Junior Open Wheel Talent

News and Views on Drivers Chasing Open-Wheel Stardom

Indy Lights: Chaves victorious in Long Beach

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted April 13, 2014 at 7:03 pm Indy Lights Leave a comment

Gabby Chaves centers the Indy Lights Long Beach podium with runner-up Zach Veach (right) and third-place finisher Matthew Brabham (left). (photo: IndyLights.com)

Gabby Chaves centers the Indy Lights Long Beach podium with runner-up Zach Veach (right) and third-place finisher Matthew Brabham (left). (photo: IndyLights.com)

Gabby Chaves drove to his second-career Indy Lights victory today on the streets of Long Beach. It was his first win of 2014 after finishing runner-up to Zach Veach in the Series’ opener two weeks ago in St. Petersburg. Veach holds a one-point lead heading into Round 3 at Barber Motorsports Park on April 26-27.

Chaves, driving for Belardi Auto Racing, led all 45-laps during Sunday’s caution-free race after moving ahead of pole-sitter Veach as they entered Turn 1 on the 1.968-mile street course. Veach set the fastest lap of the race (75.6723 sec.) on lap 14, while his Andretti Autosport teammate Matthew Brabham rounded out the podium.

“I was like, ‘Take that, Zach,’ ” Chaves said, in a post-race release. “It definitely pays to be on the clean side of the track with braking as I found out [two weeks ago] at St. Pete. I locked up my tires and Zach was able to get a clean run around me. I managed to get him this time. I’ve always said this is my favorite street course and I’m very pleased to get the win here.”

Veach closed the gap after losing some ground at the start, but wasn’t able to reclaim the lead. “Here in Long Beach, it’s all about the start,” he said, in a team release. “Something happened, so I don’t know if we had different wing settings than Gabby (Chaves); he was able to get us going into Turn 1. You run such low downforce here because of the long straightaways, so if you’re behind someone, you really can’t get close to them. I made a couple mistakes at the beginning of the race, then I was able to get settled in, catch back up to Gabby and ended up with the fastest lap of the race.”

Rookie Jack Harvey finished just over 27-seconds back in fourth with Luiz Razia completing the top-five in the 12-car field.

Make the jump for full results:

[Continue Reading...]

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Spencer Pigot dominated the opening weekend of the 2014 Pro Mazda season in his No. 7 Juncos Racing entry. (photo: Pro Mazda)

Spencer Pigot dominated the opening weekend of the 2014 Pro Mazda season in his No. 7 Juncos Racing entry. (photo: Pro Mazda)

The drivers who found success during the Winterfest, continued their winning ways this weekend during the Mazda Road to Indy opener at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Victor Franzoni, who won his first-ever USF2000 Winterfest race, found victory lane in wet conditions during Race 1 of the USF2000 season and RC Enerson, who won the 2014 USF2000 Winterfest, was first to the checkered flag in Race 2. In Pro Mazda, it was American Spencer Pigot capping off a spectacular weekend by sweeping the opening two races of 2014. Pigot also won the 2014 Pro Mazda Winterfest.

USF2000 Race Results: Race 1; Race 2

Pro Mazda Race Results: Race 1; Race 2

In Indy Lights, it was sophomore Zach Veach earning his first-career win after moving ahead of pole sitter (based on yesterday’s combined practice) Gabby Chaves in turn one. Chaves would hold on for the runner-up spot with rookie Jack Harvey advancing to third during the 39-lap race. Vittorio Ghirelli and Luiz Razia rounded out the top-five, respectively.

Indy Lights Race Results: Round 1

For up-to-date news and views on karting and junior formula racing follow @JOWT on Twitter or follow on Facebook.

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Road to Indy TV

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted March 24, 2014 at 7:17 pm Other Leave a comment

Andersen Promotions and Victory Group have combined to offer race fans a closer look at the Road to Indy with the launching of RoadtoIndy.tv.

