By Tony DiZinno
Friday for the Mazda Road to Indy at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway began as a day of “Vive le France,” with French drivers Nico Jamin and Timothe Buret winning the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires races, and another Frenchman in Florian Latorre bouncing back incredibly well in the Pro Mazda race to finish P2.
With the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series devoid of Frenchmen, an Englishman rounded out the day’s activity on top with Jack Harvey winning.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda Race #1
The 30-minute USF2000 Round 7 was a barnburner of an afternoon, featuring a last-lap pass for the win by Nico Jamin over Jake Eidson.
Although Jamin started on pole and won the race, his drive was anything but a straightforward flag-to-flag romp.
The race had barely started before contact occurred between Yufeng Luo and Luke Gabin, the fourth and fifth place starters, at Turn 1. Luo quickly resumed, albeit sans rear wing, and it put the race under the first full course caution.
The race resumed on Lap 3 with Jamin ahead of teammate Aaron Telitz, but not for long. Telitz tried an outside pass around Jamin to the outside of Turn 1, and while Jamin tried to defend to the inside, Telitz was able to make it through. In the process, Eidson also made it through on Jamin for second. Behind them, Nikita Lastochkin had a spin exiting Turn 6, which wiped out a quick start from seventh up to fifth. He was behind Anthony Martin in fourth at time of the spin.
By Lap 9, Jamin had finally got around Eidson for second, and was 4.5 seconds behind Telitz.
Telitz was in command for most of the race but his lead was wiped out on Lap 13, when contact between seventh and eighth-placed Parker Thompson and Keyvan Andres Soori left Soori without a front wing.
Telitz restarted in the lead on Lap 14 ahead of Jamin and Eidson, with Anthony Martin and Garth Rickards just behind.
Unfortunately for the Wisconsin native, being in the lead on the long straight caught him out. Each of the top three broke deep into Turn 1, with Telitz going through the grass and falling back to fifth. Eidson emerged with the lead with Jamin just behind.
Jamin stayed close enough though to have a shot going into the final lap, and seized his shot with a crossover move on the outside of Eidson exiting Turn 2. The Frenchman held onto the lead by 0.8414 of a second over Eidson, with Telitz able to rebound to third.
Martin ended fourth with Gabin in fifth. The MAZDASPEED-backed Australian led all four Team Pelfrey cars in succession down to eighth-placed Lastochkin, who made a nice comeback from his early-race spin.
After his third win of the year, Jamin said “the restart pole was the worst place to be,” given he lost the lead on the first restart. But he was glad to enjoy a clean battle throughout the race with Eidson, culminating in the last lap pass. He admitted the Thompson/Soori full-course caution was a major help.
Eidson continued his podium streak with his seventh in seven races, although this marked his first runner-up finish following four consecutive third-place finishes and two wins at St. Petersburg to open the year. He said he enjoyed the battle with Jamin, but called it a “bummer” to lose the race on the last lap.
Telitz agreed in noting that the leader here is a sitting duck on the restart. To get back to third after the one tough restart, Telitz said he forced some passes.
The full race #1 results are as follows:
|15||5||Keyvan Andres Soori||18|
The second USF2000 race of the weekend will take place at 10:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires Race #2
Timothe Buret finally translated his pace into his first career Pro Mazda victory with a win in Friday’s Round 7, the second race of the weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, driving for Juncos Racing.
He delivered an authoritative drive, flag-to-flag from pole position, en route to the win in what was a relatively calm race after two frantic USF2000 and Pro Mazda races earlier in the weekend.
As in the USF2000 race held earlier Friday, the race didn’t make it through the first lap without a full-course caution coming out. A pair of Expert class drivers collided in Turns 1 and 2, with Kevin Davis’ car climbing over the back of Carlos Conde’s car, and costing Conde his rear wing. Both drivers resumed.
The race restarted on Lap 3 and from there, Buret controlled the race over Florian Latorre, who started third and had immediately got around Santiago Urrutia on the first lap of the race.
Buret held off Latorre by the end of the 20-lap race by 0.7982 of a second. The win is not only Buret’s first, but also Juncos’ first of the season, and came a day after team owner Ricardo Juncos announced the team’s new facility in Speedway, Ind.
