MRTI Spring Training Observations: Indy Lights Road Course Test
The first session may have been cut short due to weather, but that doesn’t mean the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires drivers aren’t making the most of the time given, as everyone looks fast from top to bottom.
After missing Friday’s oval test at Homestead-Miami Speedway, Belardi Auto Racing set the quickest time on the chart with Santiago Urrutia laying down a lap of one minute and 14.5024 seconds. Urrutia was able to find his way to the top after utilizing the push-to-pass button three times on the same lap.
“Everyone used the push-to-pass at the end, including me, so I think Aaron was quickest today,” Urrutia said. “We’ve been working on setup for St. Pete and we’re pretty good, though we need to fix some problems that showed up today. I wasn’t completely comfortable in the car today because of that so we’ll get those things fixed before St. Pete. It’s going to be tough this year, because anyone can win the championship. You see from the times today that it’s going to be really tight. To win the championship you have to always be right there – win when you have the car to win, and if you don’t, be right there in the top-five.”
Ryan Norman finished off the session second quickest for Andretti Autosport, four tenths off of Urrutia.
“We’ve been here quite a few times during the off season and I was seven-tenths quicker today than I have been before,” he said. “That’s due to a combination of having fast teammates and being able to look over their data and work together. I was able to reset and go after it. A year has made a huge difference for me: I really didn’t have any expectations last year, I was just trying to learn and take it step by step. That approach worked in the long run, as did having a great team behind me and great engineers. That combination has really helped my confidence grow over the past year and I’m definitely ready to go for some wins.”
He was followed by his Andretti Autosport teammate Pato O’Ward, who is getting a chance to run the full campaign this year, following just four starts in 2017. Anticipation has been building for his first season following a runner-up in the Pro Mazda Presented by Cooper Tires standings in 2016.
Aaron Telitz, who led the first session of the day, completed the test ranked fourth in the rankings.
“It’s fun to be at the top of the leader board for Spring Training,” Telitz said. “The Belardi guys rolled my car off the trailer fast, which was nice. It’s a series test, so everyone was here, there was live timing, and you have the chance to make sure you and your engineer are clicking on the same page so you’re ready to go at the first event. We don’t race here at Homestead but it’s still a good track for getting a feel for changes that you’re making that will apply at other tracks. We just worked on our own things today, got our setups the way we want them for St. Pete and scrubbed in some tires so it was a very low-key day. It was about getting everything ready to rock and roll at St. Pete so we can be on pole and win there. That’s the important part. We want to pick up right where we left off last year.”
The Wisconsin native confirmed in December that he intends to run the full schedule with Belardi Auto Racing in 2018. As of then, the American had put together a partial budget for the year, with continued efforts being put in to put enough marketing partners together for all 10 events. The 26-year-old will begin the year at St. Petersburg, and go as far as his budget allows him to do so.
Notably, Telitz scored a pair of wins last season, starting off the year with a victory at St. Petersburg, before winning the wet season finale at Watkins Glen. He got the opportunity in Indy Lights last year with the scholarship from Mazda after winning the 2016 Pro Mazda Championship.
2017 Pro Mazda Champion Victor Franzoni was fifth quickest, followed by Dalton Kellett and Colton Herta.
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