Will Power announced his return to the IndyCar Series in fine style by setting the pace in the opening practice session for the championship's first Toronto event.
The Australian has rejoined Penske in a third car for this and four other events, having begun the season deputizing for Helio Castroneves while the Brazilian completed his tax evasion trial. Having slipped to 19th in the standings during his absence, Power was eligible for the extra half hour of practice for rookies and drivers outside the top 10 in the championship, and he made the most of it to set the pace for the majority of the morning, only ever being headed for a few minutes at a time.
Power, who won the final Champ Car race in Toronto in 2007, eventually got down to a 1m02.1733s lap, 0.1242 seconds faster than impressive rookie Raphael Matos (Luczo Dragon), who had raced at the track in Atlantic.
Championship leader Scott Dixon took third for Ganassi, ahead of Ryan Briscoe, the regular Penske driver jumping to fourth at the end having previously languished in the midfield.
Local hero Paul Tracy was quick from the outset, putting last week's disappointing Watkins Glen performance behind him as he ended up fifth for KV Racing. Tony Kanaan was sixth in the best of the Andretti Green cars, ahead of 1999 Toronto winner Dario Franchitti (Ganassi), Castroneves (Penske) and Newman/Haas/Lanigan duo Robert Doornbos and Graham Rahal – the Dutch driver putting in his most competitive IndyCar performance yet as he ran in the top five for much of the morning.
The session started slightly late due to delays in the support race sessions and finished slightly early after Dreyer & Reinbold's Mike Conway continued his run of practice incidents by nosing into the tires. He had started the day with a trip down the Turn 3 escape road in company with Matos.
Power also had a visit to the escape roads, while Vision's Ed Carpenter caused one of the handful of stoppages by sliding into the tires as he tried to avoid a wayward Marco Andretti (AGR).TIMES:
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Will Power Penske 1m02.1733s
2. Raphael Matos Luczo Dragon 1m02.2975s + 0.1242s
3. Scott Dixon Ganassi 1m02.3324s + 0.1591s
4. Ryan Briscoe Penske 1m02.3556s + 0.1823s
5. Paul Tracy KV 1m02.3930s + 0.2197s
6. Tony Kanaan Andretti Green 1m02.4499s + 0.2766s
7. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1m02.4964s + 0.3231s
8. Helio Castroneves Penske 1m02.5057s + 0.3324s
9. Robert Doornbos Newman/Haas/Lanigan 1m02.5742s + 0.4009s
10. Graham Rahal Newman/Haas/Lanigan 1m02.5765s + 0.4032s
11. Ryan Hunter-Reay Foyt 1m02.6661s + 0.4928s
12. Justin Wilson Coyne 1m02.6748s + 0.5015s
13. Alex Tagliani Conquest 1m02.6923s + 0.5190s
14. Mike Conway Dreyer & Reinbold 1m03.0203s + 0.8470s
15. Mario Moraes KV 1m03.0293s + 0.8560s
16. Marco Andretti Andretti Green 1m03.2557s + 1.0824s
17. Hideki Mutoh Andretti Green 1m03.3323s + 1.1590s
18. EJ Viso HVM 1m03.5222s + 1.3489s
19. Tomas Scheckter Dreyer & Reinbold 1m04.1912s + 2.0179s
20. Dan Wheldon Panther 1m04.3358s + 2.1625s
21. Richard Antinucci 3G 1m04.4100s + 2.2367s
22. Ed Carpenter Vision 1m04.8593s + 2.6860s
23. Danica Patrick Andretti Green 1m04.9420s + 2.7687s