Toro Rosso finishes testing as leading Renault-powered team

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As 2013 front-runners Red Bull and Lotus have struggled throughout pre-season testing, Scuderia Toro Rosso has seized the initiative and finished the winter period as the leading Renault-powered team.

With the teams that the French marque powers struggling to work with newly-designed turbocharged V6 engines, and with the management at Renault conceding that they are some weeks behind their rivals, it has been a difficult testing period for Red Bull, Lotus, Toro Rosso and Caterham.

However, following a disastrous first test in Jerez at the end of January, it appears that there is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Caterham completed over 100 laps today as Kamui Kobayashi focused on long runs, whilst Jean-Eric Vergne performed well to finish in fifth place on the timesheets.

“These past twelve days have been very interesting in many ways,” Vergne explained. “I would describe today as positive and we did some good work, especially in the morning when we got through everything we had planned to do, with everything going smoothly. I had a really good feeling from the car today.”

Although the Frenchman admitted that there had been major problems over the winter, he is still confident that the STR9 will be a capable car once the issues are resolved.

“These winter tests have not been easy, but we are not alone in that. Even if there is no more testing, I know the team can work hard with our partners and fix many of these issues in time for Melbourne. The really positive thing is that I feel I have a good car, so once everything has been sorted out, I am sure we can be strong in the races.”

Vergne is joined at Toro Rosso this season by GP3 champion Daniil Kvyat. Given Red Bull’s tendency to chop and change drivers once they are no longer deemed to be capable enough, the pressure is on Vergne to perform as he enters his third season with the Italian team, especially with Antonio Felix da Costa and Carlos Sainz Jr. waiting in the wings.

UPDATE 2: INDYCAR Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama once again under red-flag race stoppage

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UPDATE No. 2: The INDYCAR Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama was closing in on restarting on Lap 23 or 24 before officials threw the second red flag race stoppage because of lingering puddles on the 2.3-mile Barber Motorsports Park, particularly on the front stretch. We’ll keep you updated as situations warrant.

UPDATE No. 1: The INDYCAR Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is under a red-flag race stoppage after 19 laps due to rain and puddling on the racing surface at Barber Motorsports Park.

Cleaners and dryers are on the track to try and get some of the water off the racing surface. The low spots on the track, as well as the front stretch, have been particularly troublesome and led to several spinouts and at least two wrecks (Charlie Kimball and outside front pole sitter Will Power).

Power’s day is done after suffering irreparable damage to the left side of his car after hydroplaning on the front straight and running into the inside retaining wall.

ORIGINAL STORY FOLLOWS:

Although rain has been falling for nearly an hour and the Barber Motorsports Park 2.3-mile permanent road course is drenched, the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama is underway on NBCSN.

The start of the race was moved up from 3:38 p.m. ET to take the green flag at 3:08 p.m. ET.

Josef Newgarden is the defending winner of this race and also will start from the pole for today’s race.

While the race is scheduled for 90 laps, there’s a possibility that if the weather worsens or if lightning appears, it could potentially be shortened to just two hours.

As can be expected, all cars are on rain tires to maximize grip.

Catch the race live on NBCSN.