Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

MRTI Observations: Mazda Iowa 100 Presented by Cooper Tires

On Sunday afternoon at Iowa Speedway, there was no catching Matheus Leist as after taking the top spot on Lap 32, he drove away from the field en route to scoring the Mazda Iowa 100 Presented by Cooper Tires victory.

Here are some observations from the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires event.

Matheus Dominates

With three victories in the last four races, Matheus Leist is finding his groove in Indy Lights after a rough start to the season with two finishes outside of the top-10. Now with eight straight top-seven finishes, the Carlin Racing driver has moved up to second in points, 13 markers ahead of Kyle Kaiser.

While Leist’s wins at Indianapolis and Road America were impressive, the victory on Sunday goes beyond those. He did not have the best starting position, qualifying 10th, and managed to build a gap of 2.93 seconds ahead of Santiago Urrutia by the time the checkered flag flew. The gap could have been larger, but Leist elected to back his lap times down once he got the lead to conserve the tires.

Being almost three seconds ahead was enough to cause some confusion, though, as Urrutia thought he won the event, performing a series of donuts on the frontstretch post-race.

“When I went by (Dalton) Kellett, I thought that I had gotten the lead, so I thought, ‘alright’ because I had never seen Leist,” Urrutia said post-race. “So when I get by Kellett, I tried to save a little and then thought we won at the end. But it’s alright, we struggled today so to get back through there and a good solid finish, is a great result, and hopefully, we can run well in Toronto, too.”

Rough Day for Rickards

Out of the 14 drivers that started, only one failed to finish the event, which was Garth Rickards. He went around for a quick spin on the backstretch at Lap 23, before pulling off shortly after the restart and retiring from the event.

“Right off the start it didn’t feel right,” he said. “It was loose. I tried to use the bars to improve the handling, but it just didn’t work. It felt good in practice, but it was just undrivable there.”

The 14th-place finish adds to the struggles this year for Rickards, who has posted only two top-10’s in his rookie campaign.

Colton Leads Early

Before Leist making his way through the field, Colton Herta led the first 32 circuits from the pole and looked set to score his third victory of 2017 possibly. However, he would fade through the second half of the 100 lap event to a fourth-place finish.

“They had it figured out today,” he said. “The car went loose on us, and there’s not much that you can do on a short oval when that happens.”

Herta started off his season well with two wins and a runner-up in the first four races but struggled with only one top-10 in the following four events. Now with back-to-back top-fives, it seems momentum is back on the young driver’s side as he heads to the streets of Toronto for the first time in his career. The street circuit could be the right ticket to getting back in victory lane; his first career win came on the streets of St. Petersburg.

Debut Put on Hold

Chad Boat was supposed to make his series debut, but that was delayed till Gateway Motorsports Park.

The 25-year-old was not medically cleared by INDYCAR officials to drive due to injuries sustained during a National USAC midget race on Sunday, July 2.

“To say I’m disappointed doesn’t begin to describe how I’m feeling right now, but I trust the doctors and medical staff at INDYCAR and know they have my best interest in mind,” said Boat. “I’ll continue to follow the instructions I’m receiving for recovery and look forward to being back soon. Thanks to Pristine Auction and Belardi Auto Racing for the opportunity.”

Belardi Auto Racing team owner Brian Belardi added that he was “extremely disheartened” by the news, but “remains excited and positive about the future based on his pace in last week’s test.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Leist Wins Iowa Speedway Thriller

Urrutia’s Impressive Charge Through Field Nets Well-Deserved Second
 
NEWTON, Iowa – Rookie Matheus Leist is quickly becoming an oval master, following up his Freedom 100 victory in May with his second oval win of the season – and third victory overall – in an action-packed Mazda Iowa 100 Presented by Cooper Tires race this afternoon. His victory marks the third consecutive run to the checkers for Carlin, who won at the super-fast speedway in 2015 with Max Chilton and Felix Serralles last year in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.
 
Qualifying was held earlier in the day with Colton Herta of Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing claiming his fourth pole to date and setting a new track record in the process with a two-lap average of 39.3279 seconds (163.670 mph). Carlin’s Zachary Claman DeMelo – who claimed his maiden win the last round at Road America – points leader Kyle Kaiser of Juncos Racing and Andretti Autosport’s Ryan Norman comprised the first two rows. Six drivers in total bested the existing track record.
 
