An even dozen Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire car and driver combinations turned a total of 719 trouble-free laps (1078.5 miles) on the 1.5 mile high-banked Homestead-Miami Speedway during the first official Mazda Road To Indy presented by Cooper Tire test session of 2017.
The quickest lap of the morning was set in the final 15 minutes of the breezy, warm and humid session by sophomore Dalton Kellett, who’s top lap in his K-Line Insulators USA, Inc. sponsored Andretti Autosport Mazda powered Dallara clocked in at 184.937mph.
The 23 year-old Canadian was followed in the top five by rookies Matheus Leist (Carlin) and Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport), fellow sophomore Santiago Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing), and rookie Andretti Autosport teammate Nico Jamin. Eleven of the 12 drivers were all within one second of the pace set by Kellett.
The first hour of track time was allocated to the seven rookie pilots, three of whom were making their first oval outings in the 450HP Mazda MZR-R powered Dallara machines.
Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport), and Leist were both turning their first ever laps on an oval.
“No, never, it’s completely new for me,” proclaimed 18 year-old Leist when asked if he’d ever driven on a left-turn only oval, and went on to explain. “It was my first time, and it was quite good. The first run was really, really fast, but was it was nice to learn how to manage with the car because it’s very, very fast.”
Carlin rookie Garth Rickards has some oval experience at Lucas Oil Raceway Park in Indianapolis, Indiana. The Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania native scored two top tens in his two races on the 0.686-mile oval, but told TSO that there is absolutely no comparison between the sensation of absolute speed between the flat oval in a USF2000 car and a high banked speedway in an Indy Lights car.
Nicolas Dapero (Juncos Racing), Nico Jamin (Belardi Auto Racing), Colton Herta (Andretti Steinbrenner Racing), and Aaron Telitz (Belardi Auto Racing) all spent a day testing on the 1.25 mile oval at Gateway Motorsports Park in Madison, Illinois on October 24, 2016.[table “65” not found /]
Missing from action from the oval portion of testing is Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) and Juan Piedrahita (Team Pelfrey), the two most experienced oval drivers in the series. Juncos Racing team owner Ricardo Juncos explained to TSO that there is not a lot that transfers from the 18 to 20 degree progressively banked oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway to the three tracks (Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Iowa Speedway, and Gateway Motorsports Park), that the Indy Lights drivers will face in 2017. Both drivers are expected to take part in the road course portion of the test on Thursday.[table “66” not found /]
The drivers and teams will be back on track at 1:30pm and run through 5pm.