MRTI: pre-season testing Day 1 notebook

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Preparations for the 2018 season of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires kicks off this weekend, with all three series – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – taking part in pre-season testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Indy Lights was the first to take to the track, doing so on Friday on the 1.5-mile oval. Below are highlights from the first day of testing.

  • Six Indy Lights drivers turned laps – four from Andretti Autosport (Ryan Norman, Dalton Kellett, Pato O’Ward, and Colton Herta, with Herta in the effort from Andretti Steinbrenner Racing) and two from Juncos Racing (Victor Franzoni and Alfonso Celis Jr.).
  • Ryan Norman turned the quickest lap of the day, at 187.170 mph.
  • Victor Franzoni, last year’s Pro Mazda champion, made his debut in the Soul Red livery, signifying he is the reigning champion from the preceding series in the ladder system and a recipient of a Mazda Motorsports scholarship. “It’s a huge honor,” Franzoni said of carrying the Mazda colors. “Representing Mazda will be one of the best things of 2018, for sure. I don’t think the pressure will increase because my pressure is to win the championship in any color, but I’m excited about what I will learn representing a big brand like Mazda and hoping to do a great job inside and outside the track.” Franzoni had the fifth quickest lap, at 183.379 mph.
  • Juncos Racing confirmed Alfonso Celis Jr. as their second driver earlier on Friday morning, with the Homestead test providing Celis Jr. an immediate chance to get acquainted with the Dallara IL-15 chassis. Celis Jr. contested the World Series Formula V8 championship, where he was a pole winner and race winner in 2017 on his way to third in the championship standings.
  • Although Pro Mazda and USF2000 did not run on Friday, some news did emerge ahead of testing in the form team confirmations for the remaining “Soul Red” Mazda scholarship drivers. Oliver Askew, last year’s USF2000 champion, will contest the 2018 Pro Mazda season with Cape Motorsports, the same team with whom he won the USF2000 title. In USF2000, Keith Donegan, winner of the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout, joins ArmsUp Motorsports for the 2018 season.

Testing continues on Saturday with Pro Mazda and USF2000 hitting the track on the 2.21-mile road course.

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