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Ericsson tops second day of IndyCar Sebring test as Braun impresses on debut

Written by Archie O'Reilly

Andretti Global's Marcus Ericsson has finished the second day of the NTT IndyCar Series pre-season test on the 1.67 mile Sebring International Raceway short course at the top of the time sheets, notching the fastest time of the two-day test.

Ericsson, who joined Andretti from Chip Ganassi Racing this off-season, was the only driver to break into the 51-second range across the two days with a fastest lap of 51.9512 seconds.

"Today is very important, especially when you're in a new team," Ericsson said. "It's been a lot of learning processes, learning the people, learning the car. Everything is new, obviously. We don't get a lot of tests these days. So, we need to maximize that. We just had a really good day. So that's positive, and we're feeling excited about going to St. Pete."

There were 15 drivers on track on Monday, with the remaining 11 participating on Tuesday, plus the returning Pato O'Ward in his No.5 Arrow McLaren Chevrolet. The Mexican driver deputised for injured new teammate David Malukas in the No.6 car on Monday, making him the only driver to run both days.

The opening day of the test saw reigning champion Alex Palou top the time sheets for Ganassi with a 52.0883s fastest lap. But by the lunch break on Tuesday, both O'Ward (52.0158s) and Team Penske's Will Power (52.0317s) marginally bettered Palou's best time from the opening day.

"Basically, what you're looking for is just different types of patches, concrete, asphalt, bumpy," O'Ward said. "That's what you get in a street course with the years that go by. Some surfaces get rougher, some of them get redone, so you really don't know what to expect until you get there, but you expect to get a little bit of everything."

The morning session saw O'Ward and Power followed by AJ Foyt Racing's Santino Ferrucci in third, then Marcus Ericsson, Marcus Armstrong, Felix Rosenqvist, Graham Rahal, Linus Lundqvist, Christian Rasmussen, Kyffin Simpson, Romain Grosjean and Colin Braun

Sportscar veteran and IndyCar test debutant Braun followed on from Jack Harvey in testing for Dale Coyne Racing, whose drivers for 2024 remain unconfirmed. The 2023 Rolex 24 at Daytona winner was only 0.5087s adrift of 11th-place Grosjean after logging his first 31 laps in the car in the morning, also only 0.3860s behind Harvey's best time from Monday.

Tuesday's morning session saw a total of 370 laps run across 12 drivers, which was a considerable increase on only 306 run across 15 drivers on Monday morning. Ganassi rookie Simpson ran the most laps with 39, with every driver running at least 23 laps and eight drivers at least matching Scott McLaughlin's high of 29 morning laps on Monday.

Still, the afternoon session was much busier, with 698 laps turned and a combined total of 1,068 laps completed by the conclusion of the day's running - 21 more than Monday despite there being three fewer drivers involved.

Rahal had the highest workload of all on Tuesday with 99 laps, running one more than the 98 of Braun and O'Ward, who ran a total of 164 laps across his two days of duty. There were six drivers that at least matched Alexander Rossi's Monday high of 89 laps, with only Grosjean not reaching the 80 mark for his new Juncos Hollinger Racing team.

There were improvements from every driver across a more productive second session of the day, as was the case on Monday. And it took until the afternoon session on the second day of the test for the 52-second mark to be broken by Ericsson on his 54th and penultimate lap of the afternoon.

Behind Ericsson, who topped the times after a total of 83 laps, in the final standings was Power - only 0.0964s back with a best time of 52.0076s across 84 laps. O'Ward (52.0104s) was jumped by Power in the afternoon but still narrowly improved on his morning time, finishing third.

New Meyer Shank Racing recruit Rosenqvist was fourth (52.0305s after 84 laps), followed by the day's busiest driver Rahal (52.0598s) for a Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing team that are looking to continue to establish front-running road and street course form. The pair completed the top five in the combined standings across the two days, with Palou's day one time standing firm in sixth-place.

In sixth-place on Tuesday was 19-year-old Simpson, who has joined Ganassi this off-season in a fifth entry, driving the No.4 Honda. Many have held reservations over whether Simpson is ready to make the step from Indy NXT, but a best time of 52.1677s across 94 laps put him just over two-tenths behind Ericsson's leading time. This was good enough for ninth when the two days' times are combined.

There were ultimately 11 drivers within half-a-second in Tuesday's final standings, with positions seven to 11 filled by another Ganassi rookie, Lundqvist (52.1907s from 90 laps), Ferrucci (52.2043s from 89 laps), Grosjean (52.2716s from 77 laps), Ganassi sophomore Armstrong (52.2764s from 87 laps) and Ed Carpenter Racing rookie, reigning Indy NXT champion Rasmussen (52.4067s from 85 laps).

Braun rounded out the day's 12 runners, though a best time of 52.9169s would have put him ahead of test teammate Harvey on Monday, albeit comparing two separate days of running tends to have its inaccuracies. Regardless, the 35-year-old gained a valuable 98 laps' worth of learning and experience and was on the pace in his first ever IndyCar outing.

"My first day in, certainly a blast jumping in the deep end," Braun said. "A lot to learn, but it was great having Jack Harvey here helping out, and these guys did a really good job of walking me down the path and letting me learn step by step. It was fun.

"Made progress all day. It felt like it went pretty smooth on my end. Still a lot to learn, but it's a great group of guys to learn from and work with. So, a big thank you to Honda and Dale Coyne for giving me a chance here. A lot of fun."

Combining the two days of testing, there were 2,115 laps turned by 26 drivers. There was only 1.1254s covering the entire field, and less than one second covering 26 cars, factoring in O'Ward's running in the No.5 and No.6 McLaren cars.

For the teams, though, timings come secondary to the invaluable time sent on refining their cars ahead of the season-opening weekend getting underway on the streets of St. Petersburg on 8th March.


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