Marcus Ericsson makes official Sauber debut in Abu Dhabi test

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Marcus Ericsson had his first day on the job with Sauber today in Abu Dhabi.

Ericsson turned in a solid day of testing in the C33, logging a total of 95 laps and setting a fast lap of 1 minute, 46.253 seconds. That time was good for eighth among the 10 drivers that tested at Yas Marina Circuit.

After running the first 16 races of the 2014 season with Caterham, Ericsson is now preparing for a full-time drive in 2015 with the Hinwil squad – which recently completed its first-ever season without World Championship points.

The Swede was especially pleased to get as much track time as he did. His new team reports some “minor issues” were had today but that Ericsson was able to finish with some short runs.

“It was a great day,” he said. “I did a lot of laps which was the main thing, to get used to the car and get to start to work with the team. I am really happy with that.

“It was a good first day. We focused mainly on aero work for 2015 and also on tire comparisons. I think everyone is satisfied, and I am also happy about my first laps in the C33.”

Said test engineer Paul Russell: “It was a good day, although in the afternoon we had some technical issues, and in general there were many red flags but it did not affect our program massively. It was good to start working with Marcus, and it was important for him to drive the C33, start the process of working together and also to learn the car.

“We got quite a lot of aero work done today, and collected a lot of valuable data. Besides that, we also had a first look into the tires for the 2015 season. Overall, it was quite a mixed program. It was an interesting day.”

Ericsson is one of four drivers that will run both days of the ongoing Abu Dhabi test.

An IndyCar iRacing Challenge at Talladega? Drivers have discussed it

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If Dale Earnhardt Jr. is interested in an IndyCar iRacing event on an oval, he might like the latest idea being kicked around by NTT Series drivers.

“I personally would want to run at Talladega, but I don’t think that’s an option,” Arrow McLaren SP driver rookie Oliver Askew told NBCSports.com in a Friday interview about his simulation work for the second round of the IndyCar iRacing Challenge. “IndyCar drivers have a group chat with iRacing, and someone had the idea of running at Talladega, and I thought it was brilliant.”

It actually would be a throwback of sorts as a USAC-sanctioned race with Indy cars at Talladega nearly happened 40 years ago.

The IndyCar iRacing Challenge will be running its second consecutive road course Saturday at Barber Motorsports Park (2:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN or streaming here).

Of the four remaining races in the six-race series, there’s a chance that three of them could be ovals: A Drivers’ Choice track April 11; a “Random Draw” April 18 and a non-IndyCar “Dream” track May 2 (the April 25 race will be at Circuit of the Americas).

ENTRY LIST: Who will be racing at Barber

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IndyCar drivers are voting on next week’s track, and the options include high-speed ovals such as Texas Motor Speedway and Michigan Speedway.

A multicar crash at Talladega last October. (Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

Talladega apparently isn’t on the list for next week, but surely it could be considered for a future race if it meant having Earnhardt in the field. The 15-time NASCAR Most Popular Driver is a six-time winner at Talladega, and the NASCAR on NBC analyst’s family is synonymous with the 2.66-mile oval where his late seven-time champion father won a record 10 times.

“I hope he can make that happen,” Askew said of racing against Earnhardt. “I hope IndyCar can grant his wish on that.”

The addition of Earnhardt would fit well with an IndyCar iRacing Challenge that already features champions from NASCAR (Jimmie Johnson) and Supercars (Scott McLaughlin).

Will Power would like to see more of that.

“I think that would be great if we can get big-name drivers from other series,” Power said. “Getting a couple guys from Europe would be cool.”