MRTI Observations: Chris Griffis Memorial Test Pro Mazda Day 2
This article has been updated throughout the day following each of the four sessions, with the final update posted as of 9:00 pm EST.
With a new car debuting, every single lap that Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires teams can get on track this weekend is critical to figuring out how to be the best this upcoming season.
The new PM-18 shares the same carbon and aluminum honeycomb monocoque chassis as the USF-17, but includes more sophisticated aerodynamics, larger wheel size, and a 275 HP 2.0-liter Mazda MZR-PM18A motor developed by Elite Engines.
The Chris Griffis Memorial Test this weekend allows fans and media alike to see some of the new possible driver-team combinations, if continued work for those remaining together is paying off, and the new faces that will brace the field.
Based on the action taking place so far, here are some observations, with the full speed charts at the bottom.
After posting the quickest lap on Saturday, Oliver Askew continues to get even faster with each lap behind the wheel. The 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda piloted his No. 8 Cape Motorsports entry around Indianapolis Motor Speedway in one minute and 19.814 seconds in session one of four – which is eight hundredths quicker than yesterday’s high-mark.
Last December, Oliver Askew won the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout, earning the $200k scholarship to race full-time in USF2000 last season. He made the most of the opportunity, scoring seven wins and 11 podiums en route to the title.
Going back-to-back with championships from one step of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder to the next has been done before within the past 10 years, as witnessed by Mathew Brabham in 2012 and 2013. Askew is certainly poised to write his name into the history books next.
Last year, Exclusive Autosport entered the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system following success in F1600 competition with a plan. They were going to get their feet wet via USF2000 competition in 2017, with plans to move up to Pro Mazda this coming season.
The team showed promise with Parker Thompson last year, placing third in points with three victories in the last five events. So far, the positive momentum is working well for them moving forward, as Thompson has the third quickest lap overall after setting a mark of one minute and 19.981 seconds in Sunday’s first session.
As noted, it’s a new car for the teams with some having experience with the chassis based on USF2000 competition last year. As expected, lap times are going to continually get quicker with each session on track.
The first round of testing on Sunday saw the top-five drivers on the charts all post times quicker than their high-water marks from Saturday, shuffling the overall leaderboard. As a result, Carlos Cunha who was second quickest overall after Saturday with a lap of one minute and 20.024 seconds has dropped to fourth overall. Noteworthy: Cunha did not take to the track in Sunday’s Pro Mazda opener due to testing an Indy Lights entry for Juncos Racing. Last year, Cunha placed third in Pro Mazda points driving for Team Pelfry.
It is also worth saying that since those quicker times in Sunday’s opening session, the times in the rounds afterwards have been slower – except for Robert Megennis, who set his quickest time of Sunday in the final session.
While teams may be actually gaining on their cars, it could be a case where the weather is less favorable for quick times, depending how the temperature has changed. We may have also reached the point where teams are trying things – experimenting, and those aren’t going as well as planned.
|Combined Lap Times|
|Fast Time Saturday||Fast Time Sunday||Overall|
EMAIL ASHLEY AT firstname.lastname@example.org
FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @ladybug388
The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularOpenWheel.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.