didn't like all of that stuff, but we came out around 3 p.m. and didn't have time to go back on those things, so we stuck with it. We made steering changes and damper changes and seemed to find a bit of a compromise for what we had. Today was more a day of learning about the new car and trying to soak up as much as we can before St. Pete.”
Rubens Barrichello continued to impress, again recording the third-best lap of the day in the No. 8 KV Racing Technology Chevrolet-powered Dallara, at 52.2242sec. He was followed by Mike Conway in the No. 14 A.J. Foyt Racing DW12-Honda (52.2243), Graham Rahal in the No. 38 Service Central Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara-Honda, and Takuma Sato in the No. 15 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Dallara-Honda (52.4692).
A team test will be held Tuesday and Wednesday at Barber Motorsports Park near Birmingham, Ala., before the IZOD IndyCar Series season opener March 23-25 at St. Petersburg.
• As it prepares for its first full-time IndyCar season since 2008, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing has upgraded its technical staff by hiring Gerry Hughes as race engineer for Takuma Sato's car. Hughes has 24 years of trackside engineering experience in series such as Formula 1, GP2, A1GP, British Touring Cars, Formula 3 and Opel Lotus.
“Gerry worked for me when I was at Jaguar Formula 1 and he worked with our technical director Jay O'Connell as well.” said team co-owner Bobby Rahal. “I have known Gerry since 2000 and we have always stayed in touch. He went on to bigger and better things and was involved with Takuma at Super Aguri in F1 and when Honda stopped that program they were a bit adrift.
“He was looking at making the move to come to the United States long term and so we talked. It is particularly good timing because, since he had worked with Takuma, there was a comfort level there and a level of communication that usually takes time to build up between two people and, in this case, it is already established. For Takuma, its good to have someone he is familiar with and had confidence in and for us, Gerry is a long-term team member. He has a lot of experience in a lot of different formulas and that will be of value to us as a team.”
“I would like to thank Bobby for the opportunity to come here and join Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for what in essence is a new chapter for IndyCar in America with the new racing package,” said Gerry Hughes. “After 12 years in Formula 1, it is a new challenge for me. I have had a good experience at the Sebring test and have learned a great deal. I think the team is finding its feet learning more about the new car as all the teams are and I feel that we will be competitive going into the first race in two weeks time.”
• Sebastien Bourdais got on track for the first time for Lotus Dragon Racing, taking over the car previously driven by Katherine Legge. He posted the 13th-fastest time among the 15 cars running laps, with a 53.299sec best. Legge returned to in the car – the only one appearing at Sebring without a color scheme – for the afternoon session and set her fastest lap of the two days, about a half-second slower.
"The car is fine," the Frenchman told IndyCar.com. "It's just a new car and we've got to figure it out.
"It's more what I'm used to and what my job is rather than worrying if we're going to get the car on the track. So nothing is ideal. We would have loved to get more done, but at least I will show up in St. Pete having done some laps in the car. And knowing a little bit, making sure the car was right and was doing everything it was expected to do, and to get the communication going with the engineers is what we need to address and to get the communication going with Lotus as well."
• The Sam Schmidt Paralysis Foundation will hold the third annual Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg 5K Run, Walk ‘N Wheelathon on March 23, part of festivities for the IZOD IndyCar Series season opener. All proceeds will benefit SSPF and All Children's Hospital to raise money for paralysis and spinal cord injury research. Participants will run, walk or wheel on the downtown St. Pete street course on which the race will be held March 25.
“We're pleased with the success that lets us produce the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg 5K Run, Walk ‘N Wheelathon for the third year in a row,” said Ida Cahill, president and CEO of SSPF. “This event provides the community with the unique opportunity to experience the thrill of the Honda Grand Prix from the perspective of the IndyCar Series drivers while at the same time raising money and awareness for a great cause.”
Schmidt was paralyzed in an IndyCar crash while testing at Walt Disney World Speedway in Orlando, Fla., in 2000. He co-owns an IndyCar team that fields a car driven by Simon Pagenaud.
Overall times, March 5-9:
Pos Driver Team/Car/Engine Time
1. Scott Dixon Ganassi DW12-Honda 51.7932s
2. Dario Franchitti Ganassi DW12-Honda 52.0157s
3. Helio Castroneves Penske DW12-Chevrolet 52.1413s
4. Rubens Barrichello KV DW12-Chevrolet 52.1615s
5. Will Power Penske DW12-Honda 52.2059s
6. JR Hildebrand Panther DW12-Chevrolet 52.2068s
8. Ryan Briscoe Penske DW12-Chevrolet 52.2072s
9. Mike Conway Foyt DW12-Honda 52.2230s
10. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti DW12-Chevrolet 52.3466s
10. Takuma Sato Rahal DW12-Honda 52.3841s
11. Graham Rahal Ganassi DW12-Honda 52.4692s
12. Simon Pagenaud Schmidt DW12-Honda 52.4698s
13. E.J. Viso KV DW12-Chevrolet 52.6317s
14. Justin Wilson Coyne DW12-Honda 52.6537s
15. Josef Newgarden Fisher DW12-Honda 52.6551s
16. Charlie Kimball Ganassi DW12-Honda 52.7328s
17. James Jakes Coyne DW12-Honda 52.8228s
18. James Hinchcliffe Andretti DW12-Chevrolet 52.9125s
19. Oriol Servia DRR DW12-Lotus 52.9125s
20 Tony Kanaan KV DW12-Chevrolet 52.9195s
21. Alex Tagliani Barracuda DW12-Lotus 52.9308s
22. Marco Andretti Andretti DW12-Chevrolet 52.9577s
23. Simona de Silvestro HVM DW12-Lotus 53.2312s
24. Sebastien Bourdais Dragon DW12-Lotus 53.2993s
25. Ed Carpenter Carpenter DW12-Chevrolet 53.4764s
26. Katherine Legge Dragon DW12-Lotus 53.8161s
27. Ana Beatriz Andretti DW12-Chevrolet 54.1478s