SEBRING, Fla. – The latest rendition of AJ Foyt Racing took its initial bow this morning.
The team that bears the name of 82-year-old racing legend A.J. Foyt roared to life during the first of a two-day Verizon IndyCar Series test session at Sebring International Raceway. This time, however, the team arrived with a strikingly different form and function – with two new drivers, a new engine/aero kit supplier and a new technical director.
Immediate impressions were positive.
“It’s awesome to be back in the car,” said Conor Daly (left), who joins Carlos Munoz in an all-new Foyt driver lineup for 2017. “It’s been so long since Sonoma (the 2016 season finale). I haven’t run since then. It’s awesome just to get the feel of the speed and the power and the downforce again.”
Foyt’s team was joined today by Dale Coyne Racing rookie Ed Jones and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing’s Graham Rahal for the private test. Sebastien Bourdais, who shook down Jones' car today, will join his new teammate for a full day of testing Wednesday.
“The biggest thing is that I want us to come out of this feeling like we’re ready,” said Larry Foyt, A.J.’s son and the team’s president. “We know there are going to be some things we’ll have to work through with Chevrolet. We’ll be running through a list and checking off some boxes on some very basic things.
“That’s why I wanted us to have these two days in a row, so if you do have some hiccups and some things that require some extra time, having a second day gives you the opportunity to work on them further. You’re already here and set up, so it makes sense to take advantage of the second day.”
During the offseason, AJ Foyt Racing hired Daly and Munoz – replacing Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth – switched from Honda to Chevy power and replaced retired engineer Don Halliday with veteran Will Phillips.
The former vice president of technology for the Verizon IndyCar Series, Phillips will serve as lead engineer on Munoz’s No. 14 Chevy as well as the team’s technical director. His career includes a stint as a design engineer for March and time in Formula One and F3000.
While on-track action was sparse during the morning hours today, the five drivers increased the workload after the lunch break.
“It seems like forever since September,” Munoz (left) said. “For a driver, that’s a lot of time to be out. It feels good to be back.”
While Munoz and Phillips worked on track for the first time, Daly also got acquainted with his engineer, Daniele Cucchiaroni, who was Hawksworth’s engineer last season.
“There a lot of work to do and we’re just making sure we go about it the right way,” Daly said. “We’re being careful about making sure everything is just right. These guys have been incredible. We went out and did our whole program this morning with zero problems.”
The most important aspect of all, though, is the valuable track time. With limited testing opportunities and the March 12 season opener at St. Petersburg, Fla., fast approaching in just more than six weeks, every minute counts.
“The biggest thing is all the information we gather,” Larry Foyt said. “Chevrolet has been great. They’ve been really good about answering questions in order to help us come out of the box as fast as we can. There’s a lot of excitement.”
For a photo gallery from today's Sebring testing, click here.