CONOR DALY QUICKEST IN STAR MAZDA SECOND PRACTICE AT ST. PETE -- MOVES UP FROM 8TH IN THE MORNING TO LEAD A 5-CAR PARADE INTO THE 1:10S Grand Prix of St. Petersburg/Friday, March 26 -- Bringing to mind the old saying about cream always rising to...
CONOR DALY QUICKEST IN STAR MAZDA SECOND PRACTICE AT ST. PETE -- MOVES UP FROM 8TH IN THE MORNING TO LEAD A 5-CAR PARADE INTO THE 1:10S
Grand Prix of St. Petersburg/Friday, March 26 -- Bringing to mind the old saying about cream always rising to the top, American Conor Daly jumped to the top of the time sheets in the Friday afternoon practice session for the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear at [IMAGE]the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He wasn't the first driver to break into the 1:10s -- that honor went to French racer Tristan Vautier, winner of last weekend's season-opener at Sebring -- but Daly, the son of racing legend Derek Daly, laid down a best-of-session lap of 1:10.656 (91.712 mph) in his #22 Juncos Racing / INDECK / College Network / Merchant Services Ltd. / Tom Lange Co. Mazda. Daly won from the pole at New Jersey last season, and finished 3rd in the championship. Vautier, also second-quick in the morning session on a damp track, was just .120-sec behind with a lap of 1:10.776 (91.556 mph) in the #38 Andersen Racing / Moulin TP / Cecibon / Circuit du Laquais Mazda.
It's worth noting that the 5th-fast time in the afternoon session was still a second quicker than the fast time of the morning session; Anders Krohn's 1:11.798.
"We were just a little off in the morning session; the setup wasn't quite right, we were in the wrong place in traffic and put on the new tires at the wrong time," said Daly. "But the Juncos team focused on the afternoon and we got it all right. We made some major changes in mid-session and they worked really well and I'm starting to really like this track and figure out the fast way around. We're all pushing pretty hard, but there might be a 1:09 on the table for qualifying tomorrow. And for sure, with so many fast guys so close together, the race itself is going to be something to see."
Third in the 10-crowd was Quebec racer Mikael Grenier, 7th-fast in the morning session, with a lap of 1:10.869 (91.436 mph) in the #17 Andersen Racing / NAPA Auto Parts / CAA-Quebec/HS Telecom Mazda. Rounding out the top-5 were Englishman Richard Kent with a 1:10.904 (91.391 mph) in the #33 Team GDT / Traka Mazda and Venezuelan Jorge Goncalvez, fresh off a strong 2nd-place finish at Sebring, with a 1:10.976 (91.298 mph) in his #9 Team Apex / Wabash Capital Investments Mazda. Scandinavian racer Anders Krohn, the pole-sitter at Sebring and quickest in the morning, slipped to 6th with a 1:11.377 (90.786 mph) in the #47 Andersen Racing / Norse Cutting & Abandonment / Trallfa / Colosseum Mazda.
MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder scholarship winner Connor De Phillippi slipped from 6th fast in morning to 9th in the afternoon with a lap of 1:11.595 (90.509 mph) in the #11 JDC Motorsports / MAZDASPEED Motorsports / Skip Barber Mazda and the quickest of the trio of local drivers was again St. Petersburg College student Nick Andries. He was 11th-fast in the morning and 11-fast again in the afternoon with a lap of 1:11.852 (90.185 mph) in the #81 Andersen Racing / Team Pelfrey / Andersen RacePark Mazda. Sounds like little progress until you consider his morning time was a 1:13.574, almost two seconds slower... and this from a driver making his first-ever Star Mazda start.
With a 16th-fast lap of 1:12.660 (89.182 mph), the quickest Expert Series (drivers 30-44 years old) racer was Irishman/Californian Patrick O'Neill, making his first start of the season in the #64 / JDC Motorsports / O'Neill Construction Mazda.... also about two seconds faster than his morning time. The fastest Master Series (drivers 45 and older) driver, dropping two seconds from his morning time with a 22nd-fast lap of 1:14.887 (86.530 mph) was Puerto Rico racer Carlos Conde in the #31 Team GDT / Pronto-GMT / Olympus Securities Mazda.