Power sweeps Barber test for second year in a row

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Maybe they oughta re-name the joint Power Motorsports Park.

Will Power followed up his Monday pace-setting with the fastest time both on Tuesday and of the week for the Verizon IndyCar Series’ two-day test at Barber Motorsports Park. His best lap in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske Chevrolet on Tuesday was 1:07.0608, set on his 41st of 62 laps.

Power, now in five years with Team Penske at Barber, has this record: the 2010 and 2011 poles, the 2011 and 2012 race wins, and a sweep of both preseason test sessions in 2013 and 2014 at the 2.38-mile road course in Birmingham, Ala.

Unlike on Monday though, Power had competition from other teams in the top three. Justin Wilson, who’s gotten in a substantial amount of seat time this winter, took his No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing Honda up to second at 1:07.0646, a mere 0.0038 of a second off the pace.

With defending series champion Scott Dixon also within a tenth, at 1:07.0791 in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, the top of the field was tightly bunched.

In truth, the whole field was. Barely more than 1.3 seconds covered Power up front to former teammate Oriol Servia, now with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, 22nd and last at 1:08.3943.

Takuma Sato again impressed in fourth for A.J. Foyt Racing, with Ryan Briscoe fifth in the NTT Data Chip Ganassi Racing entry.

Bryan Herta Autosport’s Jack Hawksworth was best of the three rookies in 12th, three tenths clear of Carlos Munoz (Andretti Autosport) in 16th and six tenths up on Mikhail Aleshin (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) in 20th. Considering Hawksworth was a late add to the No. 98 Honda, getting within six tenths of Power was a rather good day’s work.

INDYCAR OPEN TEST – TUESDAY TIMES

INDYCAR OPEN TEST – COMBINED TIMES (MON./TUES.)

Porsche ready for final LMP1 outing in Bahrain

Photo: Porsche
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At the conclusion of this weekend’s Six Hours of Bahrain, Porsche’s four-year run in the LMP1 class of the FIA World Endurance Championship will come to a close. The pair of Porsche 919 Hybrids will roll off from first and third after Friday’s qualifying, and will look to add one more win to their final tally.

Despite its short stint, Porsche more than made its mark on the class and the championship, immediately jumping to the fore and challenging young hotshots Toyota, race winners in 2012 and 2013 and LMP1 champions in 2014, and long-time stalwarts Audi, which introduced its first LMP1 entry in 1999 and quickly became the predominant force in the LMP category.

The 2014 season saw Porsche score four poles and a race win before embarking on a remarkable three-year stretch from 2015 to 2017, in which they scored three straight 24 Hours of Le Mans wins and three straight WEC driver and manufacturer championships (they wrapped the 2017 titles at the previous race in Shanghai.

Fritz Enzinger, Vice President of the LMP1 effort, detailed that the early days of the program were a little rocky, given the complex hybrid technology they were working with, but that they were able to find their stride relatively quickly.

“Back then (in 2014), we developed from zero a highly complex hybrid racecar on a Formula One level. The early days were extremely demanding, especially as we had to set up the infrastructure, including new buildings, at the same time, plus assembling a team of 260 excellent people. The timing was really tight and the 2014 Le Mans race came way too early for us. But since then, we have managed maximum success. I’m incredibly proud of this team and I hope that we can conclude the era of the Porsche 919 Hybrid with a good race in Bahrain.”

Team principal Andreas Seidl added that having the championships wrapped up will make the final weekend more enjoyable, as they won’t have the pressure of racing with the championships in mind.

“I feel a big relief that the pressure of defending the manufacturers’ and drivers’ world championship titles is resolved before our last race. The emotions of the farewell under the stress of the title battle would have been extremely hard for the team,” Seidl revealed.

Further, he added that Toyota’s TS050, which debuted last year, made their task all the more challenging as they worked to developed the Porsche 919 Hybrid –  the same basic car that they launched in 2014.

“In Toyota this year, we are facing a competitor who developed an all-new car for 2016. We, instead, kept developing our existing car. That we still won Le Mans as well as both championship titles is thanks to outstanding driver performances, many detailed improvements and the operational strength of our team,” Seidl asserted. “Now we have to get ourselves together and focus on this last race. We want to leave the stage not only as world champions but also with a performance that is satisfying for all of us. Six hours of reliability and faultless work are big challenges of men and machine. Safety has the highest priority. Only after the checkered flag can we allow our reflective feelings to break through.”

In terms of approaching Porsche’s LMP1 swan song, some drivers are taking different approaches. For example, Nick Tandy, driver of the No.1 entry with Neel Jani and André Lotterer, isn’t putting much thought into the farewell and is focusing entirely on the race.

“I prefer not to think about the farewell yet,” Tandy quipped. “The Bahrain race is very interesting anyway because we are racing from day into night. It is normally very hot for the car, the drivers and especially the tires. It is a challenging race to finish the season at. I haven’t been there since 2015 but I was on the podium back then when I came second in the LMP2 class. So this year’s target is to make it onto the LMP1 podium.”

Conversely, newly crowned champion Brendon Hartley, driver of the No. 2 entry with fellow champions Earl Bamber and Timo Bernhard, freely expressed his emotions about the end of the Porsche LMP1 program.

“Going to Bahrain will be emotional for all of us. Especially as we arrive as World Champions with less pressure now,” asserted Hartley, who has also endured a busy stretch since the Petit Le Mans on October 7 that has seen him racing every weekend across the WEC, Formula 1, and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. “I have so many incredible memories and experiences with the 919 Hybrid, teammates and all the boys and girls from the Porsche LMP Team. We shared something very special together. After developing the Porsche 919 for more than four years, it’s an absolute dream to drive so we will all be enjoying every last lap with this awesome machine. On one side there will be a lot of sadness, but on the other hand we will be giving everything to give this project the ultimate send off it deserves.”

Porsche’s LMP1 effort won races in each of its four seasons, totaling 17 victories between it’s entries.

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