INDIANAPOLIS – Forty drivers, representing all three rungs of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, were in action this weekend during the two-day Chris Griffis Memorial Test held at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Over 5,300 laps were turned around the 2.439-mile road course in the seventh annual outing as teams and drivers focused on 2018 preparations.
The highly anticipated debut of the brand-new PM-18 – with the first container of 15 chassis sold out and additional cars and conversion kits on the way – took place to rave reviews.
The test marked the first time that 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 – were on track together with state-of-the-art chassis across the board, showcasing the revitalization of the ladder system.
Unofficially, the Pro Mazda track record at the Speedway set in 2016 by Patricio “Pato” O’Ward of 1:22.8800 (105.941 mph) was shattered by almost three seconds by the PM-18.
“The new Pro Mazda is exactly what this series needs,” said Jonny Baker, general manager of Team Pelfrey, winner of the 2017 Pro Mazda Team Championship. “It’s fast, it’s loud, it’s aggressive. It’s very exciting. Drivers are all saying the same things about it and really enjoying the car. We are going up to three seconds quicker than we were in the old car and I think it is really going to be a drivers’ series next year. Drivers were all getting out of the car after the first run here smiling, excited and saying how much fun they had and that’s exactly what you want. Big, big tick for me; a really cool car.”
Nico Jamin, driving for reigning Team Champions Belardi Auto Racing in the No. 5 entry, notched the fastest time overall to earn initial pre-season bragging rights. The 2015 USF2000 champion held the top spot in three of the eight sessions, with Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing’s Colton Herta finishing second quickest.
The test saw the top three finishers in the Pro Mazda championship claim their series prize of an Indy Lights test, with champion Victor Franzoni and third-place finisher Carlos Cunha driving with championship-winning Juncos Racing and series runner-up Anthony Martin with Andretti Autosport.
“This is awesome,” said Franzoni after his opening run. “It was my first time in the car and I finished second to Nico by just three-tenths. He has already done a full season so I’m really happy. The car is unbelievably fast. It is a huge difference from the [older] Pro Mazda to Indy Lights but it’s fun. I have a lot to learn and I’m excited.”
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