Tristan Vautier opened this weekend's IZOD IndyCar Series round at Barber Motorsports Park by setting the fastest time in Friday's first practice session, despite prompting a red flag.
The rookie went to the top midway through the session with a lap of 1m.09.0120s, putting him 0.8 second under the official lap record held by Will Power, although the times were some way off those set at the Alabama track in testing last month.
As well as topping the timing screens, Vautier was also responsible for the only red flag of the session when he spun into the gravel at Turn 2 with five minutes remaining.
His car was undamaged, although the soggy conditions left from overnight rain led to some delays in retrieving his stricken Schmidt Peterson Dallara-Honda.
"We didn't damage the car or anything, but they didn't put me back on track, they parked me behind the barriers," said Vautier. "It's my mistake in the end, even if it's frustrating that I couldn't get back in the end. My mistake, but we had good speed before that and the car felt good, so it's tough. We didn't have much time and we were cut short in the end, but it was an OK start.
"It's good to be P1, but I didn't want to end causing a red flag and in the gravel. What I'll remember more than anything is the mistake I did at the end and try to not do it again and move forward."
Second quickest was Ganassi's Scott Dixon with a time 0.05sec down on Vautier's, giving Honda a 1-2 to kick off the weekend. It would have been a 1-2-3, but Chevrolet-powered Ryan Hunter-Reay was able to improve his time in the five minutes that remained after the restart to jump ahead of Charlie Kimball, who had previously occupied third. Kimball's time was still good enough for fourth ahead of Will Power, Dario Franchitti, Simona de Silvestro and Simon Pagenaud.
AJ Allmendinger's competitive return to open-wheelers began with him setting the ninth-best time, just shading Penske teammate Helio Castroneves.
Practice 1 results