Coming off a fifth-place finish at St. Petersburg, Simon Pagenaud led the combined practice sheet for the first pair of sessions at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Pagenaud lapped the 1.968 mile road course in one minute and 9.1488 seconds.
“I think the team’s done a great job over the winter at helping the car on the curbs and on the bumps,” Pagenaud, driving the No. 77 Schmidt Peterson Hamilton Motorsports car, said. “I feel pretty confident this weekend; we’ve got a pretty good package. Obviously, with different series running there will be different rubber on the track. You have to adapt. As the track rubbers up, the softness of the car needs to go up or needs to go down, and that’s what we’ll have to adjust for the red Firestone tires that are going to give us more grip. It’s quite exciting.”
Sebastian Bourdais was second quickest as he comes to a track where he’s won at multiple times in the past.
|You need the balance (in Long Beach) and it can be a very difficult place,” he commented. “I’m pretty happy with where we’re at, we still have a bit of work to do, but the KVSH Group has done a whole lot over the winter and we’re showcasing in the Mistic car this weekend and hopefully we can put it up front. It’s going to be hard to make a move on somebody on Sunday, so track position is going to be crucial more than ever, but every time we say that we end up seeing more passing than any other race.”
After falling out of the race two weeks ago at St. Petersburg due to a restart incident, rookie Jack Hawksworth was third quickest and says he liked this circuit when he ran it last year in the Indy Lights Series.
“It’s a little bit more of a generic street circuit compared to St. Pete – I’ve always thought St. Pete was very tricky to get the balance right,” he added. “I’m enjoying it. It’s a great location and a great event and it should be a good weekend.”
Last year’s winner Takuma Sato was fourth quickest while last week’s race winner Will Power rounded out the top five.
“It’s not a bad day for Verizon Team Penske, but we need to find a bit more,” Power commented. “It’s ridiculously tight, but there’s a bit of a gap to (Simon) Pagenaud and (Sebastien) Bourdais. I don’t know what they’re doing, but it seems to be working for them. It’s hard work, and it was an unbelievable day. Tomorrow when we put on red tires for the first time, we know we’ll be faster, but it’s always a bit of an unknown because it changes the car.”
Josef Newgarden was sixth fastest, followed by Ryan Briscoe, Justin Wilson, Juan Pablo Montoya and Ryan Hunter-Reay. Hunter-Reay is coming off of a second place finish two weeks ago as the California native heads to his home track.
“Everything went pretty well; it’s the first day of Long Beach and we’ve been very strong here in the past,” Hunter-Reay said. “We’ve got a lot of things we want to do and we’ve got that pressure riding on us to be up at the front. We spent most of the day there but towards the end of the last session we didn’t get everything out of the new set of Firestones, so hopefully tomorrow will be better. For qualifying we need to make the car turn better, that’s the name of the game right now for the DHL Honda.”
Of note, Power and Montoya’s Team Penske teammate Helio Castroneves was only 17th quickest.
The driver will get a 45 minute practice session on Saturday morning, before qualifying takes place at 1:15 p.m. local time.