St. Petersburg, Fla. – The changing of the guard in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires was readily apparent in the first of two races that will comprise this weekend’s Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Peninsula Pipeline. The top level of the Mazda Road to Indy debuted a brand-new Dallara IL-15 chassis and 2.0-liter turbocharged Mazda MZR-R engine, so perhaps it was appropriate that a rookie team and driver should take the top honors. In this case it was Englishman Ed Jones and European powerhouse open-wheel team Carlin which showed the way with a dominating performance.
Jones, 20, obliterated the old Indy Lights lap record in qualifying, setting the pace with a lap at 1:05.3193, more than a second inside the old record set in 2010 by current Verizon IndyCar Series star James Hinchcliffe. Jones duly continued that form in the race, taking the lead at the start and then, following a full-course caution on Lap 2 due to an incident involving Max Chilton (Carlin) and Felix Serralles (Belardi Auto Racing), edged clear almost at will. Jones’ final margin of victory after 30 laps was a comfortable 3.7085 seconds over last year’s championship runner-up Jack Harvey (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian).
Spencer Pigot (Juncos Racing), last year’s winner of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and MAZDASPEED scholarship, made a fine start to jump from fifth to third, behind Harvey. The move earned Pigot the Replay Move of the Race Award. Pigot, from Orlando, Fla., then dived to the inside of Harvey under braking for Turn 10, only to slide wide on the exit and relinquish his position once again to the Englishman. Their positions remained unchanged thereafter to secure the final two spots on the podium.
Scott Hargrove also made a strong debut for 8Star Motorsports. The Canadian, who finished a close second in the 2014 Pro Mazda championship, lost some ground at the start but quickly gained it back. Hargrove spent the remainder of the race fending off a determined challenge from fellow Pro Mazda graduate Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing).
Colombian Juan Piedrahita finished fifth in a second Belardi Auto Racing Dallara-Mazda, following a race-long battle with Scott Anderson (Schmidt Peterson).
The protagonists will return tomorrow morning for Race 2 of the Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Peninsula Pipeline at 12:45 pm ET.
Ed Jones (#11 Toys for Boys Miami/United Rivers-Carlin): “It was a good start for me. I got the jump on Max and from there it was just about keeping my head down and getting the laps in. Later into the race it was a matter of keeping the car stable and not going too hard on power. I had a massive moment near the end, in the double right-hander. I got very close to the wall, but I managed to keep hold of it. After that, it was fine. You could really feel the difference with the push-to-pass feature. I didn’t have to use it to pass today but for overtaking in the future, it will really help out. Now we’ll work with the engineers and try to make it better for tomorrow.”