The first official test of any racing season is sort of like the first day of school for a number of reasons.

As much as you might have done some school reading (or not) during the summer (non-official testing), the first day back at school (the first official day of testing) is all about knocking the rust off your reading and righting (braking and feedback) skills.

The day is also about getting to know your new teachers (crew), and classmates (other drivers), and getting comfortable with your new situation before buckling down to really get to work.

Oh yeah, and don’t forget that the first day of the school year, is not the time to get into trouble with the principals and deans (race control).

And the absolute worst thing you can do? Damage your new car while showing off for your friends and dealing with the wrath of angry parents (team owners).

For the most part, the 36 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire drivers entered in the first open test of the year had successful “first days of school.”

The first two rungs of the Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires were both afforded three hours of track time on the 2.1-Mile, 14-Turn Homestead-Miami Speedway road course.

But, it wasn’t all about track time. The drivers also took part in an information session explaining the benefits of being a regular participant in the  #TeamCooperTire and #MRTI hashtag programs. You can read more about that in our article here: #TeamCooperTire and #MRTI, a program to amplify the social media reach of MRTI drivers and teams, returns for a fifth season.

Rookie Rasmus Lindh was the quickest of the four Pabst Racing drivers, who were all in the top five on the morning timesheet, with a lap of 1 minute 23.924 seconds. Lucas Kohl, Kaylen Frederick, and Calvin Ming were all within a half-of-a-second of their freshman teammate.

Sophomore Kory Enders from the three-car DEForce Racing USF2000 stable was the only driver to break up the Pabst Racing top five party.

The second 60-minute Saturday test session saw a familiar name find their way to the top of the timesheet. The driver, Kyle Kirkwood was new, but the team, Cape Motorsports wasn’t. When the 2017 season ended the Cape Brothers told us that they didn’t think that they would be back to try and win their eighth straight USF2000 drivers championship, but when the reigning F4 United States Championship champion became available at the last minute, the St. Petersburg, Fla. based team jumped at the opportunity.

The top-five drivers in the session all represented different teams with BENIK (Michael D’Orlando), DEForce Racing (Kory Enders), Newman Wachs Racing (Darren Keane) and Team Pelfrey (Kyle Dupell) joining Cape Motorsports and Kirkwood. Of note, the Pabst Racing foursome that was at the top of the first timesheet did not run any laps in anger.

The quickest lap in the third Saturday test session was a scorcher 1 minute 23.772-second last-minute scorcher by Kirkwood. That lap bested Oliver Askew’s best lap during last year’s test by two-tenths of a second.

A new driver, Kyle Kirkwood, with a familiar team, Cape Motorsports, led the first day of Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda spring training at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography – Joe Skibinski)

“It was good, explained the 19 year-old to TSOLadder after getting out of his No. 8.  “We had a run plan to get through. I hadn’t run with Cape Motorsports yet. I’m trying to get familiar with the car and the team and how they operate with this car.

“The first session, we knew we weren’t going to be quick in the session. We went out for the second session and we ran new Cooper Tires right of the bat. We were quick right away, and then we started testing certain things to see what was better with degraded tires. Something similar to a race situation. That last session, we ran the same tires that we did that we did for the entire session and tested a bunch of things. We put new tires on at the end to go fast, and it worked perfectly.

“We got a bunch of testing things done and we’re really happy with the outcome today.”

Following Cape Motorsports and Kirkwood were a trio of Pabst Racing drivers (Lindh, Kohl, and Frederick).

The fifth quickest drier of the final 60-minute test session was Enders, who was the only driver to finish in the top five in each of Saturday’s sessions.

Sophomore Kory Enders was the only driver in the top five in each USF2000 session during the first day of official 2018 testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography – Joe Skibinski)

Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – Saturday combined timesheet

