Grand Prix of Portland

IndyCar drivers participate in single-day test at Portland

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PORTLAND, Oregon — The Grand Prix of Portland may not be until Labor Day weekend, but six IndyCar entrants were in the Rose City Wednesday for a single-day test session at Portland International Raceway.

Andretti Autosport took advantage of an unused test day to give all four of its drivers extra preparation for the penultimate round of the 2019 season, with Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Zach Veach and Marco Andretti all making laps around the 12-turn, 1.964-mile road course.

Meanwhile, two Indy Lights regulars also had the opportunity to test in an Indy car for the first time, as Oliver Askew drove Scott Dixon’s No. 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda in the test, while Rinus VeeKay piloted the No. 20 Ed Carpenter Racing Chevrolet, which is normally shared between Carpenter and Ed Jones.

Though the private test was a very low-key affair, with only required team and track personnel as well as a few members of the media in attendance, test sessions like Wednesday’s in Portland are still incredibly important for drivers and their teams.

“The championship is so tight that you’re looking for any little advantage over your competitors,” Hunter-Reay told reporters. “Some other teams decided to test at different tracks for whatever reason and we decided to come here.

“It’s a very crucial race because it’s towards the end of the championship fight so every point is extremely valuable and that’s not lost on us. That’s why we’re here.”

Indeed, a good race at P.I.R. is very important for an IndyCar driver looking to end their season on a high-note, and no driver could benefit more from Wednesday’s test than Alexander Rossi.

The driver of the No. 27 NAPA Auto Parts Honda is currently 16 points behind series points leader Josef Newgarden in the standings with four races remaining, and Rossi said that testing gives him and his team the opportunity to experiment and try out a few high-risk setup changes they would normally not make during a race weekend.

“If you do it today and it costs you 45-minutes, it’s not the end of the world, whereas if you do that in a practice session [during a race weekend], you could write-off one of your three chances to dial in the car,” Rossi told NBC Sports. “You take big swings at things and experiment and hopefully you land on something.”

The NTT IndyCar Series returns to action on August 18, with the ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Live coverage begins at 2:00 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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F1 tests: Mercedes innovates with wheel adjustment system

Photo by Charles Coates/Getty Images
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MONTMELÓ, Spain — Veteran Kimi Raikkonen set the fastest time on the second day of Formula One preseason testing on Thursday, but Mercedes still garnered more attention by introducing an innovative wheel adjustment system.

On-board footage showed defending champion Lewis Hamilton pulling the steering wheel back and forth on the front straight to apparently change the angle of the front wheels on his Mercedes car.

The team stayed tight-lipped about the car’s new feature but guaranteed it was “safe” and “legal.”

“I probably won’t shed a great deal more light than what you saw on the TV but yeah we have a system in the car, it’s a novel idea,” team technical director James Allison told F1 TV. ”We’ve got a name for it, it’s called DAS, if you’re interested, and it just introduces an extra dimension for the steering, for the driver, which we hope will be useful during the year. But precisely how we use it and why we use it, that’s something we will keep to ourselves.”

Allison said governing body FIA knew in advance that the team was introducing the new system.

“It’s something we’ve been talking to them (about) for some time,” he said. “The rules are pretty clear about what’s permitted on steering systems and we’re pretty confident that it matches those requirements. I’m pleased we got it on the car, it seems to be useful, and we’ll see over the coming days how it benefits us.”

Hamilton said he was still trying to get used to the system, but praised the team for coming up with the innovation.

“I’ve only had one morning on (it, so) I don’t really have a lot to talk about with it. We’re trying to get on top of it, understand it, but safety-wise no problem today and the FIA are OK with the project.

“For me it’s really encouraging to see that my team is continuing to innovate and stay ahead of the game, and I think that’s down to the great minds in the team and so hopefully that’ll work to our benefit.”

Hamilton led the time charts on Wednesday but was only ninth-fastest on Thursday.

MORE: Lewis Hamilton, Valtteri Bottas fastest in Day 1 of F1 practice
MORE: Sergio Perez fastest early on Day 2 of F1 Practice

The 40-year-old Raikkonen, who has a chance this season to break the record for most race starts in F1, was fastest with a time of 1 minute, 17.091 seconds in his Alfa Romea. He was 0.2 seconds quicker than Sergio Pérez with Racing Point. Daniel Ricciardo of Renault was third.

Raikkonen caused a red flag near the end of the afternoon session when his car stopped on the track with an apparent mechanical issue. The Finnish driver had spun earlier in the session, as did Valtteri Bottas of Mercedes, Romain Grosjean of Haas and Pierre Gasly of Alpha Tauri, formerly known as Toro Rosso.

Grosjean had the most laps among the 13 drivers who went to the track on Thursday, with 158.

Bottas was the slowest driver of the day, while Sebastian Vettel was sixth-fastest with Ferrari.

Pérez had set the quickest time in the morning session. The Mexican driver had been third fastest on Wednesday, behind Hamilton and Bottas.

Drivers will be back on the track on Friday to close out the first week of testing. Teams will have another three days to test next week.

Preseason testing has been reduced from eight to six days to help compensate for the record 22 races on the calendar, including a new Vietnam Grand Prix and the return of the Dutch GP. Midseason testing also has been eliminated.

The season opens on March 15 at the Australian GP.

The Barcelona-Catalunya track will host the Spanish GP on May 10.