By Steve Wittich
Before we get started with our Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires coverage for the year, we’d like to remind you that now would be a great time to download The Road To Indy TV app from the Google Play or Apple App store.
Also, we’d like to thank Cooper Tire for returning as a presenting sponsor for the second year. 2019 marks the fourth season for TSO Ladder, and it’s because of Cooper Tire that we can send one of us to the track concentrate on the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.
We now return you to your regularly scheduled program.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. After dominating the championship in 2018, Andretti Autosport started the year off where they ended last year – at the pointy end of the grid.
Julien Falchero, a GP3 veteran, led the first official test session of the season with a lap of 1:54.658, only five-hundredths ahead of teammate Ryan Norman and less than two-tenths ahead of Oliver Askew.
A total of ten Advanced Engine Research (AER) powered Dallara IL-15 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires cars took to the 3.427-mile, 20-turn Circuit of The America’s road course for the first official session of the 2019 season.
The 105-minute session began with overcast skies and cool temperatures after an overnight drizzle.
The session had one red flag when Carlin newcomer Logan Sargeant required a tow-in.
The No. 5 of Lucas Kohl was only able to turn five laps and spent the majority of the session undergoing some work on the gearbox.
We had a chance to watch in Turn 1 and smoking tires while the driver searched for the correct line was the order of the day.
The ten cars were split between five teams with Andretti Autosport running a total of four cars.
Three of the drivers are returnees to the series.
Zachary Claman, after a partial season in the NTT IndyCar Series, will be contesting his third season of Indy Lights with Belardi Auto Racing.
The race winner at Gateway Motorsports Park is confirmed for a third season with Andretti Autosport.
Carlin returns to the Road To Indy with veteran Dalton Kellett behind the wheel. This program is strictly in the testing phase right now.
Five of the drivers testing are moving up from other Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires series.
Reigning Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires champion Rinus van Kalmthout (VeeKay) moves up the ladder with Juncos Racing.
2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship winner and Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires race winner Oliver Askew is testing with Andretti Autosport. At present, this is only a test, with the team and driver working on putting together a program.
Robert Megennis starts his fourth Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires season with Andretti Autosport’s championship-winning Indy Lights program.
After three Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires wins in 2018, David Malukas and BN Racing are making a move to Indy Lights together.
Lucas Kohl has five podiums in his first three seasons on the Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires and is making a move up to Indy Lights.
Two of the drivers testing are making their first Road To Indy Presented by Cooper Tires appearances.
Logan Sargeant, an American from Boca Raton, Fla. is testing with Carlin after spending the last two seasons in Europe. The 18-year-old won a pair of races and finished third in the 2017 F4 British Championship. In 2018, Sargeant won three races and finished fourth in the highly contested Eurocup Formula Renault Series.
Sargeant is only testing Indy Lights, and TSO would be surprised if he didn’t return to Europe for his 2019 season.
Falchero, who also tested at Homestead-Miami Speedway with Andretti Autosport in December has spent the last two seasons in GP3.
TSO Ladder had a chance to ask the French driver what the difference was between Indy Lights and GP3 and he enthusiastically told us that the IL-15 had more power and downforce. The 21-year-old was also super impressed with the PFC Brakes.
Timesheet from the first Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||QUICK LAP||DIFFERENCE||TOTAL LAPS|
|1||26||Julien Falchero||Andretti Autosport||1:54.658||–.—-||33|
|2||48||Ryan Norman||Andretti Autosport||1:54.716||0.0580||32|
|3||28||Oliver Askew||Andretti Autosport||1:54.846||0.1881||29|
|4||27||Robert Megennis||Andretti Autosport||1:55.631||0.9733||29|
|5||21||Rinus VeeKay||Juncos Racing||1:55.674||1.0168||31|
|6||13||Zachary Claman||Belardi Auto Racing||1:55.723||1.0652||30|
|9||79||David Malukas||BN Racing||1:56.943||2.2849||25|
|10||5||Lucas Kohl||Belardi Auto Racing||2:22.105||27.4477||5|