BIRMINGHAM, Ala. -- Honda Performance Development entered the two days of spring training at Barber Motorsports Park with its new twin-turbocharged engine in a dozen Verizon IndyCar Series cars. With five of its cars in the top 10 of the cumulative time chart and no engine-related issues to speak of, HPD IndyCar project leader Mark Crawford's confidence was bolstered.
"We took a conservative approach to this test as these are the same engines that will be used at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the other early-season races," he said. "So our focus was to get everyone ready for the start of the season. We’re looking forward to it.”
Justin Wilson in the No. 19 Dale Coyne Racing car was second quick on the 2.38-mile, 17-turn road course that will host the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama in five weeks with a lap of 1 minute, 7.0646 seconds -- .0038 of a second behind Will Power in the No. 12 Verizon Team Penske car. Less than a half-second separated the top 10 cars.
Wilson, working for the second test with engineer Michael Cannon and multiple new crew members, said the lap times might not be germane to the April race weekend because of considerably different weather conditions but laps were important. Power, Wilson and Scott Dixon all recorded lap times lower than Ryan Hunter-Reay's pole-winnning 1:07:0871 from the 2013 Barber race.
"We like the progress that we’ve made to the car and the work that the team is doing," Wilson said. "It’s a complete new set of guys, working with Michael Cannon, that just keeps getting better and better every time we run. The last two days have been all about jelling as a team, coming together more than anything else, so I think that helps us going into St. Pete."
Team owner Dale Coyne said a driver for the No. 18 car will be named soon.
Sato in top five both days
Takuma Sato, who enters his second season driving the No. 14 ABC Supply car for A.J. Foyt Racing and working with engineer Don Halliday, was fourth quick overall and in the top five both days.
“We did a lot of the test program that we wanted to do and saw how the car reacted," said Sato, who qualified second at St. Petersburg and won at Long Beach a month later in 2013. "It was positive performance-wise and the feedback. It’s been a good preparation and we are ready to go to St. Petersburg.”
Rookies fare well
Jack Hawksworth, making his official debut with Bryan Herta Autosports, was 12th quick overall in the No. 98 car and logged 100 laps.
"We had a really solid couple of days. The BHA guys did a really great job and I'm pretty happy with where we're at. We'll make a couple of tweaks, but I've not seen anything yet that worries me, so we're in good shape," said Hawksworth, who won three races in Indy Lights last year.
Andretti Autosport's Carlos Munoz recorded a field-high 121 laps and was 16th overall on the time chart, while Mikael Aleshin in the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports car made 43 trips around the course and was 20th overall.
"Obviously I will learn more about my fellow drivers here in INDYCAR as I go throughout the season, but I’ve been watching a lot of video of previous races to help prepare myself," Aleshin said. "Each driver is different and you need to learn how they think and drive. I think Barber is a great track. It has a European style with ups and downs and long and fast corners."
Drivers got acquainted with the flashing blue light that warns drivers exiting pit lane of approaching traffic on the racecourse. The blue light is actuated when a car trips the beacon near the start-finish line. ... Andersen Promotions announced a partnership with Race Energy, a designer and manufacturer of state-of-the-art power conversion solutions for motorsports, as the official battery charger for the three Mazda Road to Indy series.