1 8 Kyle Kirkwood Cape Motorsports 1:23.772 ———— 66
2 23 Rasmus Lindh Pabst Racing 1:23.924 -0.152 52
3 22 Lucas Kohl Pabst Racing 1:24.068 -0.296 53
4 24 Kaylen Frederick Pabst Racing 1:24.095 -0.323 51
5 11 Kory Enders DEForce Racing 1:24.250 -0.478 72
6 21 Calvin Ming Pabst Racing 1:24.476 -0.704 51
7 81 Kyle Dupell Team Pelfrey 1:24.484 -0.712 70
8 12 Jose Sierra DEForce Racing 1:24.566 -0.794 76
9 36 Darren Keane Newman Wachs Racing 1:24.655 -0.883 57
10 28 Zach Holden BN Racing 1:24.857 -1.085 74
11 80 Julian Van der Watt Team Pelfrey 1:24.871 -1.099 48
12 31 Michael D’Orlando Team Benik 1:24.919 -1.147 71
13 5 Mathias Soler-Obel Sol.O Racing 1:25.161 -1.389 73
14 82 Bruna Tomaselli Team Pelfrey 1:25.162 -1.390 57
15 30 Keith Donegan ArmsUp Motorsports 1:25.344 -1.572 24
16 37 Max Peichel Newman Wachs Racing 1:25.583 -1.811 78
17 27 Colin Kaminsky DE Force Racing 1:25.609 -1.837 75
18 90 Manuel Cabrera Exclusive Autosport 1:25.803 -2.031 45
19 38 Oscar DeLuzuriaga Newman Wachs Racing 1:26.921 -3.149 85
20 93 Jason Clunie Exclusive Autosport 1:27.143 -3.371 79
21 9 Sabre Cook ArmsUp Motorsports 1:27.330 -3.558 81

It took all of one lap for the brand new PM1-18 to turn a lap quicker then it’s Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire predecessor, and when the day ended the 275 horsepower 2.0L Mazda developed MZR-PM18A powered Tatuus was over four seconds a lap quicker over the Homestead-Miami Speedway 2.1-Mile road course.

A fleet of brand new PM18s on pit road during spring training at Homestead-Miami Speedway The Mazda powered Tatuus shod with Cooper Tire rubber had a successful first day of Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire testing (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography – Joe Skibinski)

The first session of the day saw MRTI veteran, but Pro Mazda newcomer Parker Thompson lead the way with a lap of 1 minute 20.067 seconds. Within one-tenth of a second of the Exclusive, Autosport pilot was Sting Ray Robb (Team Pelfrey) and David Malukas (BN Racing). Rounding out the top five were Robb’s Team Pelfrey teammates Andres Gutierrez and Rafael Martins.

When the second 60-minute Pro Mazda test session ended, the top of the timesheet looked like a late 2017 USF2000 practice session with reigning USF2000 champion Oliver Askew (Cape Motorsports), Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing), Thompson and Malukas holding down the top four slots. Rounding out the top five was sophomore Carlos Cunha (Juncos Racing).

After spending the first two sessions of the day in the middle of the Pro Mazda pack, reigning championship team Juncos Racing jumped to the top of the charts. Sophomore Cunha ended the day with the fastest lap of the day at 1 minute, 19.498 seconds.

“It’s really good to start the season like this,” said the 18 year-old Brazilan to TSOLadder. “We still need to improve the set-up of the car a lot. It’s really difficult to drive. It’s really difficult to find good grip in the front, but we’ll figure it out.”

ICarlos Cunha led the first day of Mazda Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires testing on road corse at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography Joe Skibinski)

Only eight-hundredths behind Cunha was BN Racing’s Malukas.

Cunha’s teammates Robert Megennis, and Rinus VeeKay followed Malukas and were only three and four tenths behind their more experienced teammate.

Team Pelfrey’s Robb was the final driver in the top five.

The RP Motorsport twosome of Harrison Scott and Lodovico Laurini do not show up on the time-sheet due to an issue with their transponders, but both drivers did turn laps. The experience Italian team who is working out of the Newman Wachs Racing shop were still preparing their cars yesterday, so the gremlins are not a shock.

Pro Mazda Presented By Cooper Tire – Saturday combined timesheet

1 1 Carlos Cunha Juncos Racing 1:19.498 –.—- 62
2 79 David Malukas BN Racing 1:19.579 -0.080 46
3 9 Robert Megennis Juncos Racing 1:19.884 -0.386 62
4 2 Rinus VeeKay Juncos Racing 1:19.914 -0.416 80
5 82 Sting Ray Robb Team Pelfrey 1:19.969 -0.471 75
6 80 Rafael Martins Team Pelfrey 1:19.970 -0.472 66
7 3 Oliver Askew Cape Motorsports 1:20.006 -0.508 74
8 90 Parker Thompson Exclusive Autosport 1:20.067 -0.569 63
9 12 James Raven DE Force Racing 1:20.087 -0.589 75
10 78 Kris Wright BN Racing 1:20.150 -0.652 51
11 81 Andres Gutierrez Team Pelfrey 1:20.249 -0.751 75
12 8 Nikita Lastochkin Cape Motorsports 1:21.024 -1.526 63
13 91 Antonio Seravalle Exclusive Autosport 1:21.850 -2.352 87
14 10 Harrison Scott RP Motorsport Non- Working Transponder
15 27 Lodovico Laurini RP Motorsport Non- Working Transponder

Don’t miss any of the action:

We’ll be back with a lot more tomorrow.