Defending champions set strong speed baseline for mid-season oval events
BROWNSBURG, IN — Heading into the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Belardi Auto Racing had reason to have high expectations of success. The team’s drivers had topped an official Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires test session at Chicagoland Speedway the week prior and they were also quick during the Monday session on the 2.5-mile IMS oval. Felix Serralles and Juan Piedrahita have both stepped up to the challenge of oval competition and despite the fact that the team battled to find the balance for their cars in the ever-changing conditions of the race week, there were still high points that came with a new track record for Serralles and a solid seventh-place result for Piedrahita. Serralles was forced into retirement on Lap 19 with a faulty throttle sensor, while Piedrahita steered his car to a seventh-place finish to pick up points heading to Toronto for the next event.
“I’ll be honest in stating that we had high expectations coming into the event, based off our past success in winning back-to-back Freedom 100s, and the pace that we showed in pre-event testing,” commented Brian Belardi, Team Principal. “The race week was intense from Monday testing through to the actual race on Friday, and we started off very strongly in official practice. However, the team worked non-stop to find the balance in our cars, but we just didn’t find the sweet spot heading into the race. Our cars were strong, as Felix showed by turning the fastest Indy Lights race lap ever, but bad luck hit him again with the throttle sensor. It was really discouraging. Right now, we’re going to focus forward and look to bounce back in Toronto.”
Despite battling with balance issues throughout the event, both drivers posted race times among the three fastest in the Indy Lights field. Serralles set a new track record race lap with a speed of 196.374 mph, while Piedrahita turned the third fastest race lap, just behind Scott Andersen. This definitely bodes well for the future with two important oval races on the horizon in July at Milwaukee and Iowa.
In the championship standings, Serralles and Piedrahita sit seventh and tenth respectively, in the middle of a tight battle for the final positions in the top-10.
The team was at the famed Milwaukee Mile for a test on Thursday, May 28 to prepare the return of the Indy Lights program to the challenging oval on July 11-12. The next race for the team will be in early June when they head north of the border to Toronto for an important doubleheader on the popular street circuit.
BELARDI AUTO RACING — DRIVER INFORMATION
Felix Serralles – #4
Qualified: 9th — 1:32.1058 seconds (two-lap combined time)
Driver Quote: “Unfortunately, we got bit by another mechanical issue this weekend when the throttle sensor failed. We had qualified with our race set-up, and when the race went green, I was able to keep up with the pack and turn some quick times. But after a few laps, the issue started appearing and the engine was cutting out, and I just kept falling further and further back until the engine shut off for good in middle of Turn Four. I pitted immediately, but I knew the race was over for me, as I limped halfway through the pits. We need to put this all behind us, go focus on a productive test at Milwaukee and then head for Toronto. We were quick in both of the street races this year (St. Petersburg and Long Beach), so I’m excited about the potential of turning the season around.”
Juan Piedrahita – #5
Qualified: 11th – 1:32.5849 seconds (two-lap combined time)
Driver Quote: “It was obviously a disappointing race for the whole team. We showed great pace on Monday and in practice on Thursday, but the qualifying run and the race were pretty disappointing. We don’t yet know why we lost so much speed and grip, but I’m happy that we could finish the race and get the points. We have to figure out why we are struggling, but knowing the team, I’m sure we will. I’m look forward to getting to Toronto.”