M1 Racing's Franzoni Has Impressive Debut
 May 10, 2015| 
  • Team News
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Victor Franzoni's debut in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires was a resounding success. Over the course of the series' tripleheader on the road course at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, M1 Racing's newest rookie topped the charts in a practice session, posted a top-five finish, won a Quartermaster Hard-Charger Award, won a RePlay XD Move of the Race Award, and set the fastest lap of the final race with his AutoEnginuity/Novac Sports #21.

The 19-year-old driver from Sao Paulo, Brazil was moving up to Pro Mazda from the USF2000 series, and he was making his first start with Dallas-based M1 Racing. Technically the race reports will show that he finished 10th, fifth and 19th in the three races on IMS's 2.439-mile, 14-turn road course, but the race results don't even begin to tell the whole story.

"It was a good learning experience," Franzoni said after Saturday's race. "We had a problem with the brakes right away today. I could tell when I left pit lane. But we came in and fixed it and then I was able to set the fastest lap of the race later. Without that problem, we could have been in the top three for sure. But it's OK. I'm happy that we got a top-five yesterday. Remi [Lanteigne, the team's lead engineer] and I came up with a good set-up and everyone on the team worked very hard. We were very competitive right away, so it was good."

Carlos Conde of Scarsdale, N.Y., was making his first Pro Mazda start of the year and his first start at IMS, but he had no luck with his M1 #37, which advertised the Electronic Cigarettes International Group (ECIG) and the Monticello Motor Club. He ended up fourth in the Expert class in all three races. He advanced on his starting position by four places in Thursday's race, which was postponed by rain last month at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La., as he started 21st and finished 17th overall. Unfortunately, he got hit in the rear at the start of Friday's race, and he dropped out of Saturday's race early with mechanical difficulties.

The team's usual Expert-class driver, Jay Horak of Mesa, Ariz., can commiserate. He suffered a burn to his right arm on Wednesday due to an electrical fire his car experienced on the first lap of the first test session. He withdrew his AutoEnginuity No. 37 from the rest of the weekend's activities due to the damage.

"It started in Turn Four and I was trying to get it to the pits because I knew there were a lot of fire extinguishers there, but the fire was on my arm by the time I got to Turn 12 so I bailed out there," Horak said.

The series' next race is on the oval at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, which is technically in Brownsburg, Ind., on Saturday afternoon, May 23. M1 Racing plans to field a car for Franzoni in that race.

Qualified and funded drivers can get more information on how to join the team by contacting team owner Paul Mata at pmata77@gmail.com.

Fans can follow the team on Facebook and Twitter. The series' Web site is at promazdaseries.com.

The race recaps follow:

Saturday
Franzoni started eighth but he was forced to pit for repairs to his car's brakes early in the race and went down several laps. Although he was out of contention for a podium, he set the fastest lap of the 31-minute race with a 1:24.4403 on lap 15 for an average speed of 103.983 miles per hour.

Conde started 20th but he dropped out early due to mechanical difficulties.

For the third race in a row there were no lead changes, as Santiago Urrutia led the entire race from the pole. It was the only Pro Mazda race of the three that went non-stop. Franzoni's fastest lap was 0.2097 of a second quicker than the race winner's fastest lap.

Friday
Franzoni started ninth in the 21-car field for Friday afternoon's race, while Conde was 19th overall and second in the Expert class. This 20-lapper only had one leader, Timothe Buret, but Franzoni's charge up to fifth provided a show and earned him both the Quartermaster Hard-Charger Award and the RePlay XD Move of the Race Award.

Franzoni blasted from ninth to sixth on the first lap by passing Jose Gutierrez, Garett Grist and Pato O'Ward before the first full-course caution waved after Kevin Davis slammed into the back of Conde's car in Turn One, ripping off the rear wing. Conde went down the escape road and returned to the pits under his car's own power. Although he made it back out for a couple of laps after some pit-lane repairs, he was effectively done for the day and ended up fourth in the Expert class.

A little after the restart on lap three Franzoni passed Will Owen for fifth. He stayed in that spot the rest of the way despite the best efforts of both Grist and Gutierrez to pass him. Grist almost passed Franzoni working lap 19 going into Turn One, but Franzoni fought him off to post his first top-five finish in Pro Mazda competition in only his second Pro Mazda race.

Franzoni was enroute to setting a time that would have earned him the pole during qualifications Friday morning, but a red flag came out before that flying lap was completed and he ended up ninth in qualifications with the time set on his 17th and final lap.

Conde had better luck in qualifying. He was fourth in the Expert class until he bettered that after the red flag, rising to second in the Expert class on his 17th and final lap.

Thursday
Although neither was originally entered in a race that was rained out at NOLA Motorsports Park in Avondale, La., in April, both Franzoni and Conde participated in the race that replaced it Thursday at IMS. Franzoni started 17th. Conde started 21st and last overall and fourth in the Expert class. Their positions were determined by their combined practice times earlier in the day. Franzoni had topped the entire field in the second practice session.

A third of Thursday's 15-lap race was lost to three full-course caution flags, but Franzoni still advanced seven spots to end up tenth overall. Conde finished fourth in the Expert class. Weiron Tan won, leading the whole way from the pole.

Franzoni got one spot when Florian Latorre flipped in Turn Two on the first lap; luckily he wasn't hurt. Franzoni got another position working lap five by passing Parker Nicklin. He moved up two more spots to 13th after Dalton Kellett and Kyle Connery made contact in Turn 7 working lap five to bring out the second full-course caution flag on lap six. Kellett continued, but Connery was done for the day.

After that restart on lap eight, Franzoni passed Kellett for 12th working lap 10. He got 11th working lap 12 when both he and Kellett passed Jose Gutierrez. The third and final caution flag waved on lap 13 when Nicklin went off course in Turn Nine. Although only 10 seconds remained before the 30-minute time limit expired, the race was extended for one more restart. That allowed Franzoni to move into the top 10 in his first Pro Mazda race ever, as Alessandro Latif faded at the end to give Franzoni tenth at the checkered. He was just 0.5674 of a second behind the ninth-place finisher, Daniel Burkett.

Conde rose from 21st to 19th right away by avoiding the carnage in front of him on the first lap. He got 18th working lap 13 and 17th three laps later, but he couldn't get around Kevin Davis to nail a spot on the Expert class podium in his first race ever at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
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