By Steve Wittich
The Chris Griffis Memorial Test officially marks the end of an Indy Lights season, but in reality, the two-day showcase at the iconic Indianapolis Motor Speedway acts more like a prelude to the next season.
And, like the second half of the 2021 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season, Benjamin Pedersen’s stellar driving continued as the Global Racing Group w/HMD Motorsports pilot was hot.
After being outscored by eight of his contemporaries over the first ten races, the Danish-born Washington State resident was outscored by only three drivers in the second ten races.
Pederson’s fastest lap, timed at 85.4619 seconds, came on Saturday afternoon and withstood 726 laps on Sunday – barely.
In the final session, Indy Lights newcomers Kyffin Simpson and TJ Speed Motorsports just missed out on top test honors and was one of four driver-team combinations within a tenth of a second of Pedersen’s quick lap.
“It was a great two-day test,” said Pedersen. “Yesterday, both sessions that we did we were P1 so the car was working really well.
“It was a little bit of tire strategy today. We were saving some sets for the last session, so on used pace today we were still the fastest which was really good.
“The last session, we tried some things that didn’t work out but we knew where we were yesterday.
“Overall, really happy to finish the test fastest. We are just trying to continue our momentum and work hard on focusing on our own program. I’m excited to continue this pre-season and get the new year going.”
Indy Lights session recaps
Test Session #1
The damp session on the 2.58-mile, 14-turn road course was lightly subscribed, with five of the 14 drivers on hand turning more than a single lap.
Jacob Abel, who moves up from Indy Pro 2000 with Abel Motorsports, was the quickest group that turned laps at speed, with fellow newcomers Matteo Nannini (Juncos Hollinger Racing) Kyffin Simpson (TJ Speed Motorsports) rounding out the top three.
Test Session #2
Lap times in the second 45-minute test session were almost ten seconds quicker on a dry track. The 14 drivers completed 285 laps, and this time, the Indy Lights veterans led the way, turning the five fastest laps in the post-lunch testing time.
Global Racing Group w/ HMD Benjamin Pedersen, with a lap timed of 86.1408 seconds, led Rasmus Lindh (Juncos Racing), Sting Ray Robb (Andretti Autosport), Danial Frost (HMD Motorsports), and Manuel Sulaiman (HMD Motorsports). Hunter McElrea (Andretti Autosport) and Christian Rasmussen (Andretti Autosport) were the quickest newcomers in a tight session that saw the top 10 drivers with one second of Pedersen.
Test Session #3
Pedersen was able to go seven-tenths of a second quicker in the final Saturday session, once again heading the test session and the combined timesheet on the first of two days of testing.
This time, it was a mix of veterans and newcomers in the top five, with Indy Lights rookies McElrea and Abel holding down the second and fourth spots. Indy Lights veterans Danial Frost and Rasmus Lindh were third and fourth on the end-of-the-day timing screens.
Andretti Autosport drivers Sting Ray Robb and Christian Rasmussen had mechanical issues in the final session and could not turn in a representative time.
The 14 Indy Lights drivers completed 619 laps on Saturday. TJ Speed Motorsports rookie Simpson was the busiest of the bunch, completing 152.22 miles of running.
Test Session #4
The sun started shining through for the first of three 45-minute test sessions, with the 14 drivers completing 237 laps.
Rasmus Lindh, a 20-year-old, a USF2000 and Indy Pro 2000 vice-champion, is working hard to get back into open-wheel full-time after a successful two-season sojourn in prototypes, was the third different driver to lead one of the half-dozen test sessions.
Kyffin Simpson and Danial Frost were within a scant five-hundredths of a second of Lindh, while nine of the 14 drivers were within a half-second of the Swede at the top of the timesheet.
Test Session #5
The middle stanza on the second day of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test saw another new driver and team lead a session, showing the depth of the potential talent for the upcoming 2022 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires season.
Hunter McElrea, a newcomer to Andretti Autosport and Indy Lights, was the quickest of the drivers. The American-born, Australian-raised Kiwi, made his first Road To Indy appearance at this same test in 2017.
Matteo Nannini, an Italian-Argentine pilot, found pace in the final two sessions, ending with the second quickest lap in each. Nannini the 2021 season in the FIA Formula 2 and Formula 3 championships, winning at the Hungaroring in F3. The 18-year-old dual citizen is the nephew of Formula 1 race winner Alessandro Nannini.
