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Reigning IndyCar champion Josef Newgarden led a Penske/Chevrolet 1-2-3 in testing at Sonoma on Monday.
Times for the 12-car session were unofficial and some teams were not gunning for one-lap pace in optimum conditions.
Newgarden, who set his first pole position for Penske in the 2017 season-closer at the same track last September, clocked a time 2.6 seconds slower than that but on primary tyres. His 1m18.10s was enough to put him top by 0.2s from team-mate Will Power.
Simon Pagenaud was a further 0.35s adrift, approximately one tenth of a second ahead of Sebastien Bourdais’ Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan entry.
Formula V8 3.5 champion Pietro Fittipaldi, who is likely to be confirmed as sharing the second DCR seat with Indy Lights graduate Zachary Claman de Melo within the next two days, was 0.2s off Bourdais.
Coyne engineer Michael Cannon said Fittipaldi had made a big impression in his first IndyCar test at Sebring and at Sonoma.
“He’s fantastic, a really pleasant surprise at Sebring,” Cannon told Autosport.
“We only knew what he’d done, not how he’d be. But within two sessions there, he was pretty much up to speed.
“He’s very, very level-headed, very serious and very focused – a truly professional racecar driver.”
Cannon was relaxed about having to switch between two drivers in the #19 car, saying “I’m fine if it’s going to be these two drivers. I’m really impressed with both of them.
“They’re chalk and cheese in a lot of ways. Zachary is a very natural talent, but very much learning his craft, coming up from Lights. But he did an excellent job at Sebring too, didn’t put a wheel wrong.
“They have two different approaches but Zachary will gradually move in the same direction as Pietro as the season goes on.”
Rookies Matheus Leist, Robert Wickens and Jordan King filled positions six to eight, all lapping faster than their team-mates in the afternoon.
Harding makes road course debut
Gabby Chaves brought up the rear as his Harding Racing team carried out its first road course test ahead of its maiden full IndyCar season.
“It feels fantastic to be back, and with a team with a lot of commitment, a lot of drive,” Chaves, whose last full IndyCar season was in 2015, told Autosport.
“And for a first day on a road course, I honestly think it went as well as we could have hoped.
“Very few bugs to deal with, plenty of laps. That’s really good because this isn’t the same chassis we ran in those three races last year – this was brand new. So that says a lot about the team’s preparation. So I’m very happy.”
Chaves briefly brought out a red flag with a spin-and-stall at the downhill Turn 3b.
“I was on new tyres and I just lost it, but thankfully didn’t touch anything,” he explained.
“A momentary lapse of talent! You get excited when you see the sticker tyres go on…”
Unofficial Sonoma test times
|1.||Josef Newgarden||Penske Dallara-Chevy||1m18.10s|
|2.||Will Power||Penske Dallara-Chevy||1m18.29s||+0.19s|
|3.||Simon Pagenaud||Penske Dallara-Chevy||1m18.64s||+0.54s|
|4.||Sebastien Bourdais||Coyne Dallara-Honda||1m18.75s||+0.65s|
|5.||Pietro Fittipaldi||Coyne Dallara-Honda||1m18.94s||+0.84s|
|6.||Matheus Leist||Foyt Dallara-Chevy||1m19.00s||+0.90s|
|7.||Robert Wickens||Schmidt Dallara-Honda||1m19.12s||+1.02s|
|8.||Jordan King||Carpenter Dallara-Chevy||1m19.20s||+1.10s|
|9.||James Hinchcliffe||Schmidt Dallara-Honda||1m19.27s||+1.17s|
|10.||Spencer Pigot||Carpenter Dallara-Chevy||1m19.40s||+1.30s|
|11.||Tony Kanaan||Foyt Dallara-Chevy||1m19.96s||+1.86s|
|12.||Gabby Chaves||Harding Dallara-Chevy||1m20.34s||+2.24s|