Will Power set himself up for a shot at continuing his unbeaten 2011 qualifying run by topping the second and final IndyCar session for the Sao Paulo 300.
In an extremely close-fought session, Penske driver Power finally secured the top spot with a 1m24.151s lap amid a late rush of quick times. Simona de Silvestro took a hugely impressive second place, the HVM racer shrugging off losing all of morning practice to mechnical problems and getting within 0.0801sec of Power's pace.
Scott Dixon was Ganassi's top runner in third, ahead of Ryan Hunter-Reay. The Andretti driver set the pace for a while and escaped a late spin without damage. Dario Franchitti (Ganassi) and top Brazilian Helio Castroneves (Penske) completed the top six.
JR Hildebrand produced the best performance of his rookie season so far to grab seventh for Panther, just ahead of a similarly resurgent Sebastien Bourdais in the Dale Coyne Racing car.
Sam Schmidt Motorsports' Alex Tagliani – who starred here last year with an amazing front-row qualifying result on the then-FAZZT team's debut – topped the times at one stage in the closing minutes before falling to ninth ahead of Tony Kanaan (KV).
The session was extended by 10 minutes to make up for a 15-minute stoppage required to rebuild the tire wall in the back straight run-off following a high-speed accident for EJ Viso. The KV driver was unhurt in the incident, which was caused by a mechanical failure.
With yellows also required at different stages to clear debris and to collect Sebastian Saavedra (Conquest) and Ana Beatriz (Dreyer & Reinbold) after they had suffered minor incidents, it was an episodic session.
Qualifying is scheduled to take place two hours after practice.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Will Power Penske 1m24.1509s
2. Simona de Silvestro HVM 1m24.2310s + 0.0801s
3. Scott Dixon Ganassi 1m24.3019s + 0.1510s
4. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 1m24.3039s + 0.1530s
5. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1m24.3944s + 0.2435s
6. Helio Castroneves Penske 1m24.4387s + 0.2878s
7. JR Hildebrand Panther 1m24.4491s + 0.2982s
8. Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne 1m24.4563s + 0.3054s
9. Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt 1m24.5096s + 0.3587s
10. Tony Kanaan KV 1m24.5128s + 0.3619s
11. Ryan Briscoe Penske 1m24.5417s + 0.3908s
12. Danica Patrick Andretti 1m24.5875s + 0.4366s
13. Mike Conway Andretti 1m24.5889s + 0.4380s
14. Graham Rahal Ganassi 1m24.6605s + 0.5096s
15. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas 1m24.6613s + 0.5104s
16. Marco Andretti Andretti 1m24.6667s + 0.5158s
17. Justin Wilson Dreyer & Reinbold 1m24.7928s + 0.6419s
18. Takuma Sato KV 1m24.8441s + 0.6932s
19. Vitor Meira Foyt 1m24.9250s + 0.7741s
20. Raphael Matos AFS 1m24.9756s + 0.8247s
21. Charlie Kimball Ganassi 1m25.2024s + 1.0515s
22. Sebastian Saavedra Conquest 1m25.3828s + 1.2319s
23. James Jakes Dale Coyne 1m25.3942s + 1.2433s
24. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas 1m25.6073s + 1.4564s
25. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 1m25.8430s + 1.6921s
26. EJ Viso KV 1m26.2498s + 2.0989s