Rookie Timothé Buret has been knocking on the door of Victory Circle in recent rounds of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. The 19-year-old Frenchman had started on the front row for two of the last three races, but went one better this morning by posting the fastest lap in qualifying for the first of two events that will comprise the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Indianapolis. After losing his lead at the start, Buret recovered it quickly, then controlled the remainder of the 30-minute race to claim an accomplished first win of the season for Indianapolis-based defending champion team Juncos Racing.
Fellow Frenchman Florian Latorre finished a strong second for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, while Uruguayan rookie Santi Urrutia took over the points lead by virtue of finishing third for Team Pelfrey.
The race began in style as the top three qualifiers ran three abreast into the braking zone for Turn One for the first time. Latorre, whose team had worked until 3:00 a.m. to repair his car following a dramatic accident yesterday, showed his gratitude by emerging in the lead, although he was unable to prevent Buret from regaining the advantage at Turn Seven. Moments later, the caution flags waved for an incident toward the back of the competitive 21-car field.
Buret took control at the restart, turning a sequence of consistent laps, and never relinquished his advantage. Latorre never allowed the leader to relax but couldn’t quite get close enough to attempt a pass. It was the same story for Urrutia and yesterday’s winner, Weiron Tan (Andretti Autosport) in third and fourth. Tan secured the additional championship point for fastest race lap but had to settle for fourth.
“I wanted to make a smart start because I knew so many cars would be drafting on the start,” said Buret. “I kept my position until Florian got by me, but I took his draft on the back straight and was able to overtake him. I think I surprised him in Turn Seven.
“This is my first win in the United States and to get it at Indianapolis is very special. It’s more than just a victory. It helps me get more points in the championship, which is a real goal of mine. The Juncos team gave me a great car. I was able to stay consistent through the laps and not lose time.”
Victor Franzoni made an impressive Pro Mazda debut to finish fifth for M1 Racing. The Brazilian, a recent graduate of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, leapt from ninth on the grid to sixth at the start, then slipped past Will Owen (Juncos Racing).
Franzoni came under increasing pressure from a trio of Juncos cars driven by Garett Grist, Owen and Jose Gutierrez, while Daniel Burkett (Cape Motorsports) also was part of that battle until making a mistake on Lap 12. Franzoni looked like he had lost the “war” when Grist slipped past on the inside under braking for Turn One on Lap 18, but the Canadian had gone in too deep, and had to give up the place again on the exit. Franzoni’s fifth-place finish also earned him both the Quartermaster Hard Charger Award and the RePlay XD Move of the Race Award for making up four positions from ninth on the grid.
Cape Motorsports’ Neil Alberico led the point standings prior to this afternoon’s race, but a poor qualifying session followed by a miscue during the race left him a disappointed 17th at the finish. He now trails Urrutia by seven points, 163-156, prior to tomorrow’s Round Eight.
Bobby Eberle (World Speed Motorsports) enjoyed an easier time than yesterday, winning the Expert class honors by a wide margin over Bob Kaminsky (Kaminsky Racing).
Additional awards included the PFC Award went to the winning team, Juncos Racing, with the Staubli Award going to second-place finisher Latorre.
Race Two will take place at 12:15 p.m. EDT tomorrow, Saturday, May 9. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at promazda.com, with live streaming at racecontrol.indycar.com.