This past weekend, all three series that are part of the Mazda Road to Indy program tested for two days on the infield road circuit at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. While there were certainly many familiar faces present, including Star Mazda champ Tristan Vautier and USF2000 champ Petri Suvanto, there were also many new-comers testing at all three levels. We’ll break down the test not by day, but by series and look at how things went for the teams and what we can expect looking forward through the off-season and into the beginning of 2012.
Cooper Tires presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda
Keeping with a trend that the USF2000 series was setting toward the end of the 2011 season, the series on the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder showed up to the two-day test at Indianapolis with the most participants. Thirteen drivers in all spread across both the Championship and National classes participated and set times around the IMS infield road course. While several familiar names were present on the time sheet, most were newcomers to the series. The top time would, unsurprisingly, go to Andretti Autosport’s Spencer Pigot. Spencer finished 2nd to series champ Petri Suvanto in this past season’s championship, and would set the fast lap of the weekend in the fourth session at 1:28.6190. Scott Hargrove, who recently signed with JDC MotorSport for 2012, would be end up just behind Spencer posting a 1:28.8694.
Speed, while always desirable, wasn’t the sole point of this two-day test. There was a lot of driver evaluation being performed as well. Belardi Auto Racing brought three drivers to the weekend test: Roman Lagudi from Sydney, Australia, Scott Anderson from Fort Collins, CO, and Colin Thompson from Perkasie, PA. Lagudi raced last year for JDC MotorSport beginning at Mid-Ohio and so has some experience in the F2000 car, Thompson started racing cars in the Volkswagon TDI Cup and spent the 2011 season racing in the F1600 Formula Ford Championship Series for TTO Motorsports. Scott Anderson comes to the team as the 2011 Skip Barber National Series Champion. Of the three, Lagudi would post the best time with a 1:28.9211, not too far off from Hargrove’s time.
“I’m really happy with how the day went. It started out a little rough with some engine problems, but the final practice we got it all put together and managed to pull out some quick times. It was a great day. I’m proud to be a part of this Belardi team, and I think they would be a really good fit for me and I’m definitely looking forward to a future with them. I haven’t been in the car since last season, so it’s been a few months. Getting in the car for this test has been huge. I mean every opportunity I get to be in the seat will help me, and I’m really happy with how this test went.” — Roman Lagudi, #4 Belardi Auto Racing
Other familiar faces that returned to the series were Mikhail Goikhberg, Matthew DiLeo, JR Smart, Ardi Greenamyer, and Shannon MacIntosh. Shannon, who drove for Cape Motorsports last season, tested with Pabst Racing Services. All in all, it looks like the 2012 USF2000 season is going to be a hard fought one with a number of highly talented and experienced drivers in a position to take podiums and race wins. While Spencer Pigot is my early pick for the championship favourite, it won’t be quite the easy ride that Petri and Sage had before him. I also expect that of the three series in the Mazda Road to Indy program, the USF2000 grid will be the largest. Don’t be surprised if we end up seeing grid sizes in the low 20s at some of the road and street courses by mid-season.
Check back later for our recap of the Star Mazda and Firestone Indy Lights testing action and news, but in the meantime, here are the session results for the USF2000 test.
Timing and Scoring Results
|Pos||No.||Name||Best Tm||1||38||Scott Hargrove||01:28.9||2||7||Thomas McGregor||01:28.9||3||8||Spencer Pigot||01:29.0||4||9||Scott Anderson||01:29.1||5||14||Colin Thompson||01:29.8||6||93||Zak Silver||01:30.0||7||33||Mathew DiLeo||01:30.4||8||85||Mikhail Goikhberg||01:30.7||9||4||Roman Lagudi||01:32.4||10||5||Shannon McIntosh||01:36.2||11||19||J.R. Smart||01:37.0||12||13||James Dayson||01:44.6||13||29||Ardie Greenamyer||—|
|Pos||No.||Name||Best Tm||1||8||Spencer Pigot||01:28.6||2||4||Roman Lagudi||01:28.9||3||9||Scott Anderson||01:29.1||4||38||Scott Hargrove||01:29.2||5||93||Zak Silver||01:29.5||6||14||Colin Thompson||01:29.6||7||7||Thomas McGregor||01:29.6||8||85||Mikhail Goikhberg||01:29.7||9||33||Mathew DiLeo||01:30.2||10||19||J.R. Smart||01:33.4||11||5||Shannon McIntosh||01:34.4||12||13||James Dayson||01:43.9|