By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
The grid for the 2017 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires is starting to come together after the Friday’s confirmations of Matheus Leist and Juan Piedrahita to join the field for Carlin and Team Pelfrey.
For Leist, this represents a move back across the pond to race in America after leaving his home of Brazil to race in the UK. The 19-year-old raced in Brazil in the 2014 Formula 3 Light category, finishing second in the championship with two wins and nine podiums from 16 races. Leist moved to the UK in 2015 and competed in the British F4 championship (then known as MSA Formula) and finished fifth in the championship before moving up to British 3 – claiming the championship in 2016 with four wins and 11 podiums in 23 races.
“I’m very excited to be joining Carlin in Indy Lights,” said Leist.
“I had quite a few options open to me in 2017, but a combination of things, including the opportunities in the US and on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, made Indy Lights a great option for me.
“I have raced against Carlin before so I know how hard they push as a team to win. I’m incredibly excited to get out on track in the car and get the season underway.”
Meanwhile, Team Pelfrey has Piedrahita rejoining them for the second year in a row after a partial 2016 campaign.
Piedrahita’s third Indy Lights season stopped after the Toronto rounds of the championship. The 24-year-old Colombian nearly won the Freedom 100, but misjudged the timing on the final restart and dropped down to eighth place. Piedrahita previously competed in Indy Lights in 2014 for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and 2015 for Belardi Auto Racing with a best finish of third in 2015 at Milwaukee.
“I couldn’t be happier to rejoin Team Pelfrey for the 2017 Indy Lights season. After working with the crew last year, I knew it was the right fit coming into this year,” said Piedrahita.
“Gary [Neal] and Yves [Touron] have given me a lot of confidence and they always have a very competitive car at every track. We are going be extremely competitive this year and for sure we are going to seal the deal in the Freedom 100.”
As of now, 11 drivers have been confirmed for the 2017 Indy Lights season – not counting 2016 Pro Mazda champion Aaron Telitz, who has yet to declare who he will drive the Soul Red Mazda for this year.
The series kicks off with a pair of races on March 11-12 in St. Petersburg.