Rickards and Agren Equal Their Best Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Finishes at Mid-Ohio
PALMETTO, Fla. (August 4, 2015) – A hectic and successful weekend saw Team Pelfrey successfully contesting a total of eight races among three series at two different circuits. The Mazda Road to Indy visited the Mid-Ohio-Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, for two more rounds of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, in which Team Pelfrey’s Santi Urrutia earned his third win of the season, as well as three races counting toward the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda which saw Garth Rickards and Ayla Agren equal their best results to date. Meanwhile, a few hundred miles to the east at the Pittsburgh International Race Complex, English teenager Jordan Cane won two of the three races which comprised Round Five of the F1600 Formula F Championship Series.
Urrutia, 18, from Miguelete, Uruguay, began the weekend with a 27-point advantage in his quest for a MAZDASPEED scholarship to assist in graduation to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2016. After posting a solid fourth-fastest time in qualifying, Urrutia moved into second place at the start of Saturday’s race behind title rival and race leader Neil Alberico. A few laps later, Alberico, who started second, was adjudged to have jumped the start and instructed to cede his position to Urrutia, who duly maintained his advantage to secure his third win of the year.
Sixteen-year-old Pato O’Ward, from Monterrey, Mexico, wasn’t able to extend his sequence of three podium finishes but he did make good progress, rising from 10th on the grid to seventh, while English teammate Raoul Owens jumped initially from 14th to 11th before fading to 13th at the checkered flag.
Race Two on Sunday morning saw Alberico take the win over Frenchman Timothe Buret, although another strong third-place finish for Urrutia enabled him to stretch his points lead to 29 over Alberico with only two races remaining. Buret has now moved into third, 47 points adrift, having overtaken Malaysian Weiron Tan, who has slipped from second to fourth.
Team Pelfrey remains in contention for the Team Championship, trailing Juncos racing by only 20 points, 355-335, with a total of 80 points still available from the final two races.
The first of three USF2000 races, held on Friday afternoon, ended prematurely for the unfortunate Rickards, who was unable to capitalize on his season-best qualifying position, fifth, due to an incident with teammate Gabin on Lap 4. Gabin went on to finish eighth, while Agren, who also posted her best qualifying effort to date, starting seventh, slipped back to 10th, narrowly ahead of Nikita Lastochkin in a fourth Team Pelfrey Van Diemen-Mazda.
Race Two on Saturday morning was more productive, with Rickards and Agren equaling their best finishes to date in fifth and sixth. Gabin took the checkered flag hot on their heels in seventh, with Lastochkin not too far behind in 10th.
Rickards and Gabin chased fellow rookie, Canadian Parker Thompson, for most of the final race of the weekend, on Saturday evening, before Gabin managed to find a way through into sixth at a restart with just two laps remaining. Rickards lost a couple of positions to finish eighth, while Lastochkin relieved Agren of 10th during a dramatic final lap.
The Pro Mazda and USF2000 seasons will wrap up with two more rounds at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca road course in Monterey, Calif., on September 11-13.
WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID:
Raoul Owens (#80 Team Pelfrey/Brightspark Ventures Pro Mazda) – Race One, started 14th, finished 13th; Race Two, started 13th, finished 13th: “This weekend was very challenging. I was confident I could achieve a good result and pick up where I left off at Toronto and leave Iowa behind. During practice I made good progress but qualifying didn’t go as planned and I started 13th. I’ve started from near the back a few times this season but have managed to come through and score some good points but this weekend I wasn’t able to do the same. I’m looking ahead to finish the season on a high.”
Santiago “Santi” Urrutia (#81 Team Pelfrey/Ancap/BSE/Antel/Corporacion de Maquinaria/AgroLavalle/Fadisol Pro Mazda) – Race One, started fourth, finished first; Race Two, started third, finished third: “It was a fantastic weekend where we all had to work very, very hard to achieve our win and third place. That’s because this season has been unbelievably competitive, and if you want to win in Pro Mazda, it takes a lot of hard work and togetherness between driver and team. I am so fortunate to have this group around me. But the approach doesn’t change; we go to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca where we have to be at our best to achieve positive results. As always, thank you to my fans, my sponsors and to my family for all of their love and support.”
Patricio “Pato” O’Ward (#82 Team Pelfrey/Octane Energy Drink/POW Motorsports Pro Mazda) – Race One, started 10th, finished seventh; Race Two, started 10th, finished sixth: “The weekend did not go as expected. I had a very bad qualifying session and that pretty much set up the final result due to being very difficult to pass in this track. I made some good passes during both races and I at least gained some positions and added some valuable championship points which still puts me fifth in the standings. I’m already focused for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to get the maximum out of me and the car.”
Ayla Agren (#81 Team Pelfrey/Energima/BVR/Alt I Asfalt/Salming Hockey/KNA/CoForce/Women’s Sports Foundation Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started seventh, finished 10th; Race Two, started sixth, finished sixth; Race Three, started sevnth, finished 11th: “Coming back to Mid-Ohio is always nice, it’s a great track where we’ve got lots of good memories. With that said this last weekend was not what I had hoped it would be in terms of results. The positive side of this weekend was that we showed decent pace in practice, and in Race Two we matched the times of the drivers up front which was really encouraging. Now it’s on to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, trying to make that gap smaller and smaller!”
Luke Gabin (#82 Team Pelfrey/MAZDASPEED/Skip Barber/Mandurah Panel and Paint/Colbyson Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started eighth, finished seventh; Race Two, started seventh, finished seventh; Race Three, started sixth, finished sixth: “I had a very up and down weekend at Mid-Ohio. I didn’t have a very good qualifying which made it quite hard to recover here where passing is limited. Hopefully we can run up front at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to appropriately represent the MAZDASPEED and Team Pelfrey USF2000 entry.”
Garth Rickards (#83 Team Pelfrey/Rahal Automotive Group/Snap 21 Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started fifth, finished 18th; Race Two, started fifth, finished fifth; Race Three, started fifth, finished eighth: “Coming off a long break of being out of the car I had hit the reset button both mentally and physically coming into the weekend. Things started off good and we showed good pace Thursday and Friday morning with our best qualifying results of the year. Unfortunately we were stopped short of capitalizing on our track position in Race One due to being blatantly taken out by a teammate. Races Two and Three we showed strong pace and took a solid P5 finish. Overall I’m really proud of my mechanics and engineer for their dedication and hard work. I feel good about how I drove because I know I gave it 110 percent. My eyes are still set on that one goal of becoming an IndyCar driver and I’m focused on improving my driving and partnership opportunities.”
Nikita Lastochkin (#84 Team Pelfrey/Russkaya Mekhanika Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started 13th, finished 11th; Race Two, started 12th, finished 10th; Race Three, started 12th, finished 10th: “I would say Mid-Ohio turned out to be one of the toughest weekends for me this year. Having had a lot of promise at the beginning, we could never sort out the issues on the car that carried on from the test all the way into qualifying. Starting in the back proved to be very tough indeed, even after you pass a few spots the gap to the group in front becomes too big to do anything in a sprint race. I would like to thank both Team Pelfrey driver coaches and my mechanic Cole for doing their best to keep my spirits up and showing me the positives to be carried out from the weekend. I’m ready to finish the season in a high note in September.”