Christian Brooks and Manuel Sulaiman set the mark to beat in Spring Training testing for the Road to Indy at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala.
In his Exclusive Autosport ride, Brooks was fastest in testing for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship. Sulaiman steered his Juncos Racing machine to the fastest lap for the Indy Pro 2000 Championship.
These two championships will race alongside the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires when the IndyCar season gets underway April 16-18. More than $3.1 million in scholarships and awards will be up for grabs during the Road to Indy season.
Sulaiman topped a competitive chart on which he narrowly bettered the speeds of Christian Rasmussen and Kyffin Simpson. All three drivers were in the 1:16.8 second range, with Sulaiman’s time equating to 107.789 mph.
“It’s been a very positive weekend,” said Sulaiman in a release. “We were super quick in the first session today and we were pushing the limits.
“I touched a bit of the grass and we weren’t able to finish that session. The team did a great job to get the car back out there for the final session and we were back at P1.”
When Sulaiman ‘touched a bit of the grass’ in the final corner of his last lap in that session, the damage to his Tatuus PM-18 was enough to sideline him for the next one. He rebounded to and got back to the top of the charts later in the day.
Ten different drivers ended one or more of the five test sessions run over the two-day period among the top three. The only driver to top the charts more than once was rookie Wyatt Brichacek with a best lap of 1:17.343.
“The higher downforce and bigger tire seem to suit my driving style better,” said Brichacek. “I seem to feel more comfortable in this car compared to the USF-17. I’m meshing well with my engineer and everything just felt really good this weekend.
“Barber is a really technical track and I feel as though I’ve learned more about how to carry speed through the high-speed corners, and that will really help me. I’m glad to be back with the Jay Howard boys and I’ve learned a lot from Christian, so I think we’ll help each other this year.”
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Brooks set the pace in USF2000 testing.
“It feels great to finish the weekend on the top of the charts,” said Brooks. “The Exclusive Autosport car has been on rails all weekend long. We definitely put in some consistent results. We know it is practice but it always feels good to be on top and it is definitely a nice confidence booster going into the season. We are just going to put our heads down and push for some good results at Barber.”
Brooks, who won the final race of 2020 at St. Petersburg, was last year’s Hyperco Rookie of the Year.
Brooks’ best lap was just over a tenth of a second faster than former teammate Prescott Campbell, who has joined DEForce Racing for his own sophomore campaign.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with DEForce throughout this off season,” said Campbell. “I’ve become very close with the team, testing at their home track (MSR) in Houston. We had a plan for this test, stuck to it, and we’ve learned a lot.
“The pace that comes along with that is great and I hope this puts us in a good position for the first round of the series. It’s also a good chance to look at the competition: I raced with Exclusive last year and I knew they would be strong, especially Christian. I’ve seen how he works, and he won the last race of the season in 2020. It’s what we expected and I think we’ll be able to take the fight to them.”
A total of 2,725 incident-free laps were completed by the 23 drivers during the course of the two-day test, with the top 16 blanketed by less than one second.