JUPITER, Fla. – official series release — Indy Lights photo —
If the drivers’ comments following the first test of the new Mazda MZR-R-powered Dallara IL-15 are anything to go by, this year’s Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season is likely to be a barn-burner.
A total of eight drivers representing five teams took part in the two-day test on Tuesday and Wednesday at the 2.034-mile Palm Beach Int’l Raceway in Jupiter, Fla., and all were ecstatic about the pace, consistency and reliability of the new car which will make its race debut on the streets of St. Petersburg on March 28-29.
At the conclusion of the first day the top four drivers and teams were separated by a hair over two tenths of a second. The top two drivers from last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires were the initial pacesetters, with second-place finisher Scott Hargrove, driving for Enzo Potolicchio’s impressive 8Star Motorsports team, edging out series champion Spencer Pigot (Juncos Racing) by a scant .0643 of a second. Hargrove’s best time on the opening day after completing 46 trouble-free laps was 1:06.8606.
Felix Serralles, making his return to the U.S. scene after competing in the FIA European Formula 3 Championship the past few years, also was right in the mix for the 2014 Indy Lights championship-winning team, Belardi Auto Racing, at 1:06.9886, followed by R.C. Enerson, who has joined Schmidt Peterson Motorsports after finishing second in last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, at 1:07.0624.
The teams had much to do sorting out the attractive new Dallara IL-15 chassis, the turbocharged 2.0-liter Mazda MZR-R engine and the latest specification Cooper tires. Only 8Star Motorsports and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports had any prior experience with the car – at an entrant test day at Palm Beach last month – so progress was rapid and consistent.
Under cloudy skies today, the teams completed a combined total of 563 laps (on top of the 494 yesterday), and although ultimate lap times were not the goal for most of the teams, rookie Kyle Kaiser claimed bragging rights by posting the fastest lap of the test late Wednesday afternoon at 1:05.2689 for Juncos Racing.
“The car is super-fast. I really enjoy driving it. I started off just getting acclimated and finding the limits of the car,” said Kaiser. “The faster and faster I go, I find the more I can push the car. I just really enjoy driving it. Everything is faster. You have more brakes, more grip, more downforce – everything is just improved.
“The tires have been handling great. On the new tires, we have been finding almost over a second. They have a lot more grip and are pretty consistent.”
Hargrove ended the day second quickest at 1:05.5041, followed by Spencer Pigot (1:05.6357) and Englishman Jack Harvey (1:05.9281), who finished tied on points with last year’s champion Gabby Chaves, losing out only on a tie-breaker. The past two days was focused almost exclusively on development testing for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
CREDIT: Indy Lights