Drivers and teams get first taste of Dallara IL-15 and Mazda MZR-R during testing in Florida.
If the car alone can make a series great, the 2015 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires should be fantastic. Drivers were effusive in their praise of the Mazda MZR-R-powered Dallara IL-15 following the first official test at Palm Beach International Raceway in Florida as they became accustomed to the new top rung of the Mazda Road to Indy.
“I love the car. It’s great. It’s fast,” said Spencer Pigot, the 2014 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires titlist who will come into Indy Lights with Juncos Racing. “The Mazda engine is producing a lot of horsepower which is fun. We had no issues on the car whatsoever. It ran flawlessly and we did quite a few laps. I am looking forward to continuing to develop it and trying new things.
“This is the most advanced car I’ve driven. All sorts of buttons on the steering wheel and the dash are very nice and confusing – all sorts of things that I have never had to deal with before. It’s exciting for me to get to work with a brand-new car. Usually, I go into a team and they have all the set-ups and everything. It is a neat experience to be able to be the one that helps to develop the car and steers the team in the direction we are going to be headed.”
At the conclusion of the first day the top four drivers and teams were separated by a hair over two tenths of a second. The top two drivers from last year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires were the initial pacesetters, with second-place finisher Scott Hargrove, from Vancouver, B.C., Canada, driving for Enzo Potolicchio’s impressive 8Star Motorsports team, edging out Pigot by a scant 0.0643s. Hargrove’s best time on the opening day after completing 46 trouble-free laps was 1:06.8606.
“My first impression of the car was a pretty good one,” said Jack Harvey, returning to the series with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports. “I think Dallara did a nice job of developing what I think was already a good car in the old Indy Lights. The new car in every way is a big step forward. Everyone involved on the engine side as well, everyone has done a nice job in putting a competitive car on the track. I think the series should be really proud of what they have achieved. We still have some bugs to work out just from the team’s perspective on how to get optimal, maximum performance. With a new car, there is just lots to learn to get that peak performance.”
The teams had much to do sorting out the new Dallara IL-15 chassis, the turbocharged 2.0-liter Mazda MZR-R engine and the latest specification Cooper tires. Only 8Star Motorsports and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports had any prior experience with the car – at an entrant test day at Palm Beach last month – so progress was rapid and consistent.
It is also the perfect next step on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, notes Shelby Blackstock, who will drive the No. 51 for Andretti Autosport.
“It’s really the perfect stepping stone. You have USF2000, which is pretty much a bare junior formula car which teaches you all the right stuff and then you move to Pro Mazda which has a little bit more technology, a little more downforce. You have a good base so when you come here, to Indy Lights, it’s the perfect balance. It has the proper amount of downforce. It has enough technology on it to where when you go to IndyCar, you are used to a lot of stuff; a very integrated dash and the steering wheel,” he says.
The 2015 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires gets underway on the temporary St. Petersburg street/runway circuit with a doubleheader on March 28-29.