Herta led through the opening laps but a brief four-lap caution on Lap 23, when Garth Rickards (Carlin) spun in Turn Two, set the stage for a complete shuffle at the front of the field. Leist, who qualified 10th and had moved into fourth at that stage, took advantage of a bunched up field and made quick work to pass Claman DeMelo for third, Kaiser for second and Herta for the lead.
 
The side-by-side action continued with Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport), who qualified fifth, moving into contention and a hard-charging Urrutia. With Leist comfortably out front, Urrutia and Kellett became the stars of the show. Urrutia, last year’s Indy Lights vice-champion, sliced through the field from an 11th place grid position and became embroiled in a great dual with Kellett for the second step on the podium which he solidified with 18 laps to go. Kellett, who set the fastest lap of the race and also earned the Staubli Award, crossed the line in third followed by Herta and Kaiser.
 
Although tied on positions gained, Leist claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award as the highest finisher over Urrutia.
 
Kaiser’s point lead has been cut in half and he now maintains a 13-point advantage over Leist with Herta a further 35 points in arrears in third. In the Team Championship, Andretti Autosport and Carlin are tied, with the tie-breaker going to Andretti on more third-place finishes (four to three).
 
Indy Lights will return to action this week for a doubleheader Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto Presented by Allied Building Products on July 15/16 at the challenging Toronto street circuit.
Matheus Leist (#26 TMA – Carlin): “I’m so happy. I think this was my best race this year. Of course, the Freedom 100 was great but I led the whole race. Here, I needed to move forward and I did. I’m so happy for the team – we needed to make some points today. It was a little tricky in the beginning, on new tires. When I managed to overtake Neil just before the yellow, I found out that the high line was perfect for me. When the race restarted, I ran the high line and everyone else was low so I think I passed three drivers in Turn One. I couldn’t believe everyone stayed on the inside. The car was just so good so I was able to open a gap, save my tires and get the win. It is a very difficult championship since everything here is new to me so I am being realistic. We’re in a good position now so if we can keep winning, we can keep fighting.”
Santi Urrutia (#5 Belardi Auto Racing w/SPM): “We have been struggling, especially in qualifying, so starting in the back is difficult. But we found the speed for the race. I had a really good car today – I was able to pass on the inside early but then I realized the high line was better and found a good groove out there. It’s good points for the championship. But at the end of the race I did donuts because I thought I won! When I passed Dalton I thought I was leading because I never saw Matheus. I came into Victory Lane and my mechanics were happy, but not super happy and I didn’t understand why they didn’t park me inside the podium. Then they told me ‘Santi, you finished second.’ Now we’ll head to Toronto and try to figure things out and have a strong weekend. The championship is still alive – I am far back but it’s not over yet.”
 
Dalton Kellett (#28 K-Line Insulators USA, Inc. Mazda – Andretti Autosport): “It just shows all the work the Andretti team has done this weekend. We have been fast all weekend, and in qualifying and the race we had a very consistent car. Santi, Kyle, Colton and I were able to run side-by-side at different moments, running two-wide around the whole track. We really focused on having a good race car and keeping the Cooper tires under us the whole race. There were some great battles all race long out there!”
###
About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.comwww.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Leist Lays it Down for Carlin in Indy Lights at Road America

ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Matheus Leist is on a roll just now in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the final rung on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder. Coming off his maiden victory in the Freedom 100 last month at Indianapolis, the Brazilian rookie qualified on pole for this afternoon’s Mazda Indy Lights Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Allied Building Products, then led from flag to flag to win handsomely on his first visit to the high-speed 4.014-mile Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
 
Fellow South American Santi Urrutia, from Miguelete, Uruguay, who won one of the two races last year at Road America, finished a distant second for Belardi Auto Racing, merely inches ahead of championship leader Kyle Kaiser, from Santa Clara, Calif., for Juncos Racing.
 
