Long Beach, Calif. – A thrilling Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires qualifying session on the streets of Long Beach saw Englishman Jack Harvey post a new lap record just as time expired, edging top rookie Spencer Pigot to the pole position for tomorrow’s Grand Prix of Long Beach Presented by Allied Building Products.
Harvey, from Lincoln, England, who finished second in last year’s championship, losing out only on a tie-breaker to Gabby Chaves, turned a lap of 1:12.0405 (an average speed of 98.345mph) in the closing moments of the 45-minute session to secure the fifth pole of his career for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian and his first with the exciting new Mazda MZR-R turbo-powered Dallara IL-15 which has been introduced for this year to rave reviews. Harvey’s blistering performance shattered the old Indy Lights lap record, set in 2013 by current Verizon IndyCar Series racer Carlos Munoz, by almost a full second. Indeed, the top seven drivers all eclipsed the previous mark of 1:12.9374.
The last-gasp effort by Harvey bettered Pigot (Juncos Racing), who was born in nearby Pasadena, Calif., by just 0.0751s.
Pigot had said there was more to come after setting the fastest time in this morning’s second practice session at 1:13.4435, and was good to his word as he vaulted from fourth to first with a new record lap of 1:12.204 with just under five minutes remaining. He then improved to a 1:12.1156, which seemed to be good enough when the checkered flag flew to signify the end of the session. Harvey, however, was still hard on the gas – and was just fast enough to prevent Pigot, last year’s champion in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires division, from snagging his first Indy Lights pole.
Pigot’s Juncos Racing teammate, Kyle Kaiser, from Santa Clara, Calif., was just over one-tenth of a second adrift in third, while championship leader Ed Jones (Carlin), from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, was a scant 0.0078s further back to complete Row Two of the grid.
Felix Serralles (Belardi Auto Racing), from Ponce, Puerto Rico, and RC Enerson (Schmidt Peterson), from New Port Richey, Fla., will share Row Three, followed by Scott Anderson (Schmidt Peterson), who was the final competitor to circulate the 1.968-mile, 11-turn street circuit faster than the previous qualifying record.
Colombian Juan Piedrahita (Belardi Auto Racing) will start eighth ahead of third-generation racer Matthew Brabham, who is still coming to grips with Andretti Autosport’s #83 Stellrecht Company Dallara-Mazda after missing all of preseason testing, and ex-F1 racer Max Chilton (Carlin), who’s session ended prematurely when he clipped one of the unforgiving walls after just six laps.
The green flag for tomorrow’s third round of the 16-race championship, the Grand Prix of Long Beach Presented by Allied Building Products, will fly at 8:45 am PT. The race will feature same-day coverage on NBCSN at 12:00 pm PT. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at indylights.com with live streaming at indycar.com.
Jack Harvey (#42 Racing Steps Foundation/Curb Records-Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian): “Just before I went out, my engineer told me that for the last four or five years, the pole lap has been set on the final lap as the checkered has dropped. It’s funny, because you do the whole weekend for that one pivotal moment, that one lap. Sometimes it goes your way and sometimes it doesn’t, so you have to enjoy it when it does. As it got close to the end, I was stuck in traffic, then Tim (Neff) came on the radio and told me it was the last lap – basically, if you want it, you’re going to have to go get it now. I white-walled the tires on the last lap. I was pushing as hard as I could. In the end, you have to take the result when you can and say thanks. But Spencer’s no slouch, I’ll have to manage him at the start. But all of us, including [Felix] Serralles, we’ve all made a big step forward from St. Pete, showing that we can get quicker and develop the car, and that will make for an interesting race.”