It likely shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the two drivers that potentially had the most at stake, topped the time-charts during the just concluded two day test at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Felix Rosenqvist who was testing with Belardi Auto Racing led the way, but was followed closely by reigning Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire champion Santiago Urrutia, who was piloting the No. 77 IL-15 for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian.
With a forecast showing an increasing threat of wet weather in the afternoon, it was no surprise that the 2.21 mile, 14-turn roval at Homestead-Miami Speedway saw a very busy morning session. The 11 drivers turned a total of 395 laps or 872.95 miles.
After leading the first the two sessions on Monday, Carlin’s sophomore Ed Jones was sandwiched between two former Formula 3 rivals. Leading the way with a quick lap of 1:14.4371 was Rosenqvist, who Jones competed against the FIA Formula 3 championship in 2014. Turning a lap time only a tenth of a second off of Jones, was Urrutia. Jones, the Dubai native won the European F3 Open championship, while the 19-year old Urrutia, came home 4th.
It was Carlin sophomore Felix Serralles, another Formula 3 veteran, and Mazda Road To Indy veteran Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) that made up the remainder of the top five.
Rosenqvist and his Mazda powered No. 14 Belardi machine turned 54 circuits, the most laps of any driver.
The morning time sheet:
|Rank||Driver||Team||Top Lap Time||Laps Turned|
|1||Felix Rosenqvist (R)||Belardi Auto Racing||01:14.4371||54|
|3||Santiago Urrutia (R)||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||01:14.6973||31|
|5||Kyle Kaiser||Juncos Racing||01:15.0172||29|
|6||RC Enerson||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||01:15.1162||39|
|7||Shelby Blackstock||Andretti Autosport||01:15.8429||34|
|8||Zachary Claman De Melo (R)||Juncos Racing||01:15.8498||28|
|9||Zach Veach||Belardi Auto Racing||01:15.9545||48|
|10||Neil Alberico (R)||Carlin||01:15.9684||37|
|11||Dalton Kellett (R)||Andretti Autosport||01:16.5494||36|
Homestead-Miami Speedway, which is situated 40 miles south of Miami, Florida, might have been the only place in Florida to stay dry this afternoon, and the 11 drivers took advantage of the dry track to turn a total of 403 laps in the fourth and final session of the two day test.
The final stanza almost mirrored the morning session, with Rosenqvist’s lap at 1:14.519 that leading Urrutia, Jones and Serralles,with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian sophomore RC Enerson taking the place of Kaiser in fifth.
Andretti Autosport driver Dalton Kellett drove a total of 123.76 miles (56 circuits) of the Homestead-Miami Speedway roval, the most of in the final session.
The afternoon time sheet:
|Rank||Driver||Team||Top Time||Total Laps|
|1||Felix Rosenqvist (R)||Belardi Auto Racing||01:14.5191||45|
|2||Santiago Urrutia (R)||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||01:14.5202||35|
|5||RC Enerson||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||01:14.8876||36|
|6||Kyle Kaiser||Juncos Racing||01:14.9006||45|
|7||Shelby Blackstock||Andretti Autosport||01:15.1585||38|
|8||Zach Veach||Belardi Auto Racing||01:15.1908||36|
|9||Neil Alberico (R)||Carlin||01:15.4803||30|
|10||Zachary Claman De Melo (R)||Juncos Racing||01:15.5670||32|
|11||Dalton Kellett (R)||Andretti Autosport||01:16.6331||56|
So what exactly can a team and driver learn at a test on a circuit that isn’t on the schedule?
A number of things.
But, the most important part of pre-season testing is to start to building your team’s chemistry. Racing is certainly a driver focused sport, but even the best driver in the world can’t and won’t be successful without having a solid and cohesive team behind them. Only four (Blackstock, Enerson, Jones, and Kaiser) of the eleven drivers are in the same seats that they were in last year, so for the other seven drivers this test is that perfect time to plant the strong roots of a successful team.
The five rookies all came from different backgrounds and this is a great opportunity to get more seat-time with higher horsepower and higher downforce. Alberico, Kellett, and Urrutia are all making the step up from the 250 horsepower Pro Mazda car to the 450 horsepower Indy Lights car. Rosenqvist is making an even bigger jump from his Mercedes powered 225hp Formula 3 car. But, it is Zachary Claman De Melo who is more than doubling the horsepower of a 2.0L Renault eying found in the Formula Renault championships that he competed in last year.
Even though the Indy Lights series does not compete at Homestead-Miami Speedway, a number of the corners adequately replicate other corners that the teams will see during the season, so every little bit of data will help down the road.
There is a good chance that drivers and teams were working on completely different programs and that the combined time-sheet won’t be completely representative of season’s pace.
However, these are still race car drivers and engineers, and they are all extremely competitive, so it wouldn’t be surprising if they did at least one all-out stint on sticker Cooper Tire slicks to see where they stand.
The combined time-sheet for the four sessions over the two days:
|Rank||Driver||Team||Top Time||Session||Total Laps|
|1||Felix Rosenqvist (R)||Belardi Auto Racing||01:14.4371||Practice 3||170|
|2||Santiago Urrutia (R)||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||01:14.5202||Practice 4||120|
|3||Ed Jones||Carlin||01:14.5376||Practice 2||142|
|4||Felix Serralles||Carlin||01:14.8459||Practice 4||135|
|5||RC Enerson||Schmidt Peterson Motorsports||01:14.8876||Practice 4||161|
|6||Kyle Kaiser||Juncos Racing||01:14.9006||Practice 4||149|
|7||Shelby Blackstock||Andretti Autosport||01:15.1585||Practice 4||144|
|8||Zach Veach||Belardi Auto Racing||01:15.1908||Practice 4||174|
|9||Zachary Claman De Melo (R)||Juncos Racing||01:15.2929||Practice 2||135|
|10||Neil Alberico (R)||Carlin||01:15.5670||Practice 4||140|
|11||Dalton Kellett (R)||Andretti Autosport||01:16.0225||Practice 1||174|
Some of Steve’s takeaways:
If you thought the three-way battle in 2015 between Spencer Pigot, Jack Harvey and Jones was fun wait until you see what could very well be seven or even more driver tilt, with the winner taking home the $1million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship and seat in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
After falling to depressing levels with only seven or eight cars at some events in 2013, the series which should have 15-17 full time cars in 2016, has made a remarkable recovery. Why? The leadership of Dan Andersen and his entire Andersen Promotions staff, the support of extremely passional partners Mazda and Cooper Tire, and the dedication of a very strong core group of car owners.
The addition of Carlin and Formula 3 drivers Jones and Serralles in 2015 did wonders to bolster the world-wide reputation of the top open wheel feeder series in North America, and if reigning FIA Formula 3 champion Rosenqvist (who Steve would rank as a top ten European talent, including F1) ends up in the series, it could very well make the Mazda Road To Indy and Indy Lights a destination series for the top world-wide talent.
The teams and drivers will next get together for an official test at the one-mile Phoenix International Raceway oval on February 25th. The final official test before the season kicks off in St. Petersburg will take place at Barber Motorsports Park on March 5th.
Thanks so much for reading and being a Mazda Road To Indy fan!