The closest anyone got to challenging Leist for the race win was at Turn One, when a flying start – plus the benefit of a big draft on the long, mainly uphill front straightaway – enabled Ryan Norman, who started a career-best third for Andretti Autosport, to tow past front row qualifier Neil Alberico and, momentarily, challenge Leist for the top spot. Leist managed to fend off the attack but Alberico wasn’t quite so fortunate. The front wing of Alberico’s Carlin Dallara-Mazda IL-15 made minor contact with the rear of Norman’s car, causing him to plummet to ninth by the completion of the opening lap.
 
While Leist took off into the lead and Norman slotted into second, Kaiser, who started fourth, was glued to Norman’s rear wing as the leaders sped past the pits for the first time. Right behind them, remarkably, was Urrutia, who had lined up only 10th on the grid after encountering some mechanical difficulties in qualifying.
 
Kaiser took advantage of the draft to draw alongside Norman on the downhill run to Turn Five… only for Urrutia to do the same, then leave his braking until absolutely the last moment as he dived inside BOTH of his rivals to claim second place. It was a brilliant maneuver that left the crowd on its feet!
 
The in-fighting played right into the hands of Leist, however, who set a fast, consistent pace at the front and soon began to stretch out an appreciable margin over his rivals. The gap grew to almost three seconds after five laps as he eased away to a well controlled victory. Leist’s eventual winning margin was 6.1667 seconds.
 
Kaiser and Norman continued to battle over third place, exchanging positions a couple of times before a mistake on Lap Six saw Norman run wide onto the grass in Turn Three. The excursion cost him three positions and allowed Kaiser back up into third. The Californian then closed rapidly on Urrutia, setting the fastest lap of the race on Lap Eight at a new record 1:54.4115 (126.302 mph). It wasn’t long before the two cars were together again, but Urrutia defended staunchly and even though Kaiser carried a lot of speed out of the final corner on the final lap and drafted up underneath Urrutia’s rear wing as they sped up the hill, the Uruguayan remained narrowly ahead at the finish to claim his second runner-up finish from the last three races. Urrutia also claimed the Tilton Hard Charger Award.
 
Norman capped an impressive drive by fighting back from his earlier error and overtaking both Dalton Kellett, who later slipped back down the order, and the Canadian’s Andretti Autosport teammate Nico Jamin to claim a season-best fourth. Norman also earned the Staubli Award.
 
Colombian Juan Piedrahita, in his 50th Indy Lights start, also drove well for Team Pelfrey, turning some extremely fast laps as he chased Norman to the finish line. Jamin followed in sixth ahead of Alberico. Notably every one of the 14 starters turned a lap within 0.75 seconds of Kaiser’s new benchmark fastest lap.
 
A separate qualifying session earlier this morning to set the grid for tomorrow’s ninth Indy Lights race of the season saw Colton Herta earn the pole position for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing with a new record lap of 1:52.0034 (129.018 mph). Leist will start second. The race will go green at 9:45 a.m. EDT and will be broadcast on NBCSN at 11:30 am EDT. Live timing and live streaming also will be available on the RoadToIndy.TV App, RoadToIndy.TV, indylights.com and indycar.com.
Matheus Leist (#26 TMA-Carlin): “Sometimes it’s difficult to be out in front like that, to keep your focus for so long. But the team kept me updated on the pace and the gap so I just kept that up. It was a long race – it wasn’t that many laps, but when you’re on your own on such a long race track, it seems long. I was on my own while the guys behind me were fighting for position and that helped me. I pushed very hard early and then worked to control the gap. It’s great to get wins now – I felt at the beginning of the year that we had a car to win, but I couldn’t put it all together. Everything was new to me, but I’m glad I have a team like Carlin to help me to improve my techniques, as well as my teammates. Everything is going our way now so I hope we can keep up the momentum!”
###
 
About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Leist Holds Off All Challengers to Win Freedom 100

Brazilian Rookie Claims First Mazda Road to Indy Victory in Style for Carlin Team

SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Matheus Leist led from pole position to checkered flag in today’s Freedom 100 to earn a well-deserved maiden Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires victory. But this was no walkover for the Carlin team’s Brazilian rookie, who came under intense pressure from several other contenders during an exciting 40-lap, 100-mile race in front of a bumper crowd on Carb Day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Fellow rookie Aaron Telitz (Belardi Auto Racing) barely edged Canadian Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport) for second place on the run to the flag.

