Jamin, Askew, Keane top the three Mazda Road To Indy series at IMS
Nico Jamin, Oliver Askew and Darren Keane grabbed the fastest times for Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 respectively in the two-day open test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s road course.
Forty drivers turned a total of more than 5300 laps of the 2.439-mile road course in the Chris Griffis Memorial Test which featured Pro Mazda’s new spec car, the Tatuus PM-18.
The fastest Pro Mazda time proved just over four seconds slower than the fastest Lights time, and just over five seconds faster than the fastest USF2000 time. Unofficially, the PM-18 broke the Pro Mazda track record at the Speedway by almost three seconds.
Former Andretti Autosport driver Jamin, switching to reigning team champion Belardi Auto Racing, notched the fastest time overall, having taken top spot in three of the eight sessions. Another sophomore driver, Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta, was second quickest.
Reigning Pro Mazda champion Victor Franzoni was fastest of the newcomers in third, driving for Juncos Racing, mere hundredths off top spot.
“This is awesome,” he said Franzoni after his opening run. “The car is unbelievably fast. It is a huge difference from the [older] Pro Mazda to Indy Lights but it’s fun. I have a lot to learn and I’m excited.”
His fierce rival in Pro Mazda, Anthony Martin, and 2016 USF2000 champion, also got his first outing in a Lights car, and wound up some 0.8sec off the pace.
“It’s obviously a new car – bigger, faster and a lot more downforce,” he said, “so I’m adapting to it and growing up to it nice and slowly. There’s a lot of things that go into it and it’s a huge step up from Pro Mazda, so it’s definitely going to be a nice challenge for me.”
Rinus VeeKay made a strong impression with Belardi, too, having skipped the Pro Mazda step after finishing runner-up in this year’s USF2000 title race. He topped two Lights sessions and clocked fifth fastest overall.
1. Nico Jamin, Belardi Auto Racing, 1:15.7173
2. Colton Herta, Andretti Steinbrenner Racing, 1:15.7808
3. Victor Franzoni, Juncos Racing, 1:15.7953
4. Pato O'Ward, Team Pelfrey, 1:16.0900
5. Rinus Veekay, Belardi Auto Racing, 1:16.1419
6. Carlos Cunha, Juncos Racing, 1:16.1585
7. Nicolas Dapero, Juncos Racing, 1:16.2491
8. Ryan Norman, Andretti Autosport, 1:16.3285
9. Anthony Martin, Andretti Autosport, 1:16.5185
10. TJ Fischer, Team Pelfrey, 1:16.8124
11. Heamin Choi, Juncos Racing, 1:18.1931
Reigning USF2000 champion Oliver Askew (Cape Motorsports) and Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing) set the early pace in Pro Mazda with Askew topping the charts and Cunha finishing a scant .0635 seconds in arrears. All 11 entries were unofficially quicker than the current track record.
“It feels like home except I am going five seconds quicker (than in the USF2000 car),” said Askew. “It’s the same seat, the same cockpit but the engine is obviously tuned up a lot more so I am having an absolute blast. This is the fastest car I have ever driven in my life. It is a great experience.”
Cunha, who finished third for Pelfrey in this year’s Pro Mazda title fight, said of the PM-18: “It’s amazing, the new car is so fast. I think we are still so far from the real time we are going to do like in qualifying but the car is really fast and much, much better. I think it closed the gap to Indy Lights now.”
As well as Askew, five other drivers from the USF2000 ranks were testing the next step of the Mazda Road to Indy including Robert Megennis (Juncos), Calvin Ming (Pabst), David Malukas (BN), Kaylen Frederick (Pelfrey) and Parker Thompson (Exclusive) as well as newcomer Leonard Hoogenboom (BN Racing).
Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, said:“Following prototype testing of the new PM-18, I believed that we had a special racecar and this weekend’s testing confirms that. Based on team and driver comments, this is a fantastic racecar and I am very pleased with what Tatuus, Elite Engines and my team have assembled.
“It fits perfectly in between the USF-17 and the IL-15 in terms of lap times and, more importantly, it takes what a driver learns in the first step and introduces higher horsepower, higher grip and higher aero. This will be a great training car for years to come, and seeing our program now with three excellent and well-designed cars is very satisfying to me.”
1. Oliver Askew, Cape Motorsports, 1:19.8920
2. Carlos Cunha, Juncos Racing, 1:20.0236
3. Robert Megennis, Juncos Racing, 1:20.1268
4. Kaylen Frederick, Team Pelfrey, 1:20.2252
5. David Malukas, BN Racing, 1:20.2456
6. Nikita Lastochkin, Exclusive Autosport, 1:20.7001
7. Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport, 1:20.7340
8. Calvin Ming, Pabst Racing, 1:20.7373
9. Sting Ray Robb, Juncos Racing, 1:20.8357
10. Kris Wright, Team Pelfrey, 1:20.9930
11. Aaron Telitz, Team Pelfrey, 1:21.2144
12. Leonard Hoogenboom, BN Racing, 1:21.3173
Darren Keane of Newman Wachs Racing and rookie Andres Gutierrez for Pabst Racing set the bar in USF2000. Gutierrez reigned on Day 1 and Keane on Day 2 to set the post-season benchmark, with Keane taking top spot by over 0.4sec.
“Today was a really good day,” said Keane. “I am happy to be coming out of the weekend with the fastest lap. It’s a good boost in confidence for me heading into next year. I am really happy with how everything is going with the team.
“This is the best single-seater series that I have ever driven in and I think it is the best in the world with the ladder system and how everything works.”
Thirteen of the 18 drivers in the test were new to MRTI and fastest of these was Hunter McElrea in the Pabst car, 0.65sec off top spot but only 0.14sec behind teammate Gutierrez.
“It has been really awesome,” said McElrea, who has shone driving F1600 cars both in his native New Zealand and his adopted home in Australia. “It is my first time driving wings and slicks and being here at this track so it is a pretty big learning experience.
“I am racing with Pabst and it is awesome being with such a great team that have given me such a good car to learn in. It’s looking pretty good and it is great to be part of the Mazda Road to Indy. I want to go to IndyCar so obviously you start here.”
1. Darren Keane, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:25.1424
2. Andres Gutierrez, Pabst Racing, 1:25.5618
3. Callan O'Keeffe, BN Racing, 1:25.6295
4. Hunter McElrea, Pabst Racing, 1:25.7021
5. Rasmus Lindh, Team BENIK, 1:25.7791
6. Jacob Loomis, Team Pelfrey, 1:25.8514
7. Parker Thompson, Exclusive Autosport, 1:25.8743
8. Lucas Kohl, Pabst Racing, 1:25.9792
9. David Osborne, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:25.9996
10. Aaron Telitz, RJB Motorsports, 1:26.0042
11. Michael D'Orlando, Team Pelfrey, 1:26.2295
12. Jake Craig, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:26.2452
13. Elliott Finlayson, BN Racing, 1:26.3668
14. Jaden Conwright, Team BENIK, 1:26.4557
15. Max Peichel, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:26.5058
16. Myles Rowe, John Cummiskey Racing, 1:26.6004
17. Justin Gordon, Exclusive Autosport, 1:26.6460
18. David Osborne, Team Pelfrey, 1:26.6824
19. Sabre Cook, John Cummiskey Racing, 1:26.9362
20. Oscar DeLuzuriaga, Newman Wachs Racing, 1:27.7455
21. Justin Gordon, Exclusive Autosport, 1:27.7750
22. Zoey Edenholm, BN Racing, 1:28.5449
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