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.
“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.
Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – Saturday combined timesheet
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||QUICK LAP||GAP||TOTAL LAPS|
|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.
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.”
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
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||QUICK LAP||GAP||TOTAL LAPS|
|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:
- live timing – Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000, and IndyCar Race Control
- on twitter –Indy Lights, Pro Mazda, USF2000, Cooper Tire, Mazda Racing and TSO Ladder
- via the Road To Indy TV app – Android or Apple iOS
- on all social media channels via the #TeamCooperTire and #MRTI hashtags
We’ll be back with a lot more tomorrow.