Will Power of Australia set the fastest time in the first practice session for the IndyCar race in Sao Paulo on Sunday.
Power, winner of all three previous races in Sao Paulo, had a lap time of one minute 21.852 seconds on the temporary Anhembi street circuit, edging out Josef Newgarden of the United States by 0.046 seconds. Sebastien Bourdais of France was third.
Helio Castroneves, the points leader and home-crowd favourite, was nearly a half-second behind Penske teammate Power in 10th place. Tony Kanaan, another local favourite, was sixth despite driving with an injured right hand that forced him to reduce his time on the track.
Simon Pagenaud of France crashed at the first chicane near the end of the session, badly damaging his car and putting his participation in the second session in doubt.
Drivers will return to the track for another practice session in the afternoon. Qualifying is later Saturday.
Power is in need of a good result in Brazil after struggling in the first three races of the year, leaving him eighth in the drivers’ standings. He hasn’t won in 14 races, since his victory in Sao Paulo last year.
"The beast is waking up, I told you guys," Castroneves said, referring to his teammate. "He is running well, but at least the enemy is nearby. Let’s see if we can improve."
Castroneves arrives in Brazil boosted by three consecutive top-10 finishes and the best start of his career. He remained confident despite the poor start during practice on Saturday.
"We had a different set-up than Will, so let’s see how it goes the rest of the weekend," he said. "I’m confident."
Both Penske drivers had problems at the end of the long back straight, locking wheels a few times.
"We got into some of the bumps there and that affected the front wheels. It was hard to make the turn, but we are working to fix it," Castroneves said.
Kanaan arrived in Brazil uncertain if he would handle the pain. He was hurt near the end of the Long Beach race two weeks ago. But the 38-year-old Brazilian was able to get on the track and drove well.
He said the hand "hurt a lot," so he decided to cut his session short.
"There was still some time left, but I asked the engineers to give me a break there at the end," he said.
Kanaan will participate in his 200th consecutive race if he starts Sunday, extending the second-longest run in the series. His KV Racing owner, Jimmy Vasser, holds the record with 211 consecutive races.
Takuma Sato, who won the Long Beach race, had the eighth fastest time.