By Amy Konrath
(SEBRING, FL) – Eleven IndyCar Series drivers representing seven teams got a jump on the 2014 season with a two-day test Dec. 18-19 at Sebring International Raceway.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, Andretti Autosport, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, A.J. Foyt Racing, Dale Coyne Racing and Ed Carpenter Racing tested on the track as teams continued their 2014 preparations.
"It’s nice to get a couple days (of testing in), keep everyone flowing well and get the guys back out here working together," said Josef Newgarden, who enters his third season with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. "I think it keeps everyone on their toes throughout the offseason.
"I think there’s a chance to get a little out of rhythm if you’re off the track for too long. Even for me as a driver, it’s great to be back behind the wheel for a couple of days. It keeps you fresh and keeps your brain thinking over the holidays."
Several of the Honda teams spent their time developing the twin-turbocharged engines that the manufacturer will use in 2014. Andretti Autosport’s Canadian driver, James Hinchcliffe, got his first taste of a Honda-powered car since the team announced it would be switching to the supplier for the 2014 season. In fact, the outing was his first in an Indy car since the series finale at Auto Club Speedway Oct. 19.
"It seems like Fontana was forever ago," Hinchcliffe said. "To get to run in the car is great and especially to get a first taste of the Honda power. It’s an exciting new chapter for us, getting to work with (the Honda Performance Development) guys and building some new relationships and learning as much as we can about this new engine."
Also testing throughout the day was new series addition Mikhail Aleshin in the No. 55 SMP Racing entry. The 26-year-old Russian ran many laps with teammate Simon Pagenaud also testing in the No. 77 car.
"It’s very important through the winter season to be able to use the test days to experience things we wouldn’t do during the race weekend," Pagenaud said. "There are a lot of items, a lot of experimental things we want to try and hopefully understand what direction they could take us and apply it to the race car in the future."
Takuma Sato tested his A.J. Foyt Racing car one day after the announcement that he would return to the team for the 2014 season. 2012 Pro Mazda champion and 2013 Indy Lights race winner Jack Hawksworth participated in his second IndyCar test, this time with Dale Coyne Racing.
Mike Conway, who will compete with Ed Carpenter Racing on road/street courses next season, tested the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka entry for the team, with team owner/driver Ed Carpenter in attendance as well.