Per the press release:

The RoadToIndy.TV initiative led by Victory Group Creative Director Juan Pablo Manterola will comprise a stream of bi-weekly episodes throughout the racing season focusing on the behind-the-scenes stories of drivers and teams on their way up the ladder in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. 
 
“The Mazda Road to Indy is the premier ‘graduate school’ of open-wheel racing in the world – an unparalleled platform for drivers to hone their skills, teams to improve their performance and sponsors to maximize their involvement,” said Andersen. “We are excited to launch RoadToIndy.TV to take coverage of the ladder series to a new level and showcase our partners, drivers, teams and their sponsors to an ever-growing fan base.”
This should be pretty entertaining and certainly a good opportunity to showcase the talent of today’s up-and-coming open-wheel drivers to a larger fan base.
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Canadian Scott Hargrove and American Spencer Pigot battle at Barber Motorsports Park during the 2014 Mazda Road to Indy Winterfest. (photo: ProMazda.com)

Canadian Scott Hargrove (No. 3) and American Spencer Pigot (No. 7) battle at Barber Motorsports Park during the 2014 Mazda Road to Indy Winterfest. (photo: ProMazda.com)

In the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, it was Canada that dominated ice hockey defeating the USA on both the men’s and women’s side (I’m still losing sleep over it), but in winter junior formula racing, it appears the Americans might have the upper hand over the rest of the world, at least in the annual Winterfest.

American RC Enerson claimed the 2014 USF2000 Winterfest title while fellow American Spencer Pigot earned the Pro Mazda title, after winning the USF2000 Winterfest in 2012. American drivers have claimed the championship since its inception in 2011. Zach Veach won the inaugural Winterfest. In 2012, it was Pigot who dominated winning five of the six races. Last winter, it was American Neil Alberico claiming all but one win. In fairness to my Canadian friends, Scott Hargrove, last year’s USF2000 Champion, did finish runner-up in the 2013 (USF2000) and the 2014 (ProMazda) Winterfest.

While Enerson, 16, of Port Richey, Fla., missed the first official test of the off-season at Barber Motorsports Park after breaking his foot, it was clear he was itching, not only under his cast, but, to get back in the car. On Dec. 4, he tweeted: “I need to get back in a racecar! Like now!” A week before Christmas, the cast was removed and Enerson was able to relieve that itch.

After starting from pole, driving for Team E, he went on to win the second race of the championship and later the finale, securing the championship in a down-to-the-wire fight with Englishman Michael Epps who also won two races giving the team title to Belardi Auto Racing.

“It was a great race today,” Enerson said, following his win in the finale. “I made a good start and just held my own. To win the championship is just amazing. I want to carry this with me into the season and, hopefully, use this momentum to good effect in St. Pete and try to go for the regular season championship. The team did a fantastic job to give me a great car. My coach, Jonatan Jorge, has been amazing and I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. I want to thank him, my parents, the team and everyone who supports me.”

American Clark Toppe, driving for JDC MotorSports, showed impressive form in the Winterfest winning the third race at NOLA Motorsports Park. Victor Franzoni won the opener in his first USF2000 race.

In Pro Mazda, it was Juncos Racing driver Spencer Pigot — also a Floridian — claiming the championship crown ahead of Hargrove, and fellow Canadian Garett Grist, who won at NOLA Motorsports Park.

“The Cooper Tires Winterfest has been great,” Pigot said in a post-race release. “I worked really well with the team and they did an awesome job all week. We won two races, were fastest every session on track and took every pole position so we can’t be disappointed with that. Hopefully, we can keep this momentum going and keep the car up at the front in the main season.”

Indy Lights drivers were able to test at both NOLA and Barber Motorsports Park as part of the 2014 Winterfest, but didn’t race. It was Belardi Auto Racing’s Gabby Chaves narrowly setting the pace at NOLA with Andretti Autosport’s Matthew Brabham posting the quickest time at Barber. Both drivers were exceptionally quick and challenged each other at both venues.

The Mazda Road to Indy drivers open the regular season on March 29-30 on the street of St. Petersburg.

