English Newcomers Shine on Mazda Road to Indy Debut
St. Petersburg, Fla. – United Arab Emirates-based Englishman Ed Jones continued this afternoon where he left off yesterday by dominating Race Two of the Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Peninsula Pipeline. The rookie made an exemplary start from the pole for the Carlin team and led throughout the 45-lap race to maintain his unbeaten record in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.
Fellow Briton Jack Harvey chased gamely in second place for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian, while Floridian Spencer Pigot, who has moved up to Indy Lights after winning last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and a MAZDASPEED scholarship prize, finished third to complete a strong first weekend on the top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder for himself and Juncos Racing by holding off race-long pressure from Max Chilton (Carlin).
A large crowd and perfect weather conditions greeted the Indy Lights field for their feature race of the weekend, which was interrupted by just a very brief caution period after the Schmidt Peterson car of local driver RC Enerson, from New Port Richey, Fla., disappointingly ground to a halt after four laps.
For the first 20 laps, Jones had to contend with persistent pressure from Harvey, who must be tired of finishing second after losing the 2014 championship to Gabby Chaves on a tie-break and then claiming second again on Saturday. Jones then posted what was to stand as the fastest lap of the race, a 1:06.866, on Lap 21, and never looked back. His eventual margin of victory was a commanding 9.0708 seconds.
The battle for the final podium position was rather more entertaining. Pigot made another stellar getaway, this time from fifth on the grid, to move into third on the first lap, earning himself the Replay XD Move of the Race Award, while Chilton went in the opposite direction, falling from second to fourth. The Englishman spent the remainder of the race trying to redress the balance. He did manage to sneak past Pigot once, under braking for Turn One just four laps from the end, only for Pigot to execute a perfect over-under maneuver and reclaim the place, which he held to the end.
Kyle Kaiser drove another sensible race in a second Juncos Racing Dallara-Mazda to secure fifth ahead of a titanic battle between former USF2000 champions Scott Hargrove (8Star Motorsports) and Matthew Brabham (Andretti Autosport). Hargrove was obliged to defend stoutly in the closing stages, and while Brabham briefly found a way through in Turn One, he, like Chilton, was unable to make the pass stick. A frustrated Brabham had to settle for seventh.
The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires field will return for more street course action in Long Beach, Calif., on April 19.
Ed Jones (#11 Toys for Boys Miami/United Rivers-Carlin): “The car was great throughout the race. It was the longest race I’ve ever done but it felt quicker than yesterday’s race somehow. I just had to focus, keep pushing and not make any mistakes. What won the race for us was consistency, making sure I took care of the tires. But it’s all come down to the hard work and dedication the team and I have done through the past few months. The preparation for this race was massive; we did so much work so that when we got out on the track, we would be fast straightaway. I studied older on-boards, YouTube videos, made my own notes and visualized the track so that when I got here, it was almost like I’d driven it a hundred times. But it is a different kind of race for me, to be on a street circuit with concrete walls all around!”