The eighth Annual Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Open Test concluded this afternoon after two days of intense running at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Grand Prix road course. Weather conditions once again proved to be important, with the cool overcast of Saturday replaced this morning by a glorious blue sky and significantly warmer temperatures. Lap times, accordingly, weren’t quite as quick in general, although the leaders in all three series – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda – remained closely matched.
Andretti Autosport trio atop Indy Lights
Just as in the regular season for Indy Lights, Andretti Autosport remained the team to beat as Oliver Askew, Ryan Norman and Robert Megennis each took a turn at the top of the timing charts during today’s three practice sessions.
Askew, who won the 2017 USF2000 championship and finished third in Pro Mazda this year, laid down a marker this morning by posting a best lap of 1m15.0008s, an average speed of 117.071mph for the 2.439-mile road circuit. That time would remain good enough for second overall during the two-day test, fractionally adrift of the 1m14.9283s (117.184mph) set yesterday in ideal conditions by Norman.
Norman bounced back to the top after lunch with a best lap of 1m15.4915s in the heat of the day, narrowly ahead of Askew and Megennis, but it was Megennis who took the final bragging honors during an intense final session – with shadows lengthening as evening approached. His time of 1m15.0749s on new tires was enough to edge out Askew’s 1m15.1076s.
All in all, it was an impressive day for the two rookies, Askew and Megennis, taking over the respective cars of Patricio O’Ward and Colton Herta, who finished first and second in this year’s championship.
Victor Franzoni did not drive an Indy Lights car today, but his time for Belardi Auto Racing from yesterday, 1m15.0306s, remained good enough for third overall ahead of Megennis and recently crowned Pro Mazda champion Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing), who also was well within two-tenths of a second of the benchmark time.
David Malukas (Belardi Auto Racing) bounced back from a minor incident yesterday to post the sixth-fastest time ahead of Parker Thompson (Team Pelfrey), Lucas Kohl (Belardi Auto Racing) and Heamin Choi (Juncos Racing). All nine drivers were blanketed by a fraction over 1.5 seconds.
Keane’s time stands in Pro Mazda
For the second day in a row, different drivers took an opportunity to shine during Sunday’s three Pro Mazda test sessions. Former series champion Victor Franzoni laid down a marker by posting the fastest time of the day for Peter Dempsey’s new Turn 3 Racing team, with major assistance from Newman Wachs Racing’s Brian Halahan and “Shaggy” Russell, while Julian Van der Watt (BN Racing), Rasmus Lindh and Cameron Shields, both for Juncos Racing, and RP Motorsport Racing’s Mathias Soler-Obel all showed their paces on a regular basis.
Nevertheless, the warmer conditions ensured that no one approached the fastest time of the weekend, 1m19.2971s (110.728mph), which was set yesterday for RP Motorsport Racing by Darren Keane, who today concentrated his efforts on his USF2000 priority with Cape Motorsports.
After showing good speed yesterday in Indy Lights for Belardi Auto Racing, Franzoni (pictured above) reverted his attention this morning to the middle rung on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder and Turn 3 Racing, for which he works full-time as mechanic, driver coach and test driver. The 2017 series champion quickly got to grips with the car in the cooler morning air by turning a best lap of 1m19.6712s, edging Van der Watt by a scant 0.0979 second.
Franzoni again was fastest in the session immediately after lunch at 1m20.1703, followed by Shields, from Toowoomba, Australia, who overcame some earlier braking difficulties to edge out Lindh, who finished second in this year’s USF2000 championship.
Then, later in the afternoon, Colombian teenager Soler-Obel stopped the clocks for the Italian-based RP team at 1m19.9980s. Lindh also took advantage of a fresh set of Cooper tires to go second fastest on 1m20.1598s, fractionally faster than Van der Watt.
Danial Frost also had another productive day for Juncos Racing with sixth, fifth and fourth in the three sessions to back up his second-fastest time from Saturday.
McElrea, Keane trade fastest times in USF2000
Hunter McElrea and Darren Keane continued the longtime rivalry between Cape Motorsports and Pabst Racing by trading fastest times during today’s trio of 45-minute sessions.
McElrea, who was born in California, carries joint New Zealand citizenship and now hails from the Gold Coast, Australia, continued to turn heads for Pabst Racing. The teenager took advantage of ideal conditions this morning to turn the fastest lap of the weekend at 1:24.5064 – fractionally quicker than his best from yesterday – although Keane actually set a slightly faster time, only for it to be disallowed due to a technical infraction.
Keane bounced back to set the fastest time in each of today’s subsequent two sessions, including being the only driver to dip below the 1m25s bracket in the warmth of the afternoon. Keane wound up with the second-quickest time of the weekend, 1m24.6246s, from yesterday’s second session.
Alex Baron also ensured a productive weekend for the new Legacy Autosport team. Baron, who won two races this year during an abbreviated campaign – and was the only man to beat runaway champion Kyle Kirkwood – joined McElrea and Keane in the sub-1:25 club with a best of 1m24.9831s this morning.
James Raven, driving for DEForce Racing, ensured that four different teams would be represented among the top four positions. The former Formula Ford Festival champion was third quickest in each of today’s sessions.
Yuven Sundaramoorthy, who, coincidentally, was born in Oconomowoc, Wisconsin, where Pabst Racing is based, enjoyed another strong day for the team, among the top five in every session, while Andre Castro capped an impressive return to the sport after an 18-month absence by rounding out the top six for Legacy Autosport.