For up-to-date news and views on karting and junior formula racing follow @JOWT on Twitter or follow on Facebook.

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Introducing Victor Franzoni

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted February 22, 2014 at 5:14 pm U.S. F2000 National Championship Leave a comment

Afterburner Autosport's Brazilian recruit Victor Franzoni drives to his first USF2000 win during the Winterfest opener at NOLA Motorsports Park (photo: USF2000).

Afterburner Autosport’s Brazilian recruit Victor Franzoni drives to his first USF2000 win during the Winterfest opener at NOLA Motorsports Park (photo: USF2000).

Before the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy test last December, few in North America had heard of Victor Franzoni. In fact, few probably recognized the name after the test. Tim Walsh and Brian Tomasi of Afterburner Autosport, however, knew the name well.

It wasn’t that Franzoni, 18, had a bad test with the team on Dec. 9-10 on the 2.38-mile Alabama circuit. The young Brazilian performed well, but failed to really stand out, unable to crack the top-seven while running about two seconds off of the leaders’ fast laps. Basically, he flew under the radar unless you were paying close attention, that is.

Walsh, owner of Afterburner Autosport, and Tomasi, team manager/lead mechanic, took notice and focused on continued improvement during tests leading up to the USF2000 Winterfest opener in New Orleans. It paid off.

Franzoni, a native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, who stands, maybe, 5’5″ tall with his racing shoes on, captured the attention of all in the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder by winning the first race of 2014 at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans. It was his first USF2000 race.

Franzoni followed Henrik Furuseth past early-leader RC Enerson on Lap 6. Two laps later a slight mistake by Furuseth allowed Franzoni to take the point. On the next lap, caution flags flew after Aaron Telitz suffered a suspension failure and the race ended under caution. Franzoni took the checkered.

“I’m really, really happy,” he said, in a post-race interview released by USF2000. “It’s been three years since I won my last race (in Formula Future in Brazil), so it feels great to win again. I’m still learning the car but it feels really good. I think we made a good start to the season, so let’s see if we can keep it going.”

Victor Franzoni

Victor Franzoni

In the second race, Franzoni finished runner-up behind Enerson trailing by 0.393 seconds on the 2.75-mile circuit. He set the third quickest time, trailing Telitz and Clark Toppe. Toppe, who was impressive all week, went on to win the third race at NOLA.

Prior to racing in North America, Franzoni spent time in karts. He finished 11th in the 2010 Granja 500 — a 500-mile kart race in Brazil that draws some of the biggest names in motorsport — sharing seat-time with Skip Barber Karting Scholarship winner Leonardo Jafet (5th-place in 2011), former Indy Lights driver Mario Romancini, Vinicius Perdigao (the winner of the opening USF2000 Winterfest race in 2011), among others.

Franzoni’s last win in a race car occurred in 2011 when he finished fifth in the Formula Future series in Brazil. Since then, he’s raced in the Formula Renault 2.0 Eurocup and Alps series as well as the Brazilian F3 Open.

With two wins in the final four races of the 2013 USF2000 National Championship and a win in the opening race of the 2014 USF2000 Winterfest, Afterburner Autosport appears to be a team to watch. Franzoni, meanwhile, has proven to be a driver to watch.

For up-to-date news and views on karting and junior formula racing follow @JOWT on Twitter or follow on Facebook.

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Monday morning reading

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted January 27, 2014 at 7:42 am Other Leave a comment

Grab your coffee and jump over to Kart360.com to read my latest feature story on world champion kart racer Ben Cooper.

Despite offers for free tests in cars, Cooper has declined stating he wouldn’t want to sacrifice everything he’s worked for to become a career-karter. During our interview I asked him about a future in open-wheel racing and he said it’s something he would love to do, but the budget just isn’t there. Either way, he’s proven to be one of the best and is currently helping others grow and develop into future open-wheel stars. Enjoy.

For up-to-date news and views on karting and junior formula racing follow @JOWT on Twitter or follow on Facebook.

