New recruits Pipo Derani and Dalton Kellett both performed well after overcoming some mechanical gremlins on Friday.
NEW ORLEANS, LA. – Team Pelfrey’s 2014 season began this weekend with the first two of four races that will comprise the Cooper Tires Winterfest for Pro Mazda at NOLA Motorsports Park. New recruits Pipo Derani and Dalton Kellett both performed well after overcoming some mechanical gremlins on Friday, with Derani confirming his promise during a fine run to third place the following afternoon.
An intense effort by the Team Pelfrey crew brought dramatic improvement beginning with the first race on Friday afternoon. Kellett, from Stouffville, Ont., Canada, jumped into sixth at the start and maintained his position throughout the 18-lap race. Derani, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, was obliged to start the race in the team’s backup car, despite which he made excellent progress to finish hot on the heels of his teammate.
That promise was continued into Race 2 on Saturday afternoon. Derani, back aboard his regular car, made a sensational start to vault from sixth to second, where he remained until losing a position on the final lap. Kellett also displayed good pace, finishing eighth and posting a best lap just 0.6 second adrift of race winner Garett Grist.
"The weekend started off rough and ended well,” said Team Pelfrey Team Manager Nigel Tuckey. “We had some issues and rebounded strongly. The guys had a long night on Friday to switch cars and then put a new engine in, and Saturday was great. We got to run the cars without any problems in the morning practice and made some progress through the day, culminating in a good podium finish. All in all, a good start to the season.”
Derani currently lies fifth in the points and Kellett seventh. The four-race mini-series – a first for Pro Mazda – will conclude on Tuesday and Wednesday, February 25/26, with another pair of races at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.
Pipo Derani (#81 Team Pelfrey/Alan Lewis Consulting) – Race 1: started 13th, finished seventh; Race 2: started sixth, finished third: “I think we made a very good improvement because we hardly did any running in testing and qualifying, so I went into the first race with a car that was not mine and without the right setup. It was hard starting from last and not knowing the track and getting up to speed in the first race, but I think we made good progress. From where we were, two sessions behind everybody else, I think we did a good job in Race 2. It was a bit of a pity where I lost a place on the last lap. I braked on the dirty part of the track and my rear (brakes) just locked, but this happens and we learn from it. I’ll make sure I won’t make the same mistake again!”
Dalton Kellett (#80 Pelfrey Performance/K-Line Insulators USA, Inc.) – Race 1: started ninth, finished sixth; Race 2: started seventh, finished eighth: “I was definitely pretty happy with the first race. It wasn’t a bad showing considering that qualifying didn’t go as planned. I was a little bit unlucky in the second race, when I was held up by another car at the start and lost a position. I just need to work on getting up to pace a little bit quicker and we should be in good shape for the next races at Barber.”