Weather conditions were markedly improved over yesterday, when persistent rain forced qualifying to be delayed for more than four hours. Instead sunny skies and warm temperatures greeted the talented field of 14 drivers as they assembled on the historic Brickyard oval.

After country music star (and mother of Indy Lights racer Shelby Blackstock) Reba McEntire’s rousing rendition of the National Anthem, the action began early as Canadian Zachary Claman DeMelo made a storming start from fifth on the grid to tuck in behind Carlin teammate Leist at Turn One. Behind, Kellett also got a run on Colton Herta, who started on the front row for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing. Unfortunately, in trying to hold off Kellett at Turn Two, Herta barely clipped his teammate’s front wing which in turn tipped him into a spin. Worse, teammate Ryan Norman, from Aurora, Ohio, who had qualified a fine fourth, was unable to avoid the spinning #98 car. Exit two contenders even before the field was fully up to speed.

After five laps of caution to clear away the wreckage, Leist held on to his advantage over Claman DeMelo at the restart, followed by the third Carlin Dallara-Mazda IL-15 of Neil Alberico, who leapfrogged Kellett with a bold outside line pass into Turn One.

The race soon settled into a rhythm with Leist turning consistent laps at an average speed of around 195 mph at the head of the field. Claman DeMelo held onto second until Lap 13, when Kellett drafted past his countryman on the inside line at Turn Three. Telitz took advantage of Claman DeMelo’s slight loss of momentum to move into third, then, on Lap 19, second when he drafted past Kellett on the entrance to Turn Three.

Six cars ran virtually nose to tail for the majority of the race, with Leist holding onto the lead ahead of Telitz, Kellett, Alberico, Claman DeMelo and Santi Urrutia (Belardi Auto Racing), who, after starting 12th, moved up steadily through the pack during the middle portion of the race to claim the Tilton Hard Charger Award.

Telitz, too, was looking especially racy. Last year’s winner of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires made his first challenge for the lead on Lap 30, only to be rebuffed, then tried again a couple of laps later – around the outside at Turn One. Leist barely clung onto the lead as they sped into Turn Two, whereupon Telitz tried again at Turn Three. Once again, Leist held his ground, leaving Telitz to lose a little valuable momentum – and a position – to Kellett.

That was as close as anyone got to usurping the 18-year-old Brazilian, who held on to claim the win. After finishing a career-best third in last year’s Freedom 100, Kellett was unable to make a move on Leist in the final stages, and instead found himself passed on the run to the line by a fired-up Telitz.

Alberico maintained his strong run of recent finishes in fourth, while the expected challenge from Urrutia, who posted the fastest lap of the race at a new record of 198.104 mph, failed to materialize after he glanced the wall at Turn Two with a few laps remaining. Urrutia maintained control of his car and held on to finish fifth ahead of Claman DeMelo, who also brushed the wall in Turn One.

Californian Kyle Kaiser, despite finishing a disappointed ninth for Juncos Racing, actually stretched his championship lead by one point to 14 over Frenchman Nico Jamin, who struggled to a distant 10th for Andretti Autosport.

The Indy Lights contenders will be in action next at Elkhart Lake’s famed Road America in Wisconsin on June 23-25.

Matheus Leist (#26 TMA-Carlin): “I can’t believe it, this is a dream come true. The track is just amazing; it’s so fast. To win here is unbelievable. We had a perfect car today so we were able to lead the whole race. I kept the same line the whole race to try to keep Aaron behind me, but it was so tough. I was nervous early in the race because I thought it would be really close. I thought Aaron would overtake me when he pulled even with me – we were side-by-side for three or four corners. I tried to relax and do my job and he wasn’t able to get by me. We led my first ever oval practice Monday and the car was just amazing – I knew we had a winning car. I spent this week at the hotel watching the races from the past few years and I knew they were all decided on the last corner so I studied everything. I’m so thankful for this; the Carlin guys worked so hard this week. This is my first time here on the oval so hopefully I can win the Indy 500 here in the future.”

Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Leist Claims the Pole in Delayed Freedom 100 Qualifying at Indianapolis

Rookies Lead the Way into Tomorrow’s Mazda Road to Indy “Blue Riband” Race
 
SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Rookie Matheus Leist will start from the pole position for tomorrow’s Freedom 100, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Round Seven, after posting two record-breaking laps around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway this evening. The 18-year-old from Novo Hamburgo, Brazil, set new standards for both the two-lap qualifying average (199.198 mph) and the fastest Indy Lights single-car lap set during qualifying (199.268 mph) for the Carlin team following a lengthy delay due to rain.
 
Leist edged out second-generation Indy Lights racer and fellow rookie Colton Herta, from Valencia, Calif., who recorded a two-lap average of 198.648 mph for Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing. Andretti Autosport teammates Dalton Kellett, from Stouffville, Ont., Canada, and Ryan Norman, from Aurora, Ohio, will share Row Two of the grid.
 
The 40-lap, 100-mile race is traditionally the highlight of the season for the highest rung on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires open-wheel development ladder, and will take place directly after the final practice session on Carb Day for Sunday’s 101st Indianapolis 500.
 
Seven and a half hours after practice was initially postponed due to persistent rain, the Indy Lights contenders finally ventured out for an abbreviated 20-minute practice session at 4:30 p.m. Conditions remained cool and with heavy cloud cover, but they clearly worked in favor of the Carlin team which posted the top two speeds. Leist set the tone by recording the first-ever 200+ mph lap for an Indy Lights car at 44.7690 seconds, an average speed of 201.032 mph, with teammate Zachary Claman DeMelo not far behind at 199.515 mph.
 
Twenty minutes later, Neil Alberico (Carlin) was the first car out on track for single-car qualifying. The Californian’s solid two-lap average of 196.938 mph was beaten just a couple of minutes later by Kellett, whose first lap of 198.170 mph immediately eclipsed the existing single-lap record of 197.866 mph, set in 2015 by Ethan Ringel. Kellett’s second lap enabled him to establish a new two-lap mark of 198.011 mph.
 
Leist, running seventh in the order, then vaulted to the top of the charts with his record-breaking run, which remained good enough for the reigning British Formula 3 champion to secure his first Indy Lights pole.
 
Herta, running 12th in line, was the only challenger to come close – despite a heart-stopping half-spin as he left the pit lane to begin his two-lap run. Herta recovered but ultimately fell shy of Leist by less than a quarter of a second.
 
Championship leader Kyle Kaiser, from Santa Clara, Calif., will start from 11th on the grid after recording a two-lap average of 196.058 mph for Juncos Racing.
 
The green flag for tomorrow’s race – which will air live on NBCSN – will fly at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
 
Matheus Leist (#26 TMA-Carlin): “It was a long wait today and I think all the drivers were nervous going into qualifying. I’m so happy to get my first pole position in the series in my first oval race. Everything is new for me here so I’m still getting used to everything. And the weather today was so different than it was in the test on Monday, but the team gave me a really good car. You have to be 100 percent focused on what you’re doing because everything happens so fast. There was a lot of pressure but I knew we had two very good laps. I had to wait for the other drivers to finish qualifying, which was scary. This feels great.”
 
Colton Herta (#98 Deltro Energy Mazda/Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing): “I’m super glad we got to run, since I am starting ahead of the guys I’m fighting in the championship. But I made a mistake coming out onto the track – I did a half spin and went through the grass. The driver excuse in me would say it was the rain that started to come down but in reality I simply lost it coming out on track. I don’t know how much that really affected us; the Carlin guys had such a good car today. Tomorrow will be a cat-and-mouse game. You have to see what you’ve got and what everyone else’s strengths are. But it really hit me when we were taking the photo that I’m in the front row at Indianapolis. I was thinking that it will be fun to see where I am in 30 years and look back and see where it started.”
 
###
 
About Indy Lights: Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires is the third and final step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Sanctioned by INDYCAR, the series is operated by Andersen Promotions, which oversees all three levels of the ladder system. The Indy Lights champion is awarded a scholarship valued at $1M toward the Verizon IndyCar Series. The series has a rich history as a development platform for many of today’s top drivers. For more information, visit indylights.com
 
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook. 
 
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the IndyCar racing series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/coopertire.
 
Categories
Mazda Road to Indy Open Wheel

Leist “Hopes to Become Champion” in Indy Lights Rookie Campaign

After beginning his career by karting in Brazil, Matheus Leist is one of the rising stars of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires this season.