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Junior formula signings update – 2014 season

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted January 14, 2014 at 6:23 pm Other Leave a comment

Pro Mazda drivers carve their way around the pristine Circuit of the Americas for Round 2 of the 2013 championship. (photo: ProMazda)

Pro Mazda drivers carve their way around the pristine Circuit of the Americas for Round 2 of the 2013 championship. (photo: ProMazda)

Late fall is an exciting time for those who follow junior formula racing. There always seems to be a flurry of driver announcements shortly after the previous year’s season ends. This fall/winter was no exception.

Here’s a quick glance at the early commits for the 2014 Mazda Road to Indy season. If I missed anyone, please send me an email and I’ll update the list (as of Jan. 14, 2014).

[Continue Reading...]

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Happy holidays from Junior Open-Wheel Talent!

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted December 24, 2013 at 1:12 pm Other Leave a comment

Happy holidays from Junior Open-Wheel Talent! A special thank you to everyone who supports JOWT and frequents the site. It’s been a special year for our family (see below) and hopefully yours as well.

(PeaPod Photography)

(PeaPod Photography)

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Alex Baron trumped the Indy Lights race-lap record during the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy test this week, posting a   1:15.726, at Barber Motorsports Park.

Alex Baron trumped the Indy Lights race-lap record during the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy test this week, posting a 1:15.726, at Barber Motorsports Park.

BIRMINGHAM, ALA. — All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy development program gathered at Barber Motorsports Park to hone their skills, already preparing for the 2014 season.

While teams and drivers had varying goals for the two-day test — some to go fast, some to adapt to a new driver/team, some to improve technical feedback, etc. — all attendees were able to attack the tarmac of the 2.3-mile Alabama circuit. Despite the diverse objectives, it’s still fun to look at the lap times and try to get a feel for who the “fast guys/gals” will be in 2014.

Aaron Telitz topped the USF2000 time sheets with a 1:23.283. In Pro Mazda, Mexican driver Alfonso Celis posted a 1:20.490 in cold conditions. Celis’ lap was 0.676-seconds quicker than the Pro Mazda race-lap record set by IndyCar driver Tristan Vautier. In Indy Lights, Frenchman Alexandre Baron (pictured above) toured the park in 1:15.726. Earlier this season, Baron won his debut USF2000 race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

Read the official reports, excellently written by Tamy Valkosky, on USF2000, Pro Mazda, and Indy Lights below.

For those looking for additional detail, I was able to attain all the time sheets from the two-day Road to Indy test. Make the jump to see all the recorded times from the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Barber Motorsports Park.

[Continue Reading...]

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First Look: Indy Lights car IL-15

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted November 22, 2013 at 3:46 pm Indy Lights Comments (1)

The 2015 Indy Lights IL-15 car was unveiled today — or, at least, its renderings were. Andersen Promotions announced late last month that Dallara would be manufacturing the much-needed upgrade for IndyCar’s top feeders series, having edged Multimatic and Mygale in the proposal process.

Today we receive a first look at the 2015 Dallara Indy Lights car based on a joint effort between Dallara’s Italian headquarters in Varano Melegari (Parma) and Dallara LLC in Speedway, Ind. The car will be manufactured at Dallara’s US headquarters, near Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Here’s a glance at the new machine. Thoughts?

IL-15 Oval View - Indy Lights

IL-15 Oval View – Indy Lights

IL-15 Road Course View-R IL-15 Top View-R

“The new Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 will be built to the highest safety and reliability standards that Dallara is known for and offer a modern stylish appearance that we know our drivers and fans will love,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, in a release. “We’ve been working with Dallara to present a car that will perform well, provide the proper training required for drivers in our series as the final step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder and still be exciting to look at. We believe the designers have accomplished all of our goals. Seeing it on the track next August in testing cannot come soon enough for us.”

For up-to-date news and views on karting and junior formula racing follow @JOWT on Twitter or follow on Facebook.

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