Palou, Rossi manage fast laps in rain-affected practice for IndyCar’s hybrid engine at Mid-Ohio

LEXINGTON, Ohio (AP) — Pato O’Ward and Alex Palou each felt something slightly different from their cars with the IndyCar Series new hybrid engines on Friday before weather delayed additional research for another day.

IndyCar Series drivers hoping to get an initial read on the new hybrid engines that promise a seismic shift in race strategy ended up with more stop than go in the day’s first practice at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Early rain sprinkles that briefly stopped the one-hour, 15-minute session eventually gave way to a steady drizzle with just under 25 minutes remaining.

A handful of drivers switched to rain tires and splashed — or wiggled — their way through quick laps, but nearly all are looking for more clarity and grip in Saturday morning’s one-hour second practice under a favorable forecast.

Qualifying follows Saturday afternoon for Sunday’s IndyCar 200 that will unfold over 80 laps in northeast Ohio.

“I think everybody wanted to get more,” said Palou, whose Chip Ganassi Racing Honda posted a fast lap of 1 minute, 7.0650 seconds in the narrow window of dryness.

The defending race winner, two-time IndyCar champion and series points leader added, “We didn’t really get all the learnings we wanted, but it was kind of hard waiting a little bit and the red flag screwed us up and then also the rain. … It’s going to be exciting tomorrow.”

O’Ward switched to rain tires and managed a substantive lap of 1:07.84-07 among 11 trips around the repaved 2.258-mile layout. That was enough to stoke anticipation for what’s ahead for his Arrow McLaren Chevy, and he’ll have plenty of company.

The eagerly-awaited hybrid unit in the 2.2 liter, twin-turbocharged V-6 engine produces electricity when drivers brake or change throttle position. The power is stored in a unit that produces quick boosts when deployed by drivers using a system similar to the push-to-pass button. The option can provide up to a 120 hp increase to more than 800 total.

“You can definitely feel it when you engage the deploy,” said O’Ward, who’s sixth in points and stood seventh after practice. “It’s obviously not as big as I think people are thinking in terms of lap time.

“I think the system is capable of so much more, so I would like to see that evolve into let’s really push this system and see how much it can actually give us in terms of lap time because if it gives us four-, five-, six-tenths over the lap, I think that’s when we’ll really see it getting optimized by all the teams.”

Alex Rossi was just behind Palou at 1:07.5093 in his Arrow McLaren Chevy, with Marcus Armstrong third at 1:07.5442 in the Chip Ganassi Chevy.

Earlier Friday, the series served six-position starting grid penalties to Meyer Shank’s Felix Rosenqvist (10th in points), Armstrong (15th) and Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s Pietro Fittipaldi for their teams’ use of unapproved engines during last month’s test at Iowa Speedway. They will be served on Sunday.


AP IndyCar:

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