Dario Franchitti laid down a flier, 1:18.0988, on his first timed lap of the third IZOD IndyCar Series practice session at Sonoma Raceway. That lap was fastest in the final practice before qualifying for the GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma (5:30 p.m. EST local time, on NBCSN at 9 p.m. EST).
The challenge for Franchitti – for that matter, most of the IndyCar Series field – is to bank their fastest lap on their first or perhaps second lap. The Firestone rubber here this weekend is the same as at Barber, but the low-grip Sonoma track surface makes it difficult to generate enough performance out of the tire for longer than one lap before a drop-off in pace.
The other variable going into qualifying will be the difference in the softer, alternate Firestone reds and their grip levels. Teams can’t run any of their three weekend sets of reds until qualifying.
Behind Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay (1:18.3542), Sebastien Bourdais (1:18.5513), Scott Dixon (1:18.5643), and Justin Wilson (1:18.5695) rounded out the top five.
Points leader Helio Castroneves (1:18.6593) was sixth; Bourdais’ lap was noteworthy as it was set on his 16th and final timed lap, likely on a fresh set of tires. Marco Andretti, Charlie Kimball, Graham Rahal and Simona de Silvestro rounded out the top 10.
Right at the end of the session, Will Power made contact with E.J. Viso. The Australian contacted the rear wheel guard of Viso’s Team Venezuela-Andretti Autosport-HVM Chevrolet, damaging his front wing. Power ended the session 15th, Viso 19th. Series debutante Lucas Luhr improved to 23rd ahead of James Davison and Ed Carpenter.
Qualifying groups for later today are linked below.
Group 1 Group 2 #3 Helio Castroneves #9 Scott Dixon #12 Will Power #1 Ryan Hunter-Reay #19 Justin Wilson #10 Dario Franchitti #15 Graham Rahal #25 Marco Andretti #77 Simon Pagenaud #4 Ryan Briscoe #5 E.J. Viso #7 Sebastien Bourdais #27 James Hinchcliffe #98 JR Hildebrand #67 Josef Newgarden #55 Tristan Vautier #14 Takuma Sato #83 Charlie Kimball #16 James Jakes #6 Sebastian Saavedra #78 Simona De Silvestro #11 Tony Kanaan #18 James Davison #20 Ed Carpenter #97 Lucas Luhr