Urrutia, Alberico and Florian Latorre at St. Petersburg. Photos @ Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Pro Mazda’s title tilt: Urrutia looks to honor fallen countryman, while Alberico seeks title on home soil

Leave a comment

Both the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires championships have four drivers mathematically eligible for this year’s titles at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, yet both of the two top rungs on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder also have less than four realistically eligible once you factor in the points gaps.

In Pro Mazda, Santiago Urrutia has used consistency to build a 29-point lead over Neil Alberico, with Timothe Buret and Weiron Tan 47 and 51 points in arrears, and needing a bit of help to pull things off. The winner receives a scholarship just shy of $600,000 ($590,300) to move to Indy Lights next season.

Urrutia (Mazda Road to Indy “Meet the Contenders” profile linked here) was a late arrival to North America, as he didn’t even participate in this year’s Cooper Tires Winterfest. But the Uruguayan took over seamlessly after Jack Aitken took Team Pelfrey to the Winterfest title.

He’s won three races this season, including one of the two at the most recent round at Mid-Ohio (others at NOLA, Grand Prix of Indianapolis). Coupled with only one finish outside the top-10 (Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis), Urrutia has been a regular points-scoring presence.

This is going to be an emotional weekend for the 19-year-old, who previously raced in GP3. Urrutia, in the No. 81 entry, will wear a helmet paying tribute to his racing hero and countryman Gonzalo Rodriguez, who was killed in 1999 in an accident at practice at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Even more surreal: this weekend will take place on the exact same weekend, 16 years later (Rodriguez was killed on September 11, 1999).

Alberico (Mazda Road to Indy “Meet the Contenders” profile linked here), the Rising Star Racing-backed driver of the No. 3 Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing entry, is a 22-year-old from Los Gatos, Calif. who has a longtime Mazda Road to Indy pedigree and is more or less in the same spot where Spencer Pigot was last year.

He’s a talented, confident shoe who was unlucky to get beat to the USF2000 championship by teammate Scott Hargrove in 2013 (another ace in the wings), then was outclassed again by Hargrove last year as both stepped up to Pro Mazda with Cape. Pigot had lost the USF2000 and Pro Mazda crowns to Matt Brabham in back-to-back years, but beat Hargrove to last year’s title in a thrilling weekend at Sonoma.

Alberico actually has four wins, one more than Urrutia, but has gone through a roller coaster campaign including three finishes of 14th or worse to offset the top-shelf results. Simply put, Alberico has been fast but fragile this year, and in order to account for the points deficit, he’ll likely need to win twice and hope Urrutia hits trouble in at least one of two races.

In third and fourth, Buret and Tan have both won races (Buret once, Tan four times) yet need both Urrutia and Alberico to fall off badly to have a realistic shot. If both are more than 33 points back after Saturday’s first race of the weekend, they’ll be eliminated.

Others have starred in various points this year, notably Garett Grist and Pato O’Ward in recent races, but it’s primarily been about the title-contending quartet this season.

Keating stripped of Le Mans GTE-Am win; No. 68 Ganassi entry also disqualified

IMSA
2 Comments

FIA stewards announced Monday that two Ford GT entries have been disqualified from this year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, including the GTE-Am class-winning No. 85 entry from privateer Keating Motorsports.

Also DQ’d was the factory No. 68 Chip Ganassi Racing entry of Joey Hand, Dirk Mueller and Sebastien Bourdais, which initially finished fourth in the GTE-Pro class.

Both entries were found in violation of fuel capacity regulations, with the No. 85 entry also failing to meet the minimum refueling time during pit stops.

The refueling system on the No. 85 entry, driven by Ben Keating, Jeroen Bleekemolen and Felipe Fraga, measured a time of 44.4 seconds during a stop, just shy of the minimum required time of 45 seconds.

As a result, the team was initially issued a 55.2-second post-race penalty by officials, which elevated the No. 56 Team Project 1 Porsche 911 RSR of Joerg Bergmeister, Patrick Lindsey, and Egidio Perfetti to the class win.

The time penalty was calculated by the difference in the refueling time (0.6 seconds) multiplied by the amount of pit stops made by the team (23), then multiplied by four.

The No. 85 entry was set to finish second in class, but then received an outright DQ after its fuel capacity was also revealed to be 0.1 liters above the maximum permitted capacity of 96 liters.

As for Ganassi’s No. 68 entry, it was found to have a fuel capacity of 97.83 liters, which is above the maximum allowed capacity of 97 liters for the GTE-Pro Fords.

The No. 67 Ford of Andy Priaulx, Harry Tincknell, and Jonathan Bomarito subsequently moves up to fourth, and the No. 69 Ford of Scott Dixon, Ryan Briscoe and Richard Westbrook moves up to fifth.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter