Two Podiums for O’Ward as Urrutia Extends Points Lead
 June 17, 2015| 
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Gabin Secures First Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Podium Finish for Team Pelfrey

PALMETTO, Fla. – Team Pelfrey enjoyed a productive weekend in Canada as the Mazda Road to Indy ventured to the streets of Toronto, Ont., Canada, in conjunction with the Verizon IndyCar Series. Young Mexican Pato O’Ward claimed a pair of podium finishes – his first in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – while Uruguay’s Santi Urrutia extended his championship lead to 30 points following a pair of top-five results. There was more good news for the Florida-based team in the Cooper Tires  USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda as MAZDASPEED scholarship driver Luke Gabin made his first visit to the podium in Race Two of the double-header.

Changeable weather conditions and a series of incidents characterized the Mazda Road to Indy’s only foray north of the border this season, but the regular rain showers failed to dampen the spirits of Team Pelfrey or its young drivers. 

O’Ward was the star of Saturday’s 10th round of the Pro Mazda championship. The youngest driver in the field at just 16, O’Ward, from Monterrey, Mexico, jumped from fifth on the grid to third on the opening lap, then tracked down and passed local hero Garett Grist to secure an impressive second-place finish.

Urrutia overcame some misfortune in qualifying to start fourth and was hardly overjoyed with his seventh-place finish, although his mood was bolstered considerably by the knowledge that championship rival Neil Alberico had fallen victim to an accident on the opening lap. Team Pelfrey’s Raul Owens also enjoyed a solid race, rising from 14th on the grid to eighth.

Sunday’s second race also was peppered with incidents, which once again played into the hands of the Team Pelfrey trio. O’Ward drove another flawless race to finish on the podium for the second straight day, while Urrutia followed him home in fourth. Owens made a series of fine overtaking maneuvers to earn sixth place, as well as the RePlay XD Move of the Race Award, the Staubi Award and the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award after starting from 14th on the grid.

The pair of USF2000 races also saw Team Pelfrey’s quartet of drivers continuing to make good progress. Gabin, from Perth, Western Australia, finished fourth on Saturday – his third top-five finish in the last four races – then went one better in wet conditions on Sunday to secure his first podium appearance.

Garth Rickards finished fifth in Race One, with Norway’s Ayla Agren taking seventh and Russian Nikita Lastochkin eighth, despite a quick spin in the late stages. Lastochkin still did enough to secure the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting 11th.

Coincidentally, Gabin also survived a spin in the treacherously wet conditions on Sunday and he, too, went on to earn the Tilton Hard Charger honors, rising from sixth on the grid to third. Rickards posted another workmanlike performance to finish in sixth, with Lastochkin and Agren in eighth and ninth.

The Mazda Road to Indy teams now have a welcome break before resuming at different events in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series. The Pro Mazda contenders will contest their second event of the year on an oval at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa, on July 18, while the USF2000 drivers do not see action again until a triple-header at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, on August 1-2.

WHAT THE DRIVERS SAID:

Raoul Owens (#80 Team Pelfrey Pro Mazda) - Race One, started 14th, finished eighth; Race Two, started 14th, finished sixth: “This weekend was overall very positive for me. The only setback was my poor qualifying. I earned the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award, the Staubli Award and RePlay XD Move of the Race as well which added to my positive result in Race Two. I am looking forward to the next race at Iowa and hopefully achieving even more as a driver and a team.”

Santiago “Santi” Urrutia (#81 Team Pelfrey/Ancap/BSE/Antel/ Corporacion de Maquinaria/AgroLavalle/Fadisol Pro Mazda) - Race One, started fourth, finished seventh; Race Two, started seventh, finished fourth: “It was a very strong weekend for the championship. After the crazy start to Race One where I picked up some damage and difficult conditions in Race Two, I have to be happy. The team and I worked well together as usual. In qualifying I believe we were quickest on our first run, and a failed push rod compromised our second run which meant we started fourth and seventh for the two races, which was frustrating. I am looking forward to the next race where, once again, we have to maximize every session and score the best result we can. A big thank-you to all of my partners and fans for their help and support.”

Patricio “Pato” O’Ward (#82 Team Pelfrey/Octane Energy Drink/POW Motorsports Pro Mazda) - Race One, started fifth, finished second; Race Two, started sixth, finished third: “The weekend kept getting better and better. Every session the team and I were improving. When qualifying came I knew I had a very fast car. Unfortunately, running into traffic did not allow me to put in a super-strong lap for pole but enough for a fifth and a sixth. Race One I started charging forward and ended second from fifth. Race Two I also charged forward and finished third from sixth. Overall, the best weekend I have had so far this season. I am looking forward to stronger results and climbing up the championship standings.”

Ayla Agren (#81 Team Pelfrey/Energima/BVR/Alt I Asfalt/Salming Hockey/KNA/CoForce/Women’s Sports Foundation Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started ninth, finished seventh; Race Two, started ninth, finished ninth: “It’s nice to get the experience here on the streets of Toronto. I’m very happy to be able to run here. We got closer and closer throughout the weekend and we keep on learning and getting stronger every race. I’m very happy for the team that we finally got a podium and really looking forward to racing at Mid-Ohio where I have driving experience from before, so we can maximize the three races there.”

Luke Gabin (#82 Team Pelfrey/MAZDASPEED/Skip Barber/Mandurah Panel and Paint/Colbyson Van Diemen-Mazda) - Race One, started sixth, finished fourth; Race Two, started sixth, finished third: “It was a great weekend here in Toronto. I couldn't be happier with the results. Getting my first podium was awesome.  I have to say a huge thank-you to MAZDASPEED and Team Pelfrey for what has been a huge team effort.  I’m really looking forward to Mid-Ohio where hopefully we can go one better.”

Garth Rickards (#83 Team Pelfrey/Rahal Automotive Group/Snap 21 Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started seventh, finished fifth; Race Two, started eighth, finished sixth: “I was really excited to come back to a street course after the couple weeks of oval driving. We definitely rolled off the truck a step ahead of where we have been earlier in the year. I really enjoyed learning the circuit in the different conditions and getting some wet driving in because I don't have a lot of wet experience. Overall, it was a solid weekend and I'm focused forward on Mid-Ohio to keep learning and developing for next year.”

Nikita Lastochkin (#84 Team Pelfrey/Russkaya Mekhanika Van Diemen-Mazda) – Race One, started 11th, finished eighth; Race Two, started seventh, finished eighth: “It was a good weekend for me that started on a high, and with a drive-shaft failure early in qualifying that brought on a challenge that I found rather exciting in Race One. It was probably the most exciting run of the year for me with a lot of passing and generally tons of fun throughout. The second race was really wet but a great learning experience overall, with two spins and one contact with the wall still resulting in a decent finish. I can’t wait for what the final few rounds have in store, and I'm sure it will be exciting!”

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