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Oct 12, 2012 - 06:31 AM
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Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road To Indy Test Concludes At IMS
Posted by: newsla on Oct 12, 2012 - 06:29 AM
IndyCar News
Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road To Indy Test Concludes At IMS


Spencer Pigot was all smiles as he exited the No. 81 Team Pelfrey car following the last session of the day, knowing he just completed a top-spot sweep of the two-day test in his first series outing.

 

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Pigot recorded the fastest time in all four Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear sessions at the Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy test, furthering his chances of moving up to the series after two consecutive championship runner-up finishes in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda.

"I really didn't know what to expect or who would be here," Pigot said. "It's my first time in the Star Mazda car, so I wanted to come in, learn as much as I can, work with the team and just improve throughout the two days, but it turned out pretty well."

The 18-year-old Florida resident will now focus on the same goal as the rest of the field regardless of which series they're running in - sponsorship calls, team meetings and the other physical and mental demands of trying to find a ride. But still, the achievement and the moment were not lost.

"Look where we are, we're at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so it's the coolest track you can race at," he said. "It's not the right way around that we all want to end up going, but still it's pretty cool."

In USF2000, Michael Johnson, the paralyzed driver who operates his race car by hand controls, was fastest in the morning session besting 22 other drivers. The 20-year-old spent the 2012 season with JDC Motorsports and finished 15th in the championship battle. In the afternoon, series veteran Matthew Di Leo set the fastest lap at 1:27.623, almost 2.5 seconds faster than his time the day before.

Sennan Fielding, who raced in the British Ginetta Junior Championship in 2012, was fastest in the afternoon session. It was a day of firsts for the Chesterfield, England native, and he quickly adjusted to the new setting.

"First time in a single-seater and the first time in the US as well. It is a lot of new things," Fielding said. "The past cars I have driven have required you to be on the throttle straight away in the corner where these ones roll in and keep the speed, so it's a lot different in terms of driving technique."

Irishman Peter Dempsey topped the Firestone Indy Lights morning session, and series hopeful Zach Veach set the fastest time of the two-day test at 1:18.4717 in the afternoon. Quebec native Mikael Grenier, who raced in the series previously but had not driven a race car in more than a year, posted the second-fastest time at 1:18.7134.

"I haven't driven for 14 months, and it has been pretty tough." Grenier said. "I think every session we are getting better, working on the car and this is the first time with this engineer, so I think everything went well. We are quite happy about the test. There are still a few things we can work on here and there, but I think in general we can be happy about the week."

Thursday's activity concluded the 2nd Annual Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Test. The Star Mazda Championship has one race remaining at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., Oct. 16-19. 2013 schedule announcements for all Mazda Road to Indy series are expected soon.

DAY 2 NOTEBOOK:

Peter Dempsey will return to Belardi Auto Racing for the upcoming 2013 Firestone Indy Lights season.

Dempsey, 26-year-old from Ashbourne, Ireland, joined the team at mid-season and scored three top-five finishes in five starts with the the Brownsburg, Ind.,-based team.

"First off I want to thank Brian [Belardi], team manager John Brunner and everyone at Belardi Auto Racing who has made this possible," said Dempsey, who is the winningest driver of the Star Mazda series, as well as a three-time winner of the coveted Walter Hayes Trophy. "They gave me a great opportunity to drive for the team at the end of the 2012 season, and that was a very enjoyable end to my year.

"When I came to the team, I really felt at home and wanted; that is a great feeling for me. After our last race at Fontana, Belardi was the team I wanted to remain with and grow with, and I am very excited that we are in the position to announce this signing so early. This really gives us the chance to properly prepare for the first race next season. For me, this is the first time in my American motorsport career where I have had a secure ride, and I could not be happier to have that with Belardi Auto Racing."

Dempsey gave the young team - which just completed its second season in Firestone Indy Lights - its highest finish of the season in his debut race on the streets of downtown Toronto when he finished fourth.

"I cannot express how happy I am to have Peter back with our team in 2013," team owner Brian Belardi said. "He is one of the most talented drivers in the Firestone Indy Lights series, and we will give him all the tools necessary to help him be successful. The entire team is looking forward to working with Peter again."

Kyle Kaiser, who made his Star Mazda debut at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca earlier this year, capped off a successful test with World Speed Motorsports.

The Californian, who is transitioning to Star Mazda after a successful two years in the west coast based Formula Car Challenge, was among the fastest Star Mazda drivers during the two-day test, matching lap times with more celebrated drivers such as Spencer Pigot, Shelby Blackstock and Matthew Brabham.

"Today we knew we had the speed," Kaiser said. "We had the car and we had the setup and it turned out really well. Being at this track was incredible and to be out there with guys who have really good resumes and competed at high levels. It's really cool to see my name turning competitive times with them."

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