The fight for the $1 million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship began in earnest during the first Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire practice session at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The session was led by Ed Jones with a lap of 1:16.509. That quick lap was half a second ahead of Dean Stoneman, who currently sits in third in the championship. Championship leader Urrutia had a eventful session and ended up with the sixth quickest time, almost one second behind Jones.
Sean Rayhall who is making his first appearance in an Indy Lights car in 369 days impressively turned the third quickest lap time.
Championship contenders Felix Serralles (Carlin) and Dean Stoneman (Andretti Autosport) had the fourth and fifth quickest lap times.
Only a few minutes into the first session and the No. 13 Juncos Racing machine of rookie Zachary Claman de Melo came to a stop in Turn 6 after having a problem after leaving the pits. The Ugg/Seven for All Mankind/Vince/Vilebrequin sponsored car was towed back to the pits by the Holmatro Safety Team. Claman de Melo did get back on track, but was only able to turn the 14th quickest lap of session.
No drivers had a chance to turn a hot lap before the track went red.
The green flag flew again with 22 minutes left in the session and the hills around the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course were immediately filled with the song of 14 2.0L turbo-charged Mazda engines.
Most of the drivers were able to get a couple of hot laps in before Claman de Melo caused his second red flag of session. The young Canadian spun and hit the tire barriers on the right hand side between Turn 3 and Turn 4. He was able to continue, but left his front wing behind.
At this point there was just over ten minutes left in the session and the top five were: Jones, Veach, Serralles, Choi and Blackstock.
With seven minutes left in the session, championship leader Urrutia got all four wheels off the track at Turn 9 and tore the front wing off the Soul Red Juncos Racing No. 55. Fellow championship contender Stoneman just missed clipping Urrutia as he came back on the track.
With only a few minutes left in the session, Heamin Choi spun off track at going up the hill right after Turn 6. He was able to continue on his own.
The session ended with Urrutia blowing the checkered flag, drawing the ire of race control.
The 15 entries turned a total of 200 laps on the 2.238-mile, 11-turn road course. Kyle Kaiser, Shelby Blackstock, and Dalton Kellett.
First Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire practice session
|RANK||DRIVER||TOP LAP TIME||GAP|
|14||Zachary Claman De Melo||1:19.293||-2.7843|
|15||Davey Hamilton Jr||1:22.886||-6.377|
The Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire drivers are back on track at 4:25pm this afternoon for their final practice session before qualifying on Saturday.