All Four Team Pelfrey Drivers Claim Top-10 Finishes in Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Openers
Palmetto, Fla. (March 31, 2015) – Team Pelfrey was well-represented this weekend as the Mazda Road to Indy, which offers “scholarships” for drivers to progress all the way from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, kicked off its season on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., just a few miles from the team’s base in Palmetto. Santiago “Santi” Urrutia and Patricio “Pato” O’Ward both earned top-four finishes from the opening rounds of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, while Garth Rickards, Nikita Lastochkin, Ayla Agren and Luke Gabin all finished among the top 10 in at least one of the two races on the first step of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Urrutia, 18, from Miguelete, Uruguay, played a starring role in the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg for Pro Mazda. After a bold pass of front-row qualifier Daniel Burkett on Lap 2 of the opening race on Saturday, Urrutia maintained second place throughout the half-hour contest to conclude his debut with a well-earned visit to the podium. Teammate O’Ward, originally from Monterrey, Mexico, and now a resident of San Antonio, Texas, ran as high as third before being involved in an incident and settling for a fourth-place finish.
O’Ward wasn’t so fortunate in Race Two on Sunday, forced out by a first-lap accident, but Urrutia continued to impress by making another excellent start and finishing just off the podium in fourth. Urrutia is placed second in driver points following the first weekend of the 16-race season, while Team Pelfrey lies second in the Team standings.
The Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg USF2000 races did not begin well for Team Pelfrey as Gabin, from Perth, Australia, was involved in a multi-car accident at the first corner of the opening race. His teammates all managed to escape the carnage, with Rickards ultimately finishing sixth, while Agren and Lastochkin rounded out the top 10.
Rickards continued to head the team’s challenge in Race Two on Sunday, rising from ninth on the grid to seventh before being involved in a heavy accident while challenging Canadian karting star Parker Thompson for sixth. Gabin, who earned his opportunity with the team by virtue of winning the 2014 Skip Barber Racing Championship shootout and a MazdaMotorsports.com scholarship, headed teammates Lastochkin and Agren during the ensuing full-course caution, whereupon Lastochkin executed a pass shortly after the restart to finish eighth, with Gabin and Agren in hot pursuit.
Both Pro Mazda and USF2000 teams will continue their seasons in two weeks’ time, April 10-12, at NOLA Motorsports Park, just a few miles from downtown New Orleans, once again in support of the Verizon Indycar Series.
WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID:
Santiago “Santi” Urrutia (#81 Team Pelfrey/Ancap/BSE/Antel/Corporacion de Maquinaria/AgroLavalle/Fadisol) – Race One, started third, finished second; Race Two, started fourth, finished fourth: “I really enjoyed my Mazda Road to Indy debut, and to get a second and fourth represents great points for the championship. After this weekend, I understand how important qualifying is in this series, and that will be an area we will be focusing on improving. Really looking forward to NOLA as the team performed well there in WinterFest. I have to thank Team Pelfrey, my partners and the love from my family for making all of this possible.”
Patricio “Pato” O’Ward (#82 Team Pelfrey/Octane Energy Drink/POW Motorsports) – Race One, started sixth, finished fourth; Race Two, started eighth, finished 14th: “It was a rough start to the 2015 season. It was my first time in a street course and my fourth time in the Pro Mazda car. We were progressing and kept improving but unfortunately had a bad qualifying session which put us in a tough position to start. Race One we had amazing pace until I made contact with third place which bent my left-front wheel and I started to struggle to keep up the pace. Race Two I had an incident in Turn Four which put me out of the race. I have learned from my mistakes and will get better and better during the season. I can’t wait for the next race to turn this disappointment in myself around and get some momentum back. Thanks to Team Pelfrey for this opportunity and for believing in me. Now it’s time for me to give back everything that they have given me!”
Nikita Lastochkin (#80 Team Pelfrey/RM Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started 10th, finished 10th; Race Two, started 12th, finished eighth: “It was not a bad weekend all things considered. There were changes made to my car after Winterfest which led to problems in the braking system. It took us a while to get it sorted out, and we pretty much finished our second race where we should have started on Friday morning. I’m happy to being able to avoid the wrecks in both races and look forward to NOLA.”
Ayla Agren (#81 Team Pelfrey/Energima/Women’s Sports Foundation Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started 13th, finished ninth; Race Two, started 13th, finished 10th: “So happy that the season has finally started. With the opening race being in St. Pete it was a home race for both Team Pelfrey and myself. And with it being my first time on a street course, it could not have been a better place to start. With a ninth and 10th finish we had a decent start to the year, and just have to build on that and gain the experience we need to get the results we want.”
Luke Gabin (#82 Team Pelfrey/MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started 11th, finished 17th; Race Two, started 11th, finished ninth: “The St Pete GP was an awesome opener for the season. It was so much fun to race between the walls for the first time. I learned a ton, the racing was superb and the atmosphere was incredible . The results weren’t spectacular but we’re just at the beginning of what is going to be an incredible journey for the #82 Mazdaspeed car. I can’t thank Mazda enough for this opportunity.”
Garth Rickards (#83 Team Pelfrey/Rahal Automotive Group/Snap 21 Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started sixth, finished seventh; Race Two, started ninth, finished 15th: “It was really exciting to get things kicked off this weekend. We struggled a bit in the beginning but we definitely figured it out and got our feet under us. We were having a great race in Race Two and were moving through the field quickly. Unfortunately I got taken out from behind and damaged the car and my ankle. I am focused on getting healed up and cleared from the doctors so I can be back in the car at NOLA. I just feel bad for my guys because they work so hard and they deserve good results.”