Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: Trio of signings announced going into holiday period

Leave a comment

Three more driver signings have occurred for the 2018 Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires season in the last couple days, with a pair in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and one more in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires series.

Team Pelfrey, which won the 2015 and 2016 Pro Mazda titles with Santiago Urrutia and Aaron Telitz, respectively, has signed Sting Ray Robb for his second season. Robb shifts over from World Speed Motorsports, as the teenager occasionally impressed throughout the year. He will drive the No. 82 Trademark Dental, Munk Family Dental, Intervention.com / Team Pelfrey Mazda. Robb tested with Juncos Racing at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test in October.

Photo: Team Pelfrey

“It’s hugely exciting to welcome Sting Ray back to Team Pelfrey,” commented Team Pelfrey General Manager, Jonny Baker. “I say back, because he tested with us a few years ago in F1600 and we immediately saw how much potential he possessed then. We have had Sting Ray in the new PM-18 for a couple of tests now, and we are convinced he will surprise a lot of people next year. He’s still only 16, and we will work hard together not only to keep developing the car, but also to get the most out of him. We are looking forward to an exciting year!”

Also of note in Pro Mazda was that Milan, Italy-based team RP Motorsport Racing has announced its intentions to race in the championship next season.

“After a successful experience in the World Series Formula V8 3.5, we immediately started looking around to fix our plans for 2018. We found a very interesting context in the Pro Mazda Championship,” said Fabio Pampado, RP Motorsport Racing team principal. “Thanks to its partnership with INDYCAR and to the new Tatuus chassis in 2018, it will receive a new boost. We believe it is the best choice for us to continue to guarantee our team the presence in a championship with international visibility, and the opportunity to compete on tracks full of charm represents a challenge with a unique flavor.”

The Pro Mazda grid includes Juncos Racing with three drivers confirmed (Carlos Cunha, Rinus VeeKay, Robert Megennis), Cape Motorsports with its first (Nikita Lastochkin, over from Pelfrey), BN Racing with David Malukas, and Oliver Askew (USF2000 champ, expected with Cape once Mazda announces). Exclusive Autosport and Pabst Racing are a couple of the other teams expected to race in the series, having tested extensively with the Tatuus PM-18 Mazda.

Photo: Team Pelfrey

In USF2000, Pelfrey has also been busy there. It has signed its first driver in South African Julian van der Watt. Pelfrey had at least one vacancy to fill with Robert Megennis moving up to Pro Mazda with Juncos Racing. The Cape Town native has tested a Tatuus USF-17 Mazda thus far and will move Stateside for his racing next year.

“Julian came over and tested with us in October, his first outing in a USF2000 car, and we immediately saw why he dominated the South African F1600 Championship,” Baker said. “Not only was he fast, but his consistency and work ethic were all on display for us to see.  Julian’s decision to move to the Mazda Road to Indy is fantastic news for Team Pelfrey and the series and we are looking forward to seeing how he gets on throughout the 2018 season.”

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Newman Wachs Racing has added its second driver in the form of Oscar DeLuzuriaga, a UK-born Singapore resident who joined the team for the first time in June, and also ran at the Griffis test in October. He joins Darren Keane in that team’s lineup.

“I’m really excited to add Oscar to our team for the 2018 season,” offered Brian Halahan, NWR Team Manager. “We began a testing program a few months back to see if he would be ready for next year and he has come a very long way in a short time. He has put in a lot of work in, so I feel he deserves a spot on the team.”

Two other drivers you can expect to see in the USF2000 field include Keith Donegan, who won the $200K Mazda Road to Indy Shootout, and will have his team revealed at a later date and Mathias Soler-Obel, a 15-year-old Bogota, Colombia native now living in Atlanta. He’s planning to move over after a year in the Formula 4 United States Championship.

MRTI: Road America Sunday notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
Leave a comment

Sunday at Road America for the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires saw two series complete their second races of the weekend, with the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda taking to the track – the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires completed their weekend on Saturday.

Indy Lights saw a driver take an emotional first career win, while a chaotic USF2000 race saw the championship leader complete a weekend sweep.

Reports on both races are below.

Indy Lights: Franzoni Takes Emotional Maiden Win in Indy Lights

Victory Franzoni took an emotional first career victory Sunday at Road America. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

Victor Franzoni finished third in Race 1 on Saturday, but did so despite driving what he described as “the worst of my career” to the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network.

Sunday, however, was the exact opposite for the affable Brazilian driver, who took his maiden Indy Lights win in what has been an emotional weekend for him and his Juncos Racing team as they raced in memory of the late Jeff Green, Franzoni’s Pro Mazda teammate last year.

Pato O’Ward started on the pole, but engaged in an intense duel with Santi Urrutia in the opening laps.

Their battle came to a head on Lap 4, when Urrutia tried diving inside of O’Ward entering Turn 5, but they both ran wide on the exit – O’Ward even took to the outside grass – which opened the door for Franzoni to blitz by both of them entering Turn 6.

O’Ward, Urrutia, and Colton Herta then immediately had a hard fight for second, which saw them go three-wide in Turn 8. Ultimately, Urrutia lost out as he was pushed off the track and suffered front wing damage, forcing a pit stop for repairs – he ultimately finished seven laps off the lead in seventh.

Up front, Franzoni pulled away from everyone to win by nearly seven seconds. Herta emerged in second after battling with O’Ward, while Aaron Telitz passed O’Ward in the final laps to take the final spot on the podium. Ryan Norman rounded out the top five, with Dalton Kellett finishing sixth.

Full results are below.

USF2000: Kirkwood Survives Race 2 Carnage to Complete Weekend Sweep

Kyle Kirkwood survived a lot of chaos to win Race 2 at Road America and complete the weekend sweep. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

While Race 1 almost appeared easy for Kyle Kirkwood, who passed pole sitter Jose Sierra for the lead in Turn 1 off the start and then led every lap on the way to victory, Race 2 was a completely different story.

Kirkwood needed to outduel Kaylen Frederick and Lucas Kohl and survive a seemingly endless slew of carnage in Race 2 to grab the win, his fifth of the year, to complete a weekend sweep.

Three times the race was slowed by full-course cautions for on-track incidents.

The first came on the opening lap for separate incidents involving Sabre Cook, Russell McDonough, Jose Sierra, and Max Peichel – Cook and McDonough appeared to go off into the Turn 1 gravel, while Sierra and Peichel got together approaching Turn 5 and ended up against the outside wall.

A second caution was flown only a couple laps after racing resumed when Darren Keane and Kyle Dupell got together in Canada Corner, spinning off the track and stalling as a result.

And a third caution was flown in the waning laps when Lindh, who had been running second, went off into the Turn 3 gravel trap, while Kory Enders and Calvin Ming got together and spun in Turn 6.

Up front, Lucas Kohl had worked his way into the lead, passing Lindh in Turn 1 off the start, while Kirkwood had moved up to second, ahead of third-place runner Kaylen Frederick.

A restart with one lap remaining saw Kirkwood jump to the outside of Kohl entering Turn 1, and he completed the pass before they even got to the corner, Frederick then was able to get around Kohl for second, while Colin Kaminsky and Igor Fraga rounded out the top five. Of note: second-place man in the championship Alex Baron finished seventh, allowing Kirkwood to widen an already immense championship lead.

Results are below. Kirkwood now leads Baron by 94 points. Frederick now sits third, jumping ahead of Fraga and Sierra, who sit fourth and fifth.

Follow@KyleMLavigne