Urrutia, Cunha, Kirkwood top Mazda Road To Indy tests
After four days of MRTI Spring Training at Homestead-Miami, Santi Urrutia, Carlos Cunha and Kyle Kirkwood emerged top of the Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 series respectively.
Just seven Indy Lights cars tested at Homestead – four Andretti Autosport, two Belardi Auto Racing and a solitary Juncos car, 10 days before the track action begins for Round 1 at St. Petersburg.
Urrutia (Belardi) was fastest on the road course today, while Ryan Norman (Andretti) topped the oval tests last Friday and then clocked second fastest on the road course.
Using three bursts of the push to pass boost (50hp), Urrutia was 0.44sec faster than Norman on the road course.
He commented: “We’ve been working on setup for St. Pete and we’re pretty good, though we need to fix some problems that showed up today.
“It’s going to be tough this year, because anyone can win the championship. You see from the times today that it’s going to be really tight. To win the championship you have to always be right there – win when you have the car to win, and if you don’t, be right there in the top-five.”
Norman said: “We’ve been here quite a few times during the off season and I was seven-tenths quicker today than I have been before. That’s due to a combination of having fast teammates and being able to look over their data and work together.
“I really didn’t have any expectations last year, I was just trying to learn and take it step by step. That approach worked in the long run, as did having a great team behind me and great engineers. That combination has really helped my confidence grow over the past year and I’m definitely ready to go for some wins.”
Norman’s AA teammates Pato O’Ward, Dalton Kellett and Colton Herta were third, sixth and seventh. The last two Pro Mazda champions Aaron Telitz (Belardi) and Victor Franzoni (Juncos) were fourth and fifth.
Three different drivers topped one or more of the six sessions in the new Tatuus PM18 before second-year Pro Mazda racer Carlos Cunha emerged top for champion team Juncos Racing. Cunha, who finished third in last year’s championship, set a 1m19.2017s average around the Homestead’s 2.21-mile road course, more than four seconds faster than last year’s time in the now obsolete Elan/Van Diemen/Crawford car.
The Brazilian commented: “I’m really happy, Juncos Racing is an amazing team. On track, we are always improving, never going backwards and that’s very good. We have tested a lot but we still need to learn a lot about the car, though we are almost to a perfect setup.
“The team has given me everything I need to be comfortable inside the car, to know what the car needs, and to know what I need to be a better driver. We have time to improve and we are moving forward quickly.”
Sting Ray Robb, 16, set second fastest time a 1m19.4s with new tires on his Team Pelfrey entry ahead of David Malukas (BN Racing), Rafael Martins (Pelfrey), and Exclusive Autosport’s Parker Thompson, who has graduated to Pro Mazda after finishing in the top three for the past two years in the USF2000 Championship.
Harrison Scott, reigning Euroformula Open champion, was sixth on what was his and his Italian-based RP Motorsport team’s first test in Pro Mazda.
Two more Juncos drivers, Robert Megennis and Rinus VeeKay, made it into the top eight despite new-car gremlins, ahead of Oliver Askew. The reigning USF2000 champion, driving for Cape Motorsports were said to be working on setups rather than chasing ultimate laptimes.
Rookie Kyle Kirkwood topped the 23 drivers who tested USF2000 cars at Homestead, the Cape Motorsports’ series rookie setting a fastest time of 1m23.7723s, to edge Rasmus Lindh’s best for Pabst Racing at 1:23.9236.
Kirkwood, who won last year’s U.S. Formula 4 championship with Cape, said: “I’m ecstatic. It’s great to do so well this weekend, especially against a team like Pabst who have an awesome track record and four drivers to compare data. We have a little bit of a disadvantage because we’re a one-car team but I’ve already built a relationship with Nicholas and Dominic Cape, the mechanics and the engineers, so actually I think we’re ahead of the game. The team is on a roll, so we’ll just try to keep that going.”
Lindh, a 16-year-old from Gothenburg, Sweden, was no less impressive, given that this will be his first season racing cars rather than karts.
He commented: “It takes some getting used to, going from a kart to a car. The brakes require much more pressure than a kart and you have to hold that pressure, so that’s new for me. I am used to moving my body in the kart to help the chassis, and I can’t move my body at all in the USF-17. I’m learning what the car’s limits are, as well as the limits of the tires.”
Lindh’s Pabst teammates Lucas Kohl, Kaylen Frederick and Calvin Ming, were third, fourth and sixth respectively, with DEForce’s Kory Enders as the interloper in fifth.
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