Lastochkin Fastest in Chris Griffis Mazda Road to Indy Test
 November 21, 2015| 
  • Series News
AUSTIN, Texas – Drivers from all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy were in action today at Circuit of The Americas as part of the fifth annual Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test. The two-day test on the 3.4-mile road course, home of the United States Formula 1 Grand Prix, allows teams and drivers to gain a head start on preparations for the 2016 season.

Kyle Kaiser, driving for defending champion team Juncos Racing, was quickest among eight contenders from Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, while Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing stablemates Nico Jamin and Nikita Lastochkin were the respective pacesetters in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Kaiser, 19, from Santa Clara, Calif., jumped to the top in the closing minutes of the final session, taking advantage of a fresh set of Cooper tires on Juncos Racing’s No. 18 InterVision/NetApp/Juniper Networks Dallara-Mazda IL-15 to post a time of 1:54.224 (107.158 mph).

“We are not racing here [in 2016] so it is not super crucial to be fastest but it’s fun,” said Kaiser, who finished sixth in the 2015 Indy Lights title-chase. “I’m just working with the team and trying to get fast for next season. I am working with some new teammates so the team chemistry is a little different. Overall, it was a really good day. This is one of my favorite tracks and that’s the main reason I am here. I just wanted to drive this track in an Indy Lights car. It was a blast.”

Shelby Blackstock ended the day second fastest on 1:54.710 for Andretti Autosport having proven fastest in the two earlier test sessions.

“The day started off good and the car is good,” said Blackstock. “Everything we have tried in testing has been pretty fantastic so far. We are going through a long test plan list, going through things one by one, and hopefully we can find some good things that will work even better. Obviously we are going to hit some speed bumps on the way but hopefully we can keep up the speed we have right now, carry it on to the next test and get closer and closer to next season.”

Canadian rookie Zachary Claman DeMelo impressed for Juncos Racing with the third fastest time at 1:54.864, followed by teammate and Pro Mazda graduate Jose Gutierrez on 1:55.212 and James French (Schmidt Pete4rson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian) on 1:55.571.

USF2000 Champion Jamin Leads the Way in Pro Mazda
Three different drivers from three different teams topped the charts in today’s three Pro Mazda sessions. Sixteen-year-old Patricio “Pato” O’Ward, who attends school in San Antonio, Texas, and is a native of Monterrey, Mexico, was quickest out of the box this morning for Team Pelfrey, posting a time of 2:07.849. Juncos Racing’s Will Owen, a student at Texas Christian University in Ft. Worth, Texas, upped the ante in session two, after lunch, at 2:05.807, while Frenchman Nico Jamin, who won this year’s USF2000 Championship as well as a Mazda Scholarship prize to graduate to Pro Mazda in 2016, eclipsed both of them in the final session with a time of 2:05.224 (97.745 mph) for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.

“It was my first time here at COTA and it is probably one of my favorite tracks,” said Jamin. “It is an F1 track and so much fun and very fast. It was my first official test day in Pro Mazda; I did some private testing before. It is good now to see how my pace is compared to the others. I worked all day with Cape Motorsports to try to figure out how to set up the car for this track. It was a bit of a struggle at the beginning of the day but now we figured out the setup and finished with the best lap with quite a big gap so it was a great day. For sure, my target for 2016  is to win the championship. It is the only thing I have in my mind so I will work on it and try to get it.”

Owen ended the day second fastest at 2:06.110, followed by Juncos Racing teammates Nicolas Dapero, from Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Jake Parsons, from Melbourne, Australia. All three were covered by less than one tenth of a second. 

Lastochkin Fastest in USF2000 for Cape Motorsports w/ Wayne Taylor Racing
Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin set the pace in today’s trio of Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda test sessions, running the same Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing Van Diemen-Mazda with which Nico Jamin claimed this year’s championship crown. Lastochkin, who concluded his rookie USF20000 season with a personal-best fifth-place finish at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, came out of the box strongly this morning, topping the time charts at 2:22.928 during a 45-minute session which began on a wet but drying track. He continued that form throughout the day, which he concluded with a best lap of 2:10.217, an average speed of 93.997 mph.

“Today was actually quite great,” said Lastochkin. “We started the day with a wet track and I just focused on improving every time I was in the car. Each time I went out, I wanted to do better. It felt really good because I haven’t been doing much testing or anything since Mazda Raceway, since the finale, so to come out and know that I still have it is a good feeling.”

Teammate TJ Fischer, from Vacaville, Calif., who has raced this year in European Formula Renault 2.0 competition, posted the second fastest time at 2:11.267, edging 14-year-old Mexican newcomer Andres Gutierrez (John Cummiskey Racing), whose older brother Jose has raced for the past two seasons in Pro Mazda, at 2:11.291.

The top five were completed by USF2000 veteran Garth Rickards (Pabst Racing) and a trio of rookies comprising Australian Formula Ford 1600 Champion Cameron Hill (JDC MotorSports), Canadian Chase Pelletier (Team Pelfrey) and Kyle Kirkwood (Afterburner Autosport), who earned his opportunity as part of the Mazda Road to Indy and MAXSpeed Group Driver Development Program.

“It was a great day,” said Kirkwood. “The car was awesome and tons of fun. It was only my second time driving a car with aerodynamics and aero grip so that was a bit new to me and took me a few sessions to get used to it. It was actually my first time in the rain in a car so it was a little tough the first session. The second session, I was still getting used to the car and I was on used tires and I think we were about two seconds off. We went to new tires for the third session and I was quite quick and ended up being two seconds quicker than both of my teammates but we were still two seconds off (the fastest times) by the end of the last session. My goal coming in was to represent Mazda Road to Indy and Rotax the best I can and put down the best laps so I can prove to them that they picked the right driver for the opportunity.”

Testing will continue tomorrow with three more sessions for each of the three categories.
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