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February 11, 2018

Rahal and other Honda Teams Quite Pleased with IndyCar Open Test Results

Takuma Sato never needs a reason to smile, as he is generally the happiest driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock.  His teammate, Graham Rahal, often has his emotions on public display, but he smiled as often as his new teammate at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing during this past weekend’s Verizon IndyCar Series Open Test at ISM Raceway near Phoenix.

 
They both had good reason: Each of the two drivers topped the speed charts for each of the four three-hour test sessions. After 12 hours of combined testing on Friday and Saturday, including three hours in the daytime and three hours at night each day, it was a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Honda that had the speed.
 
Sato and Rahal set the fastest lap in each of the four three-hour sessions spread over Friday and Saturday. Sato, in the No. 30 Honda, recorded the best lap of the Phoenix open test in Saturday night’s final practice, at 189.855 mph (19.3790 seconds). The reigning Indianapolis 500 winner was the fastest in three of the four sessions, with Rahal leading the other practice in the team's No. 15 Honda.
 
"The open test was very successful, I would say," Sato said. "Lots of things done and lots of things to be tried, and I think over the course of two days we learned a lot. Great car, definitely more exercise for the drivers, definitely busier with low downforce.
 
"We did qualifying simulations and race traffic runs. I think the Rahal Letterman Lanigan team is really strong, so I'm really looking forward to two more road course tests and hopefully we'll be ready for St. Pete (the season opener next month)."
 
Graham Rahal was all smiles as he said goodbye to his crewmembers before leaving the track to return home.
 
“Today wasn’t a great day for me but overall we had a good day on Friday and Takuma had a great day today,” Rahal said. “We tried a bunch of stuff and learned what ways to and not to go. I think Andretti cars looked strong but overall this is a positive.
 
“We are heading in the right direction. You have to drive this car a lot more. It makes a difference. I’m excited and I think everybody is. I’m excited to get back here and keep pounding away. I believe really positive that we can have a really good race.”

Rahal’s team wasn’t the only Honda squad that felt optimistic. Five of the eight fastest speeds and six of the top 10 were Honda-powered cars.
 
Chevrolet drivers had positions two through four, including Team Penske’s Will Power (189.769 mph), AJ Foyt Racing’s Tony Kanaan (189.632 mph) and defending series champion Josef Newgarden of Team Penske at 189.399 (mph).
 
Rahal finished the test fifth in combined speed at 189.090 mph followed by Marco Andretti’s 189.008 mph, Alexander Rossi’s 188.940 mph and Scott Dixon’s 188.530 mph. All four of those drivers were in Hondas.
 
“This was better than the same test we had last year, I’ll tell you that,” said Andretti Autosport Chief Operating Officer Rob Edwards. “I feel way better than we did leaving this test last year, for sure. When we come back in April for the race, I believe we’ll have an actual chance.”
 
Another Andretti Autosport driver, Ryan Hunter-Reay, was 10th in another Honda with a fast time of 188.331 mph.
 
“It’s early days and I’m not sure where we stand but it’s going to depend on what type of race we have here,” Ryan Hunter-Reay said. “It was a good time to get our first oval test behind us. The car feels good. It’s really light in traffic. Everybody is really searching for that little bit of grip to make the difference to the car in front. It’s difficult at the moment.
 
“It’s a work in progress. This is the right direction but we need to iron some things out over time.”

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