Paul Tracy was still waiting for news last night as to whether he had a deal for the 2011 INDYCAR season but other news was exceptionally good for another Canadian candidate.
Although not signed, and still waiting for his Canadian sponsorship proposal to be approved, Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe set second fastest time and fifth overall Monday during the opening day of the IZOD IndyCar Series’ final pre-season test at Barber Motorsport Park in Alabama.
The INDYCAR season will open at St. Petersburg, Fla., a week from next weekend, which is the same time Formula One will get going in Australia.
Will Power of Team Penske set fastest time in both the morning and afternoon sessions at Barber, turning a best combined time of one minute, 12:5056 seconds for a speed of 114:198 miles an hour.
Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing finished second (1:12.5538) and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing's Justin Wilson was third overall (1:12.6791).
Hinchcliffe, the 24-year-old Firestone Indy Lights championship runner-up in 2010, set a time of 1:12:8729 in his Newman-Haas team car. “It was a good, solid day and I’m definitely happy to be in the top 10," Hinchcliffe said. “I had certain expectations but today’s efforts exceeded them, which is great."
Ryan Briscoe, Takuma Sato (gee, what a surprise) and J.R. Hildebrand had minor accidents.
Canadian Alex Tagliani was 10th quickest of the 24 cars that took time, while defending series champion Dario Franchitti was 12th.
Ex-Champ Car and Formula One star Sebastien Bourdais made his return to Indy cars with Dale Coyne, for whom he will likely drive a road-course-only schedule with Milka Duno likely in the car for the ovals.
Simona de Silvestro was the fastest woman to test Monday with a time of 1:13:4546 – 17th fastest. Danica Patrick was 19th (1:13:7102) and Ana Beatriz was 24th and last with a time of 1:15:0777.
Conquest Racing, the team Tracy is hoping to make some kind of deal with, announced just as the test started that it had signed Sebastian Saavedra for the season. His household name will undoubtedly sell thousands of tickets for the struggling series.
And Coyne surprised everybody by also testing GP2 driver James Jakes, who is another driver completely unknown to North American race fans. (Gee, and they wonder why they have attendance and TV ratings problems . . .)
Tracy had been hoping to have his deal done Monday. By mid-evening, his Twitter account said:
"Still waiting. This day is taking forever."
In other racing news, Red Bull announced it had signed World Champion Sebastien Vettel through the 2014 season. Teammate Mark Webber, however, is only under contract through 2011.
Red Bull was keen to keep Vettel under contract because, rightly, it considers him the cream of the current F1 driver crop and expects big things from him for years to come.
The announcement was also designed to stifle speculation that Vettel would move to Ferrari after his Red Bull contract ran out, a rumour fueled not only by Ferrari sources but by Vettel himself.