The Mazda Road to Indy has its full complement of series here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
The Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championships have all had their first practice sessions, which grew in importance with impending weather likely to hit the track this afternoon.
Quick session reports are below.
The first USF2000 session of the weekend before the Cooper Tires USF2000 Grand Prix of Indianapolis Powered by Mazda was clean, green and dry for 30 minutes from 9:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. on the 2.439-mile road course.
Yufeng Luo, who won Round 2 of the season at St. Petersburg, took his No. 23 Pabst Racing entry to the top of the timesheets at 1:26.8246.
Luke Gabin was second in the No. 91 JAY Motorsports entry at 1:26.8872, with Parker Thompson of Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing and Luo’s teammate at Pabst, Jordan Lloyd, also dipping into the 1:26 bracket.
Victor Franzoni of ArmsUp Motorsports completed the top five runners; the Brazilian makes his USF2000 return to the IMS road course after making his Pro Mazda series debut here last year.
The top 14 drivers were covered by 0.8744 of a second. Nico Jamin holds the track record with a qualifying lap of 1:26.1799 for Cape, set last year.
Of note, the field is reduced to 26 cars this weekend with the absence of James Munro, the fourth driver at Team Pelfrey. Team Pelfrey team principal Nigel Tuckey said there were contractual issues that arose with Munro, and his return status for further rounds is doubtful.
Additionally, ArmsUp is back to three cars with Blake Mount, who drove a fourth ArmsUp entry during Wednesday’s test sessions, not competing in the first practice.
The next USF2000 practice session is another 30-minute session, from 1:30 to 2 p.m.
In first practice for the Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires, the now routine Team Pelfrey timesheet topping continued with Aaron Telitz ahead of teammate Pato O’Ward.
Telitz, in the No. 82 entry, clocked a best time of 1:23.6710 with O’Ward, in the No. 80 car, a little more than a tenth in arrears at 1:23.7781.
Juncos Racing, which had a strong 2015 setup at the IMS road course and won one race with Timothe Buret, placed three of its four drivers in the next three spots. Garett Grist was third ahead of rookie Jake Parsons and past IMS road course winner in USF2000, Will Owen, in fifth.
Nico Jamin, who swept the weekend in USF2000 here last year, was only sixth best and the lead of two Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing entries.
Of note, Weiron Tan in the third Team Pelfrey entry, is withdrawn for the remainder of the weekend per a contractual issue.
Tan won the Thursday at IMS last year in what was the NOLA Motorsports Park rain-delayed makeup round, then driving for Andretti Autosport.
The next Pro Mazda practice session is another 30-minute session, from 2:15 to 2:45 p.m.
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Ahead of the Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Indianapolis Presented by Cooper Tires doubleheader, three track veterans led the opening 45-minute practice Thursday at the 2.439-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.
Santiago Urrutia, who won the most recent round of the season at Barber Motorsports Park, was the only driver to clock into the 1:15 bracket with a 1:15.9770 lap time. Urrutia drives the Soul Red Mazda No. 55 entry for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian.
The Uruguayan won his first Pro Mazda race last year at the IMS road course, which helped kickstart his title charge. He told TSO before the session he was confident in the car’s pace before even putting on new tires during the test day on Wednesday and it showed on Thursday.
Meanwhile series sophomores Ed Jones of Carlin and RC Enerson, also of SPM, were second and third. Jones was just 0.1256 off Urrutia’s best time with Enerson third, 0.1767.
Felix Rosenqvist of Belardi Auto Racing and Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing completed the top five, with Dean Stoneman in sixth (Andretti Autosport), Felix Serralles (Carlin) and Scott Hargrove (Team Pelfrey) the top half of the 16-car field.
SPM didn’t run a ton of laps in the session with Urrutia running only six laps and Scott Anderson seven.
As in the Pro Mazda and USF2000 sessions earlier Thursday, there were no red flags or incidents during the sessions.
Second practice for Indy Lights runs from 4:30 to 5:15 p.m., which is the last session of the day’s activity.
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