IndyCar: Bourdais on top in GP of Indy first practice

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The first 45-minute practice for the Verizon IndyCar Series kicked off, officially, the festivities as IndyCar christens the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course for the first Grand Prix of Indianapolis race weekend.

Sebastien Bourdais knocked off one of his two French countrymen in the race – Simon Pagenaud – with the first lap of the weekend in the 1:10 range at 1:10.9335, then lowered the mark even more with a 1:10.5150 on his 20th lap of the session in the No. 11 Mistic Electronic Cigarettes Chevrolet for KVSH Racing.

Old Long Beach sparring partners Pagenaud and Will Power were 1-2 for most of the session, with Pagenaud clocking in his best time of 1:11.0045 in the No. 77 Charter Communications/Oculus Honda for Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports.

But while Pagenaud had the edge, with under two minutes to go, Bourdais went to the top of the time sheets. Barber winner Ryan Hunter-Reay joined him in the 1:10 range, at 1:10.9053.

Pagenaud ended third and late in the session Josef Newgarden (1:11.0188) and Scott Dixon (1:11.0454) jumped into the top five. Mikhail Aleshin, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Briscoe, Carlos Munoz and Jack Hawksworth completed the top 10.

Before Bourdais’ late flier, the top 22 of 25 runners were within 0.8665 of a second, down to Graham Rahal in 22nd. But by the end of the session, only the top 16 were within a second, down to Carlos Huertas in P16 and 0.9075 of a second back.

First-time drivers this year Franck Montagny (21st) and Martin Plowman (22nd) were within 1.1470 and 1.1776 of Bourdais, respectively.

Newgarden lost control in Turn 4 early in the session, and was the first driver to have an unscheduled appointment with the gravel trap on corner exit. He was towed out and brought into the pit lane for the first red flag of the session.

A second red flag, much briefer, flew later in the session for a brief loss of power in race control. Can’t say as I’ve written that one before.

Not many drivers were able to turn laps early in the 45-minute session; within the first 20 minutes, only Bourdais (6 laps), Plowman (5) and Rahal (5) had completed 5 laps or more on the 2.439-mile road course. Bourdais’ 21 led all runners, with Rahal also posting 20 and the rest anywhere from 10 to 18 laps.

The second 45-minute practice runs from 2 to 2:45 p.m. EDT. In the meantime, here’s times from Practice 1, which ran under near perfect conditions of sunny, 75 degrees ambient with a track temperature of 88.

PDF HERE, VISUALS BELOW.

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Fernando Alonso completes first test with United Autosports

Photo: United Autosports
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Two-time Formula 1 World Champion Fernando Alonso enjoyed his first outing with United Autosports, with whom he will contest the 2018 Rolex 24 at Daytona, in their Ligier JS P217 LMP2 chassis.

The McLaren Formula 1 driver completed the test at Motorland Aragon in Spain alongside co-driver Phil Hanson, who will be a teammate with Alonso at next year’s 24-hour Daytona enduro. Filipe Albuquerque, a former GT class winner at the Rolex 24, was also on hand to help Alonso and the team ahead of Alonso’s first run in an LMP2 car, which comes only a couple days after he made his LMP1 testing debut with Toyota. Albuquerque races with Mustang Sampling Racing in IMSA, but will return to United’s European Le Mans Series program for all but one race in 2018.

“I had a great first test with United Autosports. Obviously, we are on a really tight schedule between now and Daytona, but it was nice to jump in the car for the first time,” said Alonso, who will rejoin the team at the official Roar Before the 24 test on January 5-7.

Alonso added, “There’s quite a few switches and things to study so it was important to do this initial shakedown before Daytona, so I could fully learn about the car. I’m happy with everything – the car felt great and the team were fantastic. The atmosphere here is wonderful, like a big family, so today has been amazing. I cannot wait for Daytona.”

Team owner Zak Brown, who also serves as executive director of McLaren Technology Group and helps lead the McLaren Formula 1 effort, shared Alonso’s enthusiasm and was not surprised he was able to acclimate himself relatively quickly.

“Fernando’s first test with United Autosports went awesome as expected. He is a world champion and it is a pleasure to have him in our car,” he said of Alonso’s debut with the team.

Alonso is currently schedule to contest the Rolex 24 with the aforementioned Hanson and McLaren test driver Lando Norris.