Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

MRTI: pre-season testing Day 1 notebook

Leave a comment

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.

Follow@KyleMLavigne

Gabby Chaves to sub for Joao Barbosa at Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen

Photo: IndyCar
Leave a comment

Gabby Chaves is set to return to the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship at Watkins Glen International later this month.

The Columbian-American driver, who last competed in IMSA in 2016 – with the DeltaWing outfit – will sub for the injured Joao Barbosa – he hurt his wrist in a cycling accident earlier in June – in the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R in the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen.

Chaves will partner Filipe Albuquerque and Christian Fittipaldi in the No. 5 Cadillac.

Chaves expressed gratitude for being asked to fill in, but kept his enthusiasm muted, noting that he is getting the opportunity ultimately because another driver got hurt.

“The first thing is of course that you never want to have an opportunity because someone got hurt, so this is an unfortunate circumstance with Joao having his injury,”said Chaves. “But I appreciate the opportunity to join the championship-leading team. Mustang Sampling Racing has had a strong start this year and hopefully I can help the team continue to have those kinds of results.”

Chaves added, “I love Watkins Glen, it is a great track and I am looking forward to racing the Cadillac Prototype there. I’m excited to be going back to endurance racing. With different classes all racing at the same time, there is a lot for the driver to deal with as you work through traffic. So I am looking forward to racing at the Glen again, and I really appreciate this opportunity with Mustang Sampling Racing.”

Chaves’ most recent IMSA event was the 2016 Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen, when he finished seventh in the Prototype class.

The No. 5 Action Express Cadillac currently sits tied with the sister No. 31 Whelen Engineer Racing Cadillac of Eric Curran and Felipe Nasr atop the IMSA standings, though Barbosa’s hopes of a driver’s championship are set to take an enormous hit with him missing Watkins Glen.

Follow@KyleMLavigne