Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser takes P1 in Indy Lights after first day at the fifth Annual Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test, as USF2000 champ Nico Jamin deposes O’Ward in Pro Mazda, and Lastochkin is three for three in USF2000.
Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires
Kyle Kaiser, driving for defending champion team Juncos Racing, was quickest among eight contenders from Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in action at Circuit of The Americas today.
The Californian, who partnered champion Spencer Pigot in the 2015 season, ended the day an encouraging 0.48sec ahead of this morning’s pacesetter Shelby Blackstock in the Andretti Autosport car.
“We are not racing here [in 2016] so it is not super crucial to be fastest but it’s fun,” said Kaiser, who finished sixth in the 2015 Indy Lights title-chase. “I am working with some new teammates so the team chemistry is a little different. Overall, it was a really good day. This is one of my favorite tracks and that’s the main reason I am here. It was a blast.”
Team owner Ricardo Juncos could also take satisfaction in the performances of Zachary Claman DeMelo, who is new to the Mazda Road To Indy having raced in Europe previously, and Jose Gutierrez who is graduating to Indy Lights after two years in Pro Mazda. The series rookies ended the day within a second of their teammate Kaiser in third and fourth.
Blackstock, who hung on to second-quick time said: “Everything we have tried in testing has been pretty fantastic so far. We are going through a long test plan list, and hopefully we can find some good things that will work even better. Obviously we are going to hit some speed bumps on the way but hopefully we can keep up the speed we have right now.”
Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires
Three different drivers from three different teams topped the charts in today’s three Pro Mazda sessions. Sixteen-year-old Mexican Patricio “Pato” O’Ward was quickest out of the box this morning for Team Pelfrey, but Juncos Racing’s Will Owen hit the front in the second session before reigning USF2000 champion proved his promise by grabbing top spot for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing in the final session.
Said Jamin: “It is good now to see how my pace is compared to the others. I worked all day with Cape Motorsports to try to figure out how to set up the car for this track. It was a bit of a struggle at the beginning but now we figured out the setup and finished with the best lap with quite a big gap so it was a great day.”
The gap he referred to was in fact a near-0.9second margin, with Juncos Racing filling positions P2 through P4. Will Owen was best of the trio, but he was only 0.1sec ahead of his teammates – Argentina’s Nicolas Dapero and Jake Parsons, from Australia, both of whom are newcomers to the Mazda Road To Indy.
Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda
Russia’s Nikita Lastochkin grabbed top spot in USF2000 this morning and never let go. The Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing came out of the box strongly this morning, topping the time charts which began on a wet but drying track. He continued that form throughout the day, to eventually take top spot by over one second.
“Today was actually quite great,” said Lastochkin. “We started the day with a wet track and I just focused on improving every time I was in the car. Each time I went out, I wanted to do better. It felt really good because I haven’t been doing much testing or anything since [the 2015 season finale at] Mazda Raceway so to come out and know that I still have it is a good feeling.”
Cape Motorsports teammate TJ Fischer, from Vacaville, Calif., who has raced this year in European Formula Renault 2.0, posted the second fastest time edging 14-year-old Mexican newcomer Andres Gutierrez (John Cummiskey Racing), whose older brother Jose has raced for the past two seasons in Pro Mazda.
The top five were completed by USF2000 veteran Garth Rickards (Pabst Racing) and a trio of rookies comprising Australian Formula Ford 1600 Champion Cameron Hill (JDC MotorSports), Canadian Chase Pelletier (Team Pelfrey) and Kyle Kirkwood (Afterburner Autosport.
Testing will continue on Sunday for all three MRTI categories.