Power Tops First Motegi Practice
September 16, 2011 | 7:25 A.M. EST
Will Power topped the time chart with a lap of 1 minute, 39.4745 seconds. (Photo: IndyCar)
Will Power topped the time chart with a lap of 1 minute, 39.4745 seconds on the 2.983-mile, 14-turn Twin Ring Motegi road course in the initial practice session for the Indy Japan.
Power, seeking to wrap up his second consecutive Mario Andretti Road Trophy, was among the three Team Penske drivers in the top five.
"It's a very, very nice circuit," said Power, who enters the 63-lap race Sept. 18 five points behind front-runner Dario Franchitti in the IZOD IndyCar Series championship chase and leads Franchitti by 14 points in the Mario Andretti Road Trophy duel. "It's smooth, flowing. It's one of the nicest circuits we've been to all year. I think it is going to be tough to pass. I think (the best opportunity is) Turn 11, after the long backstraight. Maybe down in Turn 3, too."
Penske's other two drivers Helio Castroneves (1:39.5965) and Ryan Briscoe (1:40.1887) were second and fourth, respectively.
"This track is more like Elkhart Lake," Castronevers said. It's impressive. The runoff areas are pretty nice. The track is very smooth, especially coming from our last race on a street course. It looks like there are a lot of places for overtaking. It's very challenging. The corners are long. Sometimes we got too hot coming into a corner and it upset the exit. Sometimes we were too slow coming in and we had plenty of exit. It's very technical. We're very lucky that the car came out of the plane with the brakes set up."
Rookie James Hinchcliffe placed third in the No. 06 Sprott Newman/Haas Racing car, while Marco Andretti was fifth in the No. 26 Team Venom Energy entry for Andretti Autosport. The top 10 were separated by less than a second. Local favorite Takuma Sato was 10th in the No. 5 KV Racing Technology-Lotus car.
It's the first time the IZOD IndyCar Series, which has competed at Twin Ring Motegi since 2003, has utilized the road course. Damage to the 1.5-mile oval from the March 11 earthquake prompted the switch to the road course.
Sunday's race will take the green flag at 1 p.m. (JST). The race broadcast will air live in the United States beginning at 11:30 p.m. (ET) on Saturday.