Team Pelfrey’s Four Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Drivers All Claim Top-10 Results
New Orleans, La. (April 13, 2015) – Some dramatic weather caused a variety of disruptions when the Verizon IndyCar Series and two steps on the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder made their debut at NOLA Motorsports Park, where one of the most impressive performances was turned by Team Pelfrey’s Santi Urrutia. The youngster from Miguelete, Uruguay showed his performance in the first two rounds of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires two weeks ago at St. Petersburg, Fla., was no flash in the pan by scoring a magnificent victory in diabolical conditions at the 2.74-mile, 13-turn permanent road course situated just a few miles from downtown New Orleans. Mexican teammate Pato O’Ward also impressed, posting the fastest lap of the race en route to a fourth-place finish, while all four of Team Pelfrey’s charges in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda returned home with a top-10 finish to their names.
The Pro Mazda competitors had to contend with a series of disruptions, with Race One being postponed from Saturday until 8:00 a.m. on Sunday due to thunderstorms and their second race being canceled altogether due to worsening conditions.
It didn’t matter to Urrutia. The 18-year-old made a superb start from second on the grid, ousting pole-sitter Weiron Tan at the first, then held off the attentions of the Malaysian to score a well-deserved maiden victory. Urrutia’s performance was all the more remarkable for the fact he did not contest the Cooper Tires Winterfest mini-series earlier in the year at NOLA.
O’Ward also had the bit between his teeth, passing last year’s USF2000 champion Florian Latorre on Lap Four and earning an additional championship point for posting the fastest lap of the race as he chased after Frenchman Timothe Buret.
The USF2000 competitors at least were able to enjoy their full quota of action, even though both races were cut from 30 minutes to 20. Race One was held under increasingly threatening skies but in dry conditions on Saturday afternoon. Gabin was Team Pelfrey’s best finisher, starting ninth and finishing eighth, although that tells only part of the story. The Australian slipped back to 11th in mid-race, then profited when two cars made contact on the final lap and teammate Rickards, running 10th, also was forced off-track to avoid the incident. Agren and Lastochkin completed the top 10.
Sunday’s Race Two was held in heavy rain and again saw the Team Pelfrey contingent embroiled in drama. Rickards looked set for a top-five finish until making a mistake with three laps remaining, dropping him back to eighth, while Agren, Lastochkin and Gabin (right) all suffered spins which restricted them to 11th, 12th and 14th, respectively.
The entire Mazda Road to Indy, comprising USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights will return to action, once again in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series, in two weeks’ time, April 24-26, at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.
WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID:
Santiago “Santi” Urrutia (#81 Team Pelfrey/Ancap/BSE/Antel/Corporacion de Maquinaria/AgroLavalle/Fadisol Pro Mazda) – Started second, finished first: “We had to learn the track from scratch so we weren’t all that quick (early in the weekend). And then in qualifying we did a good job with P2. I’m really happy with the race in the rain, where I was able to overtake Weiron Tan and then kept the lead the whole race. I’m so happy for my first win in the U.S. and I have to thank Mazda, Team Pelfrey and my sponsors for their support. This is just the beginning, we have a long way to go still.”
Patricio “Pato” O’Ward (#82 Team Pelfrey/Octane Energy Drink/POW Motorsports Pro Mazda) – Started fifth, finished fourth: “The weekend went pretty well. We started off the weekend with top-three finishes in the two practice sessions. When it came to qualifying I pushed the car too much and made a couple of mistakes but then put my head down and made some pretty good laps. The race was under very difficult circumstances. The track had zero visibility and was extremely wet. I was starting fifth and made my way up to fourth, attacking for third with quickest lap time. So, overall, great job from the team, and I am definitely ready for Barber in two weeks.”
Ayla Agren (#81 Team Pelfrey/Energima/Women’s Sports Foundation Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started 11th, finished ninth; Race Two, started 12th, finished 11th: “We made pretty good improvements through the event, so I’m happy we made progress. We still have some work to do, but with another P10 finish we are getting closer. For Race Two the rain we had been expecting finally fell, and it was a good experience to drive on a fully wet track. I’m looking forward to be back on track at Barber in two weeks with Team Pelfrey in the #81 car!”
Luke Gabin (#82 Team Pelfrey/MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started ninth, finished eighth; Race Two, started ninth, finished 14th: “A really good weekend for me at NOLA. Our progression was great. We are now really close to the top five. We still have to iron out a few issues that we faced during the races but overall I’m extremely pleased with our pace throughout the weekend.”
Garth Rickards (#83 Team Pelfrey/Rahal Automotive Group/Snap 21 Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started 12th, finished 11th; Race Two, started sixth, finished eighth: “It was a very interesting weekend to say the least. It took longer than we liked to get the car dialed in to where I like it. To go along with that the track conditions were different every time we went out. Overall we found some good pace and I had strong runs in both races. Race One we were going to have a top-10 but I was forced to take action on avoiding an incident right in front of me and it bumped me back to 11th. The good news was that my fast lap moved me up to sixth for Race Two. I made it up to fourth in my first full rain race before I made a rookie mistake with about three laps to go and finished eighth. Overall I just need to qualify better and put a full race together. My guys deserve a good result and I’m determined to be at the front.”