RC Enerson reminded everyone at Phoenix International Raceway that while promising rookies have stolen headlines this off-season, an Indy Lights veteran can still show the way.
The 18-year-old from Florida set his fastest time of the day (21.8721 / 168.214mph) in Session 2, and although Schmidt Peterson Motorsport teammates (and rookies) Santiago Urrutia and Andre Negrao edged closer in the third session, but still came up around 1mph short.
Enerson, who finished fourth in his rookie Lights season with one race win, confessed that SPM’s private test three days earlier was responsible for the team’s dominance in the 16-car field today.
He said: “We learned the track on Monday and were able to go flat out. Today we worked on qualifying setups and then spent most of our time running together as a group, trying to figure out what to do in traffic during the race. To be quickest was very encouraging.”
Despite missing P1 in the overall times, Pro Mazda champion Urrutia could at least be content with being fastest this afternoon at 21.9862 (167.341 mph).
He observed: “It’s a very physical track, but the setup of the car was good. Running with my teammates, it seemed as though it was very hard to pass. That will mean qualifying for the race will be very important.”
Ex-GP2 journeyman Andre Negrao, from Brazil, at 22.0128 admitted he was behind the eight ball learning ovals, but felt better by the end of the test.
“The team tested here on Monday, so today was my second time on an oval,” added Negrao. “It’s so quick here all the time. Coming from Europe, I have to learn the ovals. It’s all new but the team is perfect. They helped me so much.
“It’s so tricky and fast, but I was pretty calm and confident. After a while, the speed just becomes normal.”
Felix Serralles, from put Carlin Racing fourth, while Dean Stoneman headed Andretti Autosport’s three-car effort, fifth fastest on a 22.1039.
“I think we made great progress today,” said the Briton who was confirmed only on Wednesday. “The morning session was all about setup, getting the car to my liking and working to a qualifying-type format. It worked well and we were really on the pace.
“In the afternoon we were running in race trim which gave us a good idea where we would be. I’m starting to build a great relationship with my engineer and the Andretti team who have helped make my first oval experience extremely positive.”
Teammate Dalton Kellett glanced the Turn 2 wall in the only mishap of note today.
The teams now head for Barber Motorsports Park where they will join the Pro Mazda USF2000 contestants for Mazda Road to Indy Spring Training. Lights will run on March 5, while USF2000 and Pro Mazda will share the track on March 6 and 7.