Luca Filippi takes first laps

LEXINGTON, Ohio -- “Grazie.”

Luca Filippi made it a point to thank each member of the No. 98 Barracuda Racing crew for a productive and energetic test day in the Honda-powered car. Race engineer Todd Malloy and team co-owners Bryan Herta and Steve Newey reciprocated following the July 31 IZOD IndyCar Series Open Test at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

“I’m a rookie and they were taking a risk letting me drive the car and I am really grateful and did my best,” he said.

In their grand view, it wasn't much of a risk.

Luca Filippi at MidOhioFilippi won 11 races in five seasons of GP2 competition, was a Honda Racing Formula One test driver and was the 2011 Auto GP Championship runner-up.

“I’m very excited because it was something I always had dreamed about and finally it was my first day in an IndyCar and it was great,” said Filippi, who was originally tapped by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in early 2012 to use the Indianapolis 500 as a potential springboard to full-time competition.

That deal didn't materialize, but Filippi has followed through. He logged 56 laps on the 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course with a best that was 1.1 second off the pace set by Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Click it: Mid-Ohio Open Test results

“We tried to make the setup more suitable to my driving style and we did," he said. "We also were pretty fast. I’m happy with all the work we’ve done during the day.”

The team confirmed Aug. 2 that Filippi would compete in the race weekend.

"Luca did a really good job during the test," Herta said. "We were very impressed with his quick adaptation to both a car and circuit that were completely new to him. We are all very excited to see how he does under race conditions."

Herta stressed that Alex Tagliani, who has a pair of top-10 finishes in 13 races, remains under contract.

“It’s going to be a team decision (for other races this season)," Filippi said. "Obviously this is a great opportunity for myself. It’s obvious it’s going to be related to the performance that I do during the weekend. If I do well, probably I will have more chances. Again, it’s not going to be my decision. It’s the team’s decision and we will do our best for the team for now on until the end of the season.”

Filippi, who turns 28 on Aug. 9, said there weren’t any surprises, which was a relief on the challenging 2.258-mile, 13-turn road course.

“The first run, it was a bit different than I expected, but after two runs I really felt at home,” said the native of Savigliano, Italy, who has been a commentator on Sky Sports’ coverage of the IZOD IndyCar Series and F1. “First of all, the driving position is really comfortable and the car really felt natural to me. “I have a little different background than a lot of drivers because I have GP2 experience, I was a Honda F1 test driver until they withdrew from Formula One and I’ve done a lot of tire development as well,” he said. “I’m used to developing a car and working with engineers.

“Even in the last year I didn’t have many chances to drive an open-wheel car I was still involved in research and development. I’m growing and learning day by day.

“I’m quite mentally tired, which is nice because that means we did a lot of things.”
Luca Filippi with team