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Palou leads first session of IndyCar hybrid era at Mid-Ohio

The NTT IndyCar Series’ hybrid era opened with rookie Toby Sowery doing most of the lapping on his own in dry and overcast conditions to start on Friday at Mid-Ohio and ended with Alex Palou on top and rain limiting the running in the final 20 minutes of the 75-minute opening to the Honda Indy 200.

The new energy recovery systems made in partnership between Chevrolet and Honda performed as expected, with no major issues surfacing during the afternoon.

Palou delivered a 1m07.0650s lap in the No. 10 Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, which was well clear of Arrow McLaren’s Alexander Rossi who ran second in the No. 7 Chevy with a 1m07.5093s tour. Ganassi’s Marcus Armstrong was third with a 1m07.5442s in the No. 11 Honda.

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“It was very valuable,” Armstrong said of the dry running in the heavier hybrid car on the new Mid-Ohio pavement. “It’s a new track surface here. It seems to be pretty grippy and smooth. So I was happy with the car — the car felt really good, considering there’s 105 lbs more of weight and quite a rearward weight distribution. It should have felt a lot more different than it did, but overall, I was happy with it, and good potential for tomorrow.”

Timing of the rain meant teams didn’t get a chance to head out on Firestone’s faster red alternate tires — which are only available to try in the first practice session — to perform qualifying simulations. As a result, qualifying could be an unpredictable affair and deliver results that stray from expectation. The handful of quick times that were set by Palou and the rest came on the slower primary tires as the rain prevented anyone from setting a representative lap at ultimate speed.

Led by Arrow McLaren’s Pato O’Ward, a few drivers went out to explore the newly-paved track surface on rain tires, but they were scrambling for grip and lapped more than 20 seconds off of the primary tire pace until the checkered flag emerged.

The 75-minute session was clean to start, barring a harmless spin by Josef Newgarden, until the clock wound down to 50 minutes when a fire in the engine bay of Agustin Canapino’s car — which extinguished itself — led to a red flag after the car rolled to a stop.

At the time of the red, Graham Rahal was fastest at a 1m07.7452s. It took almost 15 minutes to return to green, and with 36 minutes left, cars rolled out as light sprinkles fell in some areas. O’Ward moved to second with a 1m07.8407s, and Colton Herta and Armstrong moved ahead of Rahal in rapid succession, and then it was Palou who went to first with a 1m07.0650s.

At the same time Palou went to P1, Armstrong went off and stalled as the rain started to pick up. Jack Harvey also spun and a second red flag was required to deal with two stranded cars at the 26-minutes-to-go mark.

The green flag waved at 21 minutes, but with the heavier rain, and no expectation for more rain for the rest of the weekend, most of the 27-car field chose to stay on pit lane until the session expired.

UP NEXT: Practice 2, Saturday morning, 10:50-11:50 a.m. ET, on Peacock.

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Story originally appeared on Racer