HOMESTEAD, Fla. – Emerging stars Anthony Martin and Oliver Askew confirmed their promise today at Homestead-Miami Speedway, posting the fastest laps respectively in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, both of which wrapped up two days of testing on the 2.21-mile South Florida road course.
Askew, 20, from Jupiter, Fla., who was quickest in all three USF2000 sessions yesterday, headed the timing charts in two of today’s three sessions aboard the No. 3 Cape Motorsports Tatuus-Mazda USF-17. He took advantage of slightly cooler conditions this morning to post the fastest time among the 21 drivers who participated in the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires Spring Training test at 1:23.9142, an average speed of 94.811 mph.
A former star in the karting ranks, Askew last year claimed a Team USA Scholarship, following in the footsteps of such acknowledged stars as Jimmy Vasser, Bryan Herta, Buddy Rice and Josef Newgarden. Then, last December, he emerged as the winner of the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout, clinching an opportunity to graduate into USF2000 for 2017.
The second fastest time, 1:24.3181, was set by the youngest driver in the field, 14-year-old Kaylen Frederick, from Potomac, Md., who once again impressed for Team Pelfrey, edging out Dutch teenager Rinus VeeKay on 1:24.4653 and Newman Wachs Racing teammate Andre Castro, from New York, N.Y., on 1:24.6664. All four posted their best laps this morning.
VeeKay was the only driver other than Askew to lead a session, pacing the field in 80-degree temperatures this afternoon with a time of 1:24.9897.
Team Pelfrey’s Robert Megennis, also from New York, N.Y., rounded out the top five overall, having posted his best of 1:24.6747 on Tuesday afternoon. The top 10 were completed by Guyana’s Calvin Ming (Pabst Racing), Canadian Parker Thompson (Exclusive Autosport), Kyle Kirkwood (Benik), from Jupiter, Fla., Dakota Dickerson (Newman Wachs), from San Diego, Calif., and Norway’s Ayla Agren (Team Pelfrey). A total of 2931 laps were logged.
The first session this morning also proved fastest for the Pro Mazda contingent. Martin, 22, last year’s USF2000 champion who hails from Kalgoorlie, Western Australia, overcame some braking difficulties yesterday to bounce to the top of the timing charts this morning when he turned the fastest time of all at 1:23.6329, an average speed of 95.130 mph.
Martin, who, like Askew, is driving here for the Florida-based Cape Motorsports team, also topped the charts during today’s third and final session in warmer conditions with a best lap of 1:24.0396.
Team Pelfrey, which led the way in all three sessions yesterday on the heels of two consecutive championship-winning seasons, had to make do with second, third and fourth on the charts today. Brazilian rookie Carlos Cunha (1:23.7299) narrowly edged out fellow rookie Nikita Lastochkin (1:23.7980) for second, while Californian TJ Fischer turned his best lap of 1:24.0550 while topping the charts earlier this afternoon.
Mazda Road to Indy rookie Sting Ray Robb, 15, from Payette, Idaho, emerged with the fifth fastest time for World Speed Motorsports on 1:25.4694, followed by veteran teammate Bobby Eberle, from Houston, Texas.
After spending the past two days converting their Dallara-Mazda IL15s from oval to road course configuration, the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires teams will be back in action tomorrow to round out the annual Spring Training test. Meanwhile, the Pro Mazda and USF2000 teams will have a one-day head start on final preparations for the opening two races of the season, which will take place next week, March 10-12, just over 200 miles away on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
Oliver Askew (No. 3 Cape Motorsports), fastest in USF2000: “Going into yesterday, I just wanted to get a feel for the car again. I didn’t want to go flat out right away, but we were quick right out of the box. The team is really good at making the right changes for us to learn, which is what we’ve been doing these two days. We haven’t gone out with the same car as the previous session. We picked right up where we left off yesterday and, at the end of the day, we were the only car in the top six that didn’t put new tires on. We’re all getting more knowledgeable about the new car with every change that we make. The Tatuus USF-17 is fantastic. The series has done a great job putting it together and making it user friendly. I didn’t expect the test to go this well so I’m extremely happy and very confident that we’ll be winning races this year.”
Kaylen Frederick (No. 81 Team Pelfrey), second in USF2000: “Prior to this test, we’ve been working on how to minimize tire wear for the races so we didn’t come in with the quickest setup, like some of the other teams did. Yesterday, we started working on having a faster car. I really like the USF-17. It definitely feels faster than the old car and it sounds better to me. Everything seems a bit smoother and more comfortable. It’s been a good transition for me – I have two very good teammates, we help each other out and make each other faster. I think the team and I have done our job and we’ll see what happens at St. Pete.”
Anthony Martin (No. 8 Cape Motorsports), fastest in Pro Mazda: “The last couple of days have been a big learning curve. The first day didn’t go as planned for us but, like we always do, we bounced back and this second day has been very productive. We’ve learned a lot about car setup and with my driving and, most importantly, we were quite fast. The biggest thing we worked on was driving, just getting me used to the car. I think the transition has gone well. This car has more power and more grip than the USF2000 car but it’s fun to learn. I’m a huge fan of the rotary engine so to have one of them strapped to the back side of me is quite awesome.”
Carlos Cunha (No. 81 Team Pelfrey), second in Pro Mazda: “It was a very good test for me. Last week was my first time in this car and it’s very different to drive than the Formula 3 car. It has more power and I am still getting used to the tires and the difference in downforce. This year will be very challenging but I have two good teammates. I need to learn a lot – about the car and about the tracks. I’ve never driven on a street course before! This is an amazing championship and an amazing prize at the end of the year for the champion. I just need to believe in the team, in the car and, of course, I need to believe in myself, and I think we’ll have a good year.”