IZOD IndyCar Series aces have praised the Motegi road course as one of the most impressive tracks on the series' calendar.
This season's event is the last time IndyCar will race at Motegi, which has been on the schedule since 2003, and had previously hosted Champ Car from 1998 to 2002. Damage to the usual oval during March's horrific earthquake in Japan meant a one-off switch to the 2.983-mile road course at the venue for Motegi's IndyCar swansong. The track is best known for hosting MotoGP and Japanese domestic racing.
Friday pacesetter Will Power said he was very impressed with the quality and layout of the track. "It's a very, very nice circuit," he said. "It's smooth, flowing. It's one of the nicest circuits we've been to all year."
His only concern was a lack of potential for overtaking. "I think it is going to be tough to pass," said the Australian. "I think Turn 11, after the long back straight, that's a potential area. Maybe down in Turn 3. It seems like it's going to be hard to pass."
Power's teammate Helio Castroneves, who was second today, was even more complimentary about the course.
"This track is more like Elkhart Lake," he said. "It's impressive. The run-off areas are pretty nice. The track is very smooth, especially coming from our last race on a street course. It looks like there are a lot of places for overtaking. It's very challenging. The corners are long. Sometimes we got too hot coming into a corner and it upset the exit. Sometimes we were too slow coming in and we had plenty of exit. It's very technical."
Third-fastest man James Hinchcliffe felt his performance today was due in part to learning the circuit on video games. He was also a big fan of the track, though he was one of many drivers to note a lack of grip.
"Now I can justify to my girlfriend why I was in the basement on Playstation for three days," he joked. "The track is quite cool. You can tell that everything was laid out well here. The place is immaculate and it's the smoothest place we run on all year. The layout is cool with some technical sections and great braking zones.
"The track is very slippery though. It felt like an out-lap every lap because it's so slippery. The big challenge will be to predict what will happen tomorrow. Since there are no support series here with us, the track won't come up to grip as quick as a normal weekend."
The IndyCar drivers have two more one-hour practice sessions tomorrow before qualifying.