Although no lap times were announced, the teams and drivers were in an ebullient mood following Wednesday's shakedown IndyCar test at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. Drivers Takuma Sato and E.J. Viso were both on hand alongside Penske Racing's Will Power, Helio Castroneves and Ryan Briscoe, A.J. Foyt Racing's Vitor Meira and Chip Ganassi Racing's Charlie Kimball.
For the drivers, it was a welcome opportunity to get back in the cockpit and on to the track. For the engineers, it was a chance to try a few of the ideas they were working on in the off-season, and for the mechanics it was an opportunity to get back into the flow of a day at the racetrack.
"It felt great to be back in the car," said Castroneves. "Today was mostly about getting back into a groove and finding our rhythm. We spent the first part of the day just getting comfortable and then in the afternoon we were actually able to test a few things out on the track. Overall, it was a very productive day and I certainly look forward to coming back for the open test in a couple of weeks."
"I was happy to be back in an Indy car – it has been a long time away from the car for all of us," added Briscoe. "We spent the morning just kind of knocking the rust off. This afternoon we were able to get into our test program and it was a productive afternoon. We are already looking ahead to the open test and we are excited to get the season under way."
Sato, who will be driving the No. 5 KVRT entry car in his second IndyCar season, said, "It was nice to get back in the car again, especially since it has been a long time since we were last on a road course. This was a shakedown test, so we had limited mileage, but we were able to evaluate a few items before the open test at Barber in two weeks, which is important. It was also good to get back to work with the team. We have a few new faces so it was good to get together. We still have to look at the data, but overall I feel it was a very successful test."
Viso, behind the wheel of the No. 8 PDVSA/ Lotus liveried car for the first time, said, "I am very excited with how things went. We made a lot of progress with all the things we tested and are definitely in a better position heading into the open test at Barber in two weeks. The atmosphere with the team is very positive. Everybody is working hard as we get ready for the season, so I feel good about the way things are going."
Kimball, who was announced in December as the driver of the No. 83 Novo Nordisk Gansssi entry, turned his first laps in an Indy car on the 2.38-mile permanent road course.
“Charlie's first test in an Indy car went great,” said team manager Mitch Davis. “He remained focused and professional throughout the practice. It was like he had been driving Indy cars for years and we were very impressed. Once we scrubbed off a few laps and Charlie got up to speed, we continued to get faster as the team made adjustments toward the end of practice. By the end of the day, we had met all of our expectations and felt accomplished.”
Kimball, turned a total of 58 laps.
“Completing my first test with Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing reminded me how grateful I am to be a part of this team,” said Kimball. “The crew allowed me to focus on turning my first laps and getting up to speed, which is exactly what we did. Overall, I'm thrilled with the results from the test and I can't wait to get back in the car.”
The full IZOD IndyCar Series field is expected for the official open test at Barber Motorsports Park on March 14-15. The 2011 season opens March 25-27 with the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.