New Orleans, La. – Heavy thunderstorms forced a condensed schedule and then caused the second race to be canceled altogether when the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires paid its first-ever “regular” season visit to NOLA Motorsports Park for the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Louisiana. Through it all, Uruguayan rookie Santiago Urrutia displayed an astonishing turn of pace as he took the lead at the start in the lone 20-minute race and held on to win in just his third Pro Mazda start.
The race, which was postponed from yesterday and eventually saw the green flag at 8:00 am this morning, produced a stunning performance from Urrutia, 18, who pounced on pole-sitting Malaysian Weiron Tan on the first lap, then controlled the pace to score an accomplished victory for Team Pelfrey.
Urrutia had arrived in North America this season virtually unheralded after competing in the European F3 Open and GP3 over the past few years, but he used that experience to excellent effect as he stormed into the lead on Lap One. The move earned him the RePlay XD Move of the Race Award. Tan (Andretti Autosport), who won races last year in the German Formula 3 series and led the way in one of the three Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Winterfest pre-season mini-series races at NOLA in February, was obliged to tuck in behind.
Tan kept the pressure on Urrutia in the diabolical conditions but could never quite get close enough to attempt to regain the lead and had to settle for second.
Frenchman Timothe Buret drove well for Juncos Racing to finish third ahead of Urrutia’s impressive Mexican teammate Pato O’Ward, the youngest driver in the field at just 15, who set the fastest lap of the race before settling for fourth. Frenchman Florian Latorre, who won the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and a MAZDASPEED scholarship to graduate into Pro Mazda, the next step on the acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy, qualified third for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing but slipped back to a distant fifth by the finish, ahead of teammate and championship points leader Neil Alberico.
Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport) claimed the Quartermaster Hard Charger Award after advancing four positions from 11th on the grid to seventh, while the PFC Award went to the winning car owner, Dale Pelfrey.
Race Two had been due to start at 11:30 but was canceled due to worsening weather conditions.
Next on the docket for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires competitors are a pair of races, once again in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series, at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., on April 24-26.
Santiago Urrutia (#81 Ancap/BSE/Ante/Corporacion de Maguinaria/AgroLavalle/Fadisol-Team Pelfrey): “I had a better start than Weiron and in the first corner, I tried to brake a little later than him on the outside and I was able to pass him. But he was quick, and he tried many times to overtake me but he wasn’t able to. The rain was really bad toward the end of the race; it was very difficult, especially since it was my first time driving this car in the rain. But it’s a really good start for me. I’m very happy to get a win in only my third Pro Mazda race. Team Pelfrey is doing a great job. We’re working really hard to get the results. The championship is so close, everyone is doing well. In qualifying, 11 cars were within one second. But we have many more races, so we have to keep going in this way.”