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Newbies learn Grand Prix of St. Petersburg course on fly

ST. PETERSBURG — Even with all of his vast experience in racing, Rubens Barrichello is in new territory this weekend.

The IndyCar Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is the first visit to the downtown streets for the Formula One veteran, so the Brazilian will be adapting to a new track as well as a new series.

Katherine Legge faces the same situation. The Englishwoman raced in Champ Car in 2006-07 and comes to IndyCar after four years in Europe.

Friday's practice times indicated both are still adjusting. Barrichello was 23rd of 26 entries after two sessions, and Legge was 26th.

They are the only two IndyCar drivers making their debut here. This type of course is an extra challenge because it's not possible to run test sessions on downtown streets.

Barrichello prepares by watching video and jotting down thoughts.

"It depends," Barrichello said. "If something catches my attention, it will go straight into my HD in my head. It's not to do with (racing) lines or anything."

The Brazilian had a mechanical problem in Friday morning's practice and ran only eight laps.

"I spent the afternoon session learning the track while everyone else was improving their cars," he said.

As for Legge, she got some technological help at home in preparing for the race here. Her fiance, Peter, built a simulator for the track.

"I probably did 800 to 1,000 laps on that the past few weeks," she said Thursday.

So did it help?

"It's not the same," Legge said Friday. "I think it's great. Don't get me wrong. It helps for knowing which corners are where, how fast they are.

"Look at Barrichello, ex-Formula One, awesome driver. A new track for him. I'm willing to bet money that he will be a lot better (today) because after you sleep on it — same with me — you make strides and the team will have made strides."

Barrichello faced his learning curve with a bit of humor: "I wrote on Twitter, 'It's a new school, new friends.' "

Newbies learn Grand Prix of St. Petersburg course on fly 03/23/12 [Last modified: Saturday, March 24, 2012 8:38pm]
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