The stars of the Mazda Road to Indy series took to NOLA for a preseason test this past weekend.
The start of the 2014 racing calendar usually involves numerous test sessions to get rid of the offseason cobwebs, and such was the case at NOLA Motorsports Park.
The Cooper Tires Winterfest gives the Indy Lights, the Pro Mazda and USF2000 series a chance to get their drivers on track for test sessions and, in the Pro Mazda and USF2000 cars, a few race sessions.
The first part of Winterfest took place on February 21st and 22nd at NOLA Motorsports Park with the second part taking place on February 25th and 26th at Barber Motorsports Park.
The Indy Lights series had four test sessions over the course of two days at the Avondale, LA track with Gabby Chaves leading the way with a quick time of 1:27.612 seconds, averaging just a tick under 113 mph. Chaves was happy with his results and is hoping for more in 2014, as he stated his goals for a successful 2014 season:
The test also gave teams a chance to test their new drivers for 2014. Such was the case with Lloyd Read, driving for Bryan Herta Autosport partnered with Jeffrey Mark Motorsport.
Read got his seat with BHA after a successful test, as he explains,
“We set up a test at Putnam Park, a one day test and it went really well, we had a target time I had to make, we hit that target time and a little bit more.”
Read finished the session 8th out of 11 cars with a fastest lap of 11:29.274, 1.66 seconds off of Chaves’s time. The test was spent figuring out a new package on the car.
“We’ve got new dampers on the car, […] so we’re trying to figure out the tires and the dampers at the same time. It’s a little tricky but we’re making progress.”
Second fastest was Matthew Brabham for Andretti Autosport at 1:27.760 around the 2.75 mile track.
The Pro Mazda portion of the weekend involved two races, with race 1 being won by Spencer Pigot for Juncos Racing. Shelby Blackstock was second for Andretti Autosport and Kyle Kasiser was third, also driving for Juncos Racing.
Grist was rookie of the year in 2013 for the USF2000 championship and won at Mid-Ohio, so he moved up to the Pro Mazda championship in 2014. He has high expectations for 2014.
“I’d like to win the championship, if I can’t win the championship I’d like to be rookie of the year.”
The fastest Pro Mazda time of the weekend went to Pigot with a 1:32.061 lap in the second practice session.
USF2000 had three races during the course of the Winterfest, and all three were won by different drivers.
Enerson followed up his third in race one with a victory in race two, while Franzoni finished second and Jake Eidson rounded out the podium driving for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.
The third race of the Winterfest was won by Clark Toppe, driving for JDC Motorsports. Eidson finished second and Michael Epps finished third, driving for Belardi Auto Racing.
The comeback of the Winterfest belonged to Australian Scott Andrews. After being involved with an incident on the first lap of the first race, he came back to finish a strong fourth in the second and third race. He offered his take on what makes for a fast car around NOLA Motorsports Park,
“You really want stability and you want a car that comes off the corner really well,” Andrews said.
The 2014 Cooper Tires Winterfest continues at Barber Motorsports Park.