Leist comes from an open-wheel background, having raced in Formula 3 since 2014. He began with Formula 3 in Brazil, followed by Formula 4 in England. In 2016, he captured the championship for Double R Racing over Carlin’s Ricky Collard.

“The championship was very good; I had a lot of podiums and a few wins and won the title,” he said. “There were some good weekends: like Silverstone, where I was a bit faster than everyone else, and the final round at Donington. I went into that last weekend 15 points behind the leader and won the championship in the final race.”

His success caught the attention of Trevor Carlin, who took on Leist for this year’s Indy Lights season. The Brazilian feels the Mazda Road to Indy is the right approach as it “gives a driver more opportunities to become a professional race car driver” with the scholarship program, as well as his confidence in Carlin having won the title last year with Ed Jones.

The first weekend didn’t pay out as hoped with a pair of finishes outside of the top-10 at St. Petersburg, but Leist knew it’d be tough at the start.

“Everything will be different for me, so I need to learn the car and learn to drive on ovals,” he said. “I’m really looking forward to working with the team and hope to become the champion at the end of the year.”

For Leist, the interest in racing began at the age of eight as a result of a friend having a go-kart track nearby.

“My father bought me a go-kart, and I stopped playing tennis – but I did keep playing soccer,” he said. “I decided to make it more serious, so I tested for about a year. There aren’t any races in the south of Brazil where I live, so I flew to Sao Paulo to go racing. My brother also raced karts so we could fly together, which was nice.

“When I started traveling for races, I stopped playing soccer and focused on racing. I think I’m a better driver than soccer player anyway.”

EMAIL ASHLEY AT ashley.mccubbin@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER:@ladybug388

The thoughts and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of PopularSpeed.com, its owners, management or other contributors. Any links contained in this article should not be considered an endorsement.

Categories
News Open Wheel

Leist Joins Carlin; Piedrahita Rejoins Pelfrey

The 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Grid continues to come together, as Carlin Racing announced a new driver while Team Pelfrey announced a re-signing of a driver from last year.

Carlin Racing will bring a new face to the Mazda Road to Indy Program, as reigning BRDC British F3 Champion Matheus Leist will be behind the wheel of one of the team’s Indy Lights entries for 2017.

“I’m very excited to be joining Carlin in Indy Lights” said Leist.  “I had quite a few options open to me in 2017, but a combination of things, including the opportunities in the US and on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, made Indy Lights a great option for me.   I have raced against Carlin before so I know how hard they push as a team to win.  I’m incredibly excited to get out on track in the car and get the season underway.”

The 18-year-0ld makes the trip to the United States after success in both Formula 3 and Formula 4. In his rookie season of Formula 4 competition in 2015, he scored two wins en route to finishing fifth in the points. Then last year in Formula 3, he scored four wins and 11 podiums en route to the championship.

It appeared as though the he’d be headed to GP3, having taken part in the official test in Abu Dhabi with speeds within the top-five, however now there’s a change in the sails.

“We have raced against Matheus for the last two seasons now, and have witnessed first hand his race craft and raw speed,” Trevor Carlin said. “Now we have chance to work together, it will be great to have those talents within the team rather than trying to beat them!  Indy Lights will certainly be a new environment for Matheus and a steep learning curve, but he has the ability and more importantly, the calm and determined nature to overcome these challenges.  I’m very excited to see what we can achieve together in 2017.”

Meanwhile, Team Pelfrey announced Juan Piedrahita will be back with the team this season. He drove the No. 2 Petrosur/Team Pelfrey Dallara to six top-10 finishes last season. It’ll mark his fourth season of Indy Lights competition.

“I couldn’t be happier to rejoin Team Pelfrey for the 2017 Indy Lights season. After working with the crew last year, I knew it was the right fit coming into this year,” said the Colombian. “Gary [Neal] and Yves [Touron] have given me a lot of confidence and they always have a very competitive car at every track. We are going be extremely competitive this year and for sure we are going to seal the deal in the Freedom 100.”

 

“We are extremely happy to welcome Juan back to Team Pelfrey IL for the 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires,” stated team manager, Gary Neal. “We built a lot of momentum in post 2016 season testing with Juan and I am sure we will see some great results this season.”

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