Sting Ray Robb, the 2020 Indy Pro 2000 champion, who recently signed with Andretti Autosport, proved that he hadn’t lost his pace, finishing test session #5 with the third quickest time.
Test Session #6
The final Indy Lights session of the Chris Griffis Memorial Test is always the craziest as teams and drivers attempt to make one last statement in front of their rivals.
As the track cools down in the late afternoon session, teams mount their final set of sticker tires in the last 15-minutes, looking to “win” the test.
TJ Speed Motorsports Simpson came so close to doing just that, turning a lap that was only 0.0231 seconds slower than Pedersen’s best lap on late Saturday afternoon. The current Formula Regional Americas Championship Powered By Honda points leaders were the fifth different driver and fifth different team to lead one of six test sessions.
So stinking competitive
- On the combined timesheet, the top five drivers – representing four teams were separated by less than a tenth of a second, and the top ten drivers were within three-tenths of a second.
- Five different drivers and teams lead one of the test sessions.
- Eleven of the 14 drivers were finished at least one test session in the top five.
2021 Chris Griffis Memorial Test Indy Lights combined timesheet
|RANK||CAR NO.||DRIVER||TEAM||TIME||DIFF.||TOTAL LAPS|
|1||24||Benjamin Pedersen||Global Racing Group w/ HMD||85.4619||98|
|2||21||Kyffin Simpson||TJ Speed Motorsports||85.4850||-0.0231||116|
|3||27||Hunter McElrea||Andretti Autosport||85.5218||-0.0599||93|
|4||15||Matteo Nannini||Juncos Hollinger Racing||85.5425||-0.0806||98|
|5||28||Christian Rasmussen||Andretti Autosport||85.5509||-0.089||80|
|6||51||Rasmus Lindh||Juncos Hollinger Racing||85.5988||-0.1369||100|
|7||79||Danial Frost||HMD Motorsports||85.6569||-0.195||97|
|8||2||Sting Ray Robb||Andretti Autosport||85.6578||-0.1959||81|
|9||3||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||85.7317||-0.2698||95|
|10||83||Matthew Brabham||Andretti Autosport||85.7868||-0.3249||99|
|11||59||Manuel Sulaiman||HMD Motorsports||86.0205||-0.5586||97|
|12||99||Ernie Francis, Jr.||HMD Motorsports||86.0566||-0.5947||96|
|13||11||Antonio Serravalle||Pserra Racing/AS Promotions||86.5942||-1.1323||96|
|14||7||Christian Bogle||HMD Motorsports||86.7779||-1.316||99|
The 2022 Indy Lights field is shaping up to be the largest and deepest in over a decade (more on that in an individual story), making consistency even more critical.
With six 45-minute sessions over two days, examining who was the most consistent can give fans a hint of what to expect next year. To accomplish that, TSO ladder averages the finishing position in each of the sessions, ignoring any sessions the driver turned one or fewer laps and removing each driver’s worst session.
Eight drivers’ average session finish was 5.0 or lower, portending what is shaping into an epic 2022 season of competition.
The average session finishes in the 2021 Chris Griffis Memorial Test.
|1||24||Benjamin Pedersen||Global Racing Group w/ HMD||2.8|
|2||51||Rasmus Lindh||Juncos Hollinger Racing||3.4|
|3||27||Hunter McElrea||Andretti Autosport||3.8|
|4||79||Danial Frost||HMD Motorsports||4.0|
|5||21||Kyffin Simpson||TJ Speed Motorsports||4.2|
|6||15||Matteo Nannini||Juncos Hollinger Racing||4.2|
|7||2||Sting Ray Robb||Andretti Autosport||4.5|
|8||28||Christian Rasmussen||Andretti Autosport||5.0|
|9||3||Jacob Abel||Abel Motorsports||6.8|
|10||83||Matthew Brabham||Andretti Autosport||7.3|
|11||59||Manuel Sulaiman||HMD Motorsports||8.3|
|12||99||Ernie Francis, Jr.||HMD Motorsports||9.3|
|13||11||Antonio Serravalle||Pserra Racing/AS Promotions||12.3|
|14||7||Christian Bogle||HMD Motorsports||12.6|