Pato O’Ward fastest in opening Detroit IndyCar Practice
Saturday 3rd June, 2023 - 8:55am
After a disappointing late-race crash in last week’s Indianapolis 500, Pato O’Ward led Friday’s opening practice session for the NTT IndyCar Series’s 2023 Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix.
On a new nine-turn, 1.645-mile street circuit through downtown Detroit, the #5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet turned a fastest lap of 63.0773 seconds to average 93.885mph.
“It’s definitely a unique track,” O’Ward said in the post-practice press conference. “I think it has a lot of characteristics from all the other street courses that we go to in terms of, like, pavements, certain type of corners. Yeah, we rolled off strong.”
New Zealand native Scott Dixon in the # 9 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda was second fastest, .0986s slower than the 2018 Indy NXT champion. Alexander Rossi was third fastest, .2857s slower than his session-leading teammate.
Several red flags interrupted the 90-minute session as drivers became acclimated to the new circuit, as prior to 2023 IndyCar’s venue was a temporary circuit on Belle Isle.
Stan Sport is the only way to watch every round of the INDYCAR SERIES. Click here for all the action streaming ad-free, live and on demand.
Turns 1, 3 and 8 were the primary culprits for drivers as Agustin Canapino, Graham Rahal, Alex Palou, Marcus Ericsson and O’Ward all caused red flags in the session for stalling their cars in runoff areas.
There were two decently notable incidents in the session. Canapino’s session ended early as the Argentinian brushed the Turn 7 inside wall. That contact sent the #78 Juncos Hollinger Racing Chevrolet into the wall on the right side of the circuit. A broken right rear driveshaft meant the end of the rookie’s session.
While Helio Castroneves did not have wall contact in the session, the four-time Indianapolis 500 winner had a terminal mechanical failure on track. The #06 Meyer Shank Racing Honda hit a big bump in the Turn 3 braking zone. That bump combined with the downshifts required to slow the car down for the hairpin caused a failure of an electrical over-rev prevention system and the Honda engine over-revved, requiring an overnight change.
“It’s a shame because everything was going fine,” Castroneves said on the Peacock broadcast. “We were just learning the track, but this is definitely going to set us back a little bit.”
O’Ward’s red flag for stalling in the Turn 8 runoff with just over a minute to go ended the session as time expired before the green flag came out again.
While getting used to the track was a concern for the drivers, getting used to the pit lane was one for the teams. Because of space concerns, Detroit’s pit lane is split down the middle with half the field pitting to the left side of pit lane while the other half pit to the right of the large blue line marking the center of pit lane.
“It’s a really cool track, it’s definitely challenging as expected,” O’Ward said on the track’s PA system. “But I think it’ll be an interesting event not just because of the track being new but everything is completely different to any other pit lane that we go to during the year and I think that’s going to present its challenges. I think it’ll be a learning curve not just for the drivers and for the teams but also for race control and the flagging and it’s tough.”
Race control has instructed drivers to treat that blue line as a wall. If they go to the wrong side of the blue line, they must pass through the pits and come in on the next lap.
Exiting the pits will also be a concern as some drivers running on track tested the track limits by running in the pit exit lane. That transgression resulted in a couple of pit lane drive through penalties because the pit exit lane is out of bounds.
Australia’s Will Power was 7th fastest while New Zealand’s own Scott McLaughlin and Marcus Armstrong were respectively 10th and 14th fastest in the opening practice.
|Rank||Driver||Car No.||Best Time||In Lap||Best Speed||Total Laps||Difference||Gap|
|21||Sting Ray Robb||51||01:04.8143||36||91.369||39||1.7370||0.0343|