Consistency Propels Urrutia to Championship Lead
 May 12, 2015| 
  • Team News
Indianapolis, Ind. – A hectic Mazda Road to Indy weekend for Team Pelfrey at the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit brought a convincing win for rising Uruguayan star Santiago “Santi” Urrutia, who now leads the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires point standings by a commanding 24-point margin, plus a breakthrough performance for Luke Gabin in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

The 21-strong Pro Mazda field contested three races on the 2.439-mile road course, including one on Thursday evening as a makeup for a race last month at NOLA Motorsports Park which was postponed due to poor weather. A messy encounter was interrupted by no fewer than three caution periods but served to underline Urrutia’s qualities. After starting third, Urrutia fell back while take evasive action following an incident in Turn Two between teammate Pato O’Ward and Florian Latorre which necessitated a full-course caution. The 18-year-old from Miguelete, Uruguay, vaulted from 11th to sixth at the restart, then overtook both Daniel Burkett and O’Ward to move into fourth.

Urrutia lost a place to Latorre at the beginning of Race Two on Friday, but kept his cool and maintained that position to take over the points lead from Neil Alberico, who finished a distant 17th. Then, on Saturday, Urrutia took advantage of his pole position by maintaining a slender advantage throughout the 20-lap race to claim his second win of the season.

O’Ward, who celebrated his 16th birthday on Wednesday, notched up finishes of sixth, 10th and fifth from the three races and now holds fifth in the point standings, just two points shy of double race winner Weiron Tan.

Englishman Raoul Owens joined Team Pelfrey immediately prior to the Indianapolis weekend and picked up some valuable experience with a trio of finishes on the verge of the top 10 among an extraordinarily competitive field. Owens’ strongest performance came in Race One on Thursday. He was obliged to start at the back of the field due to a late change of teams, but had worked his way up to 13th before an incident on the final lap dropped him back to 18th.

Team Pelfrey also made its mark during a pair of USF2000 races. Australian Gabin, who stepped up to USF2000 this year after winning a MAZDASPEED scholarship through the Skip Barber Racing Championship Shootout, was in contention for podium finishes in both events before settling for a fifth and a fourth, while Garth Rickards ran among the top six on both events. A mistake on the last lap gifted sixth place to teammate Ayla Agren on Friday, while Rickards ran an excellent fourth in Race Two before his day was ended by gearbox failure. Teammate Nikita Lastochkin also posted his most competitive weekend to date, fighting back from an early spin on Friday to finish eighth before adding a solid seventh-place effort in Race Two.

“Overall, it was a fantastic weekend for Team Pelfrey at the Speedway,” declared Team Pelfrey Team Manager Nigel Tuckey.  “On the Pro Mazda side, Santi won and extended his championship lead; Pato once again showed his speed and we welcomed Raoul Owens into our team. I am very much looking forward to watching all three of them grow and develop for the rest of the season.

“Our USF2000 team continues to surge forward, with Luke securing two top-five finishes and Garth, Ayla and Nikita all securing solid finishes and demonstrating very competitive pace during the course of the event. We need to keep up the good work and push as hard as ever as we head to the first oval event of the season.”

Both championships will continue with the first left-turn-only races of the season at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis as part of the #MRTI FreedomFest weekend during the lead-up to the 99th Indianapolis 500.

Raoul Owens (#80 Team Pelfrey Pro Mazda) - Race One, started 18th, finished 18th; Race Two, started 12th, finished 11th; Race Three, started 11th, finished 12th: “This weekend was certainly a learning experience. I felt I had strong pace going into qualifying but I didn't manage to put it all together so I only ended 11th. I got a clean start and managed to make up a place or two but once everyone had settled into a rhythm I wasn't able to move up the order any further. Race Two was almost the same. I made a mistake going into Turn One and dropped back to 12th where I stayed the rest of the race. Myself and the team learned a lot this weekend which I feel is crucial especially when the race doesn't go as we had hoped. I am looking forward to the remainder of the season and what it holds for myself and the team.”

Santiago “Santi” Urrutia (#81 Team Pelfrey/Ancap/BSE/Antel/Corporacion de Maquinaria/AgroLavalle/Fadisol Pro Mazda) - Race One, started third, finished second; Race Two, started second, finished third; Race Three, started first, finished first: “I really enjoyed my first appearance in Indianapolis, and to walk away with a pole, a win, another podium plus an extended championship lead is very positive for myself and the team. I must say another big ‘thank you’ to not only Team Pelfrey who gave me an amazing car, but also to all of my partners, my family and my fans who make all of this possible. I’m really looking forward to the second Indy event on the oval where the aim will be to carry on from where we left off on the road course.”

Patricio “Pato” O’Ward (#82 Team Pelfrey/Octane Energy Drink/POW Motorsports Pro Mazda) - Race One, started second, finished sixth; Race Two, started sixth, finished 10th; Race Three, started fifth, finished fifth: “The weekend started off positive. In Race One my engine lost power and I was 7mph down on the straight and lost positions because of that. In Race Two I was in the wrong place at the wrong time at the start and fell back to 10th and stayed there, struggling for speed. In Race Three I had a pretty good start and went from fifth to third, but then I lost the position and fell back to fifth and ended there. I’m excited for the oval which will be my first time ever, so hoping it goes well!”

Dale Pelfrey’s race team, based in Palmetto, Fla., is built upon the same principles he used more than 35 years ago when establishing his business career – hire the best, acquire the best and expect the best in order to achieve the most. After fielding cars in the IndyCar Series from 1998 until 2000, Team Pelfrey was reformed in 2011, winning on its Pro Mazda debut and going on to earn the Team Championship as well as second and third in the drivers’ title-chase with Connor De Phillippi and Nick Andries. Team Pelfrey went one better in 2012, guiding Jack Hawksworth to the Drivers’ Championship and earning a second successive Team Championship. An expansion into the F1600 Championship Series for 2014 saw Ayla Agren, Garth Rickards and Augie Lerch secure the top three positions in the points table. The 2015 season also marks Team Pelfrey’s debut in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
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