Hunter-Reay apexes Mid-Ohio turn in Andretti Autosport Indy car
Ryan Hunter-Reay topped Practice 2 two years in a row at Mid-Ohio — with two different aero packages. | Photo: Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media

For Ryan Hunter-Reay, some things at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course remained consistent while others changed as he began preparing for this year’s edition of the Honda Indy 200. Regardless of the similarities or differences, the Andretti Autosport driver managed to turn the fastest lap in Practice 2 at Mid-Ohio in two consecutive years.

  • Section Results: Honda Indy 200 Practice 2 | 2017 | 2018

Buoyed by a Honda aero kit that was finally starting to see some results after more than two years of development, the longtime DHL-backed driver set the pace in Practice 2 last year with a 1:04.2961.

Pietro Fittipaldi leads Rene Binder around Mid-Ohio in IndyCar practice
The first visit to Mid-Ohio for rookies Pietro Fittipaldi and Rene Binder is also the first Honda Indy 200 for the debuting universal aero kit. | Photo: Andy Clary / Spacesuit Media

While slower than the pole time set the following day and well off Simon Pagenaud’s established track record, Hunter-Reay’s lap stood as the fastest on the combined timesheet after the first day of on-track activity at Mid-Ohio in July 2017.

Hunter-Reay’s run in Practice 2 this year was with the new universal aero kit, widely known for its reduced downforce compared to the last three years.

The characteristics of the Dallara-sourced bodywork are especially apparent when comparing 2018 section times at Mid-Ohio with those from last year. Of the 15 timed sections at the 2.258-mile road course, Hunter-Reay’s current-spec car was faster in only four of them, adding up to a combined lap time of 1:05.1950 — 0.8989 seconds slower than his 2017 pace.

Notably, the quicker sectors were the straighter ones, pointing to the new aero kit’s ability to demonstrate faster straight-line speed than the old high-downforce package. On the brief run from the start-finish line to the end of the front straight, Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 Honda was 0.0224 seconds quicker than a year ago while the back straight, from the exit of Turn 2 to the entrance of Turn 3, was 0.1482 seconds quicker.

Hunter-Reay at speed during Mid-Ohio practice
The sections of Mid-Ohio uninterrupted by corners are the fastest with the debuting universal aero kit. | Photo: Gannon Burgett / The Apex

His car was also quicker than last year between Turns 3 and 4 as well as through Turn 10 — more of a kink than a proper turn. Every other section of the flowing Mid-Ohio layout was slower, owing to the new aero kit’s lack of downforce which necessitates slower cornering.

Overlooking the 12 turns at Mid-Ohio, better straight-line speed plus new PFC Brakes equated to faster trap speeds overall. Last year, the fastest speed recorded at the start-finish line was 139.384 mph. On Friday, Hunter-Reay’s teammate Marco Andretti sped past the flag stand at 140.076 mph, marking an improvement of 0.692 mph.

The difference was even more pronounced on the backstretch between Turns 2 and 4 with Sebastien Bourdais’ fastest speed this year at 180.574 mph, outpacing Pagenaud’s pace from one year ago by an impressive 10.048 mph.

The new aero kit has already produced some spectacular racing in 2018 and its different characteristics at road courses should contribute to a unique Honda Indy 200.

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