Mazda Road to Indy Heads to Louisiana
 April 8, 2015| 
  • Series News
PALMETTO, Fla. - Drivers from two of the three steps that comprise the Mazda Road to Indy, a scholarship laden development ladder which leads from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500, will be on stage this weekend at the inaugural Grand Prix of Louisiana. Both the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, which kicked off their 2015 campaigns two weeks ago on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., will continue with two more races this weekend, April 10-12, at the 2.74-mile NOLA Motorsports Park road course situated just across the Mississippi River from downtown New Orleans.

Californian Alberico Looks to Build on Perfect Start in Florida
Neil Alberico did not contest the recent Cooper Tires Winterfest pre-season mini-series, which visited NOLA in February, but he did take part in the eye-opening Mardi Gras activities earlier in the year and was present for the Winterfest in an advisory capacity with his team. The personable Californian showed no ill effects from the lack of seat time as he dominated both of the opening two races in St. Petersburg for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. Consequently, he holds a commanding points advantage as the 16-race series heads to the Mazda Grand Prix of Louisiana.

The runner-up placings in Florida were shared by Uruguayan debutant Santi Urrutia, who showed an impressive turn of pace for Team Pelfrey, and Jose Gutierrez, from Monterrey, Mexico, who is looking to build on a solid rookie campaign in 2014 which netted one race win for defending champion team Juncos Racing.

Team Pelfrey, which guided IndyCar rising star Jack Hawksworth to the Pro Mazda championship in 2012 and won two of the three Winterfest races at NOLA with Englishman Jack Aitken, who used the events as a training exercise for his primary campaign in Europe, will field a second car for Pato O'Ward. The 15-year-old Mexican, who is based now in San Antonio, Texas, also was fast in St. Petersburg, finishing fourth in Race One, and is anxious to rebound from a mistake in Race Two which ended his day early.

Other potential front-runners include Malaysian Weiron Tan (Andretti Autosport), who won one of the NOLA Winterfest races, as well as two more Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing entries for Canadian Daniel Burkett and last year's USF2000 champion Florian Latorre, from Libourne, France, who graduated to Pro Mazda on the back of his hard-won MAZDASPEED scholarship prize. Both Burkett and Latorre claimed podium finishes in the season-opener.

Another Canadian, Garett Grist, who won three races in 2014, will be looking to rebound from a disappointing debut with Juncos Racing in Florida. Grist will be joined at the defending champion team by Colorado's Will Owen, a race winner last year in USF2000, and Frenchman Timothé Buret.

The intensity of competition was demonstrated at St. Petersburg when the top 10 cars in qualifying were separated by just four tenths of a second.

The Pro Mazda contingent will begin their weekend with three promoter test sessions on Thursday, followed by a pair of official practice periods on Friday. Qualifying is set for 10:40 am local time on Saturday, followed by Race One for the Mazda Grand Prix of Louisiana at 5:50 pm. The green flag for Race Two on Sunday, April 12, will fly at 12:50 pm, immediately before the IndyCar feature event. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at promazda.com.
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