The battle behind the top two was intense, with Urrutia fighting off the advances of Thursday race winner Weiron Tan. The Uruguayan driver secured his fifth podium of the season.
In fifth, Victor Franzoni drove very well for M1 Racing to hold off a snarling pack of Juncos drivers – Garett Grist, Jose Gutierrez and Will Owen.
Prior points leader Neil Alberico struggled to 17th place on the day. Unofficially, Urrutia will take a seven-point lead over Alberico into Saturday’s third and final race of the weekend, with Buret jumping into third ahead of Tan.
After the race, Buret thanked Cooper Tires for consistent tires over the course of the race. He noted how he had a good start from pole, and then avoided Latorre being too close on the one restart so he could control the pace from there.
Latorre joked that flipping yesterday shouldn’t have been the impetus for having a better result today. But he was in good spirits, and made sure to thank his team, who worked through the night to repair and prep his car.
Urrutia said at times it was difficult to drive given the various downforce levels, but was otherwise happy to hold off Tan for the podium.
The full race #2 results are as follows:
The third Pro Mazda race of the weekend will take place at 12:15 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Race #1
Jack Harvey dominated Round 6 of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season, the Mazda Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires, for an authoritative first win of the season with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports.
Harvey, who crushed the field on road courses in the second half of 2014 with four wins combined at Mid-Ohio and Sonoma, led flag-to-flag from his second pole of the year to join Ed Jones and Spencer Pigot as race winners this year.
Harvey’s only mistake, if any, came with too big a jump on the initial start heading to the green flag. The 12-car field had one wave-off, but then went green on the second attempt.
Overall and up front, from pole, Harvey led from Sean Rayhall, who moved into second around Ed Jones on the opening circuit.
There was drama further down the field, and for a fourth consecutive race Kyle Kaiser was involved. On this Friday, the Californian was stuck with nowhere to go in-between Belardi Auto Racing teammates Felix Serralles and Juan Piedrahita; the two sandwiched Kaiser and spun him around, with too much damage to continue. However, the race continued without the need for a full-course caution.
Serralles was issued a drive-through for the avoidable contact, and later retired on Lap 24 after stopping on course in Turn 1. No full-course caution flew, much to the relief of Harvey and Rayhall up front.
On Lap 7, RC Enerson passed SPM teammate Scott Anderson for fifth place, which marked the last position change in the top-five over the final 24 laps.
Spencer Pigot rebounded from a poor start, falling from sixth on the grid down to ninth, but quickly got back around Ethan Ringel and Shelby Blackstock to rebound to seventh.
Ringel retired on Lap 17, citing mechanical issues.
Harvey and Rayhall led the way there, with Harvey’s gap to the young American anywhere from 1.5 to 4.5 seconds, ending with a final margin of victory of 4.7377 seconds after 30 laps.
Harvey now has a third, a second and a first in three Indy Lights starts on the IMS road course.
Behind the top two, the Carlin teammates enjoyed a good battle for the final podium position. Jones held off Max Chilton for third, although Jones said to IndyCar Radio after the race neither driver had push-to-pass.
Unofficially, Jones has 147 points, Pigot 146 and Harvey 145 after Round 6.
After the race, Harvey said it was pretty much a perfect day, although with so many good teams you have to keep improving to stay up front. Considering his pace on old tires, he feels he’s in a good position when he does go to new tires.
Rayhall said as soon as he got into second, it was a tough balance of determining when to push and when to conserve his tires to hold off the Carlin twins. But coming second in just his third race owed more credit to the 8Star Motorsports team, led by team manager Gary Neal and engineer Yves Touron, he said. Rayhall told Touron they needed to “make a big swing” at the setup overnight, and it worked with today’s results.
Jones said he didn’t fully maximize the car’s potential as he wasn’t in clean air. The push-to-pass loss, he said, was a big straight-line deficit on pace.
The full race #1 results are as follows:
The second Indy Lights race of the weekend will take place at 1:25 p.m. Saturday afternoon.
That concludes the Mazda Road to Indy’s activities on Friday. We thank you for reading and encourage you check back in for more on Saturday.