Strong recovery for both team drivers at Barber Motorsports Park.
BIRMINGHAM, AL (April 28, 2015) – The mark of a great team can often be found in how they deal with unfortunate circumstances, and this past weekend at Barber Motorsports Park during the third Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires event of the season, Belardi Auto Racing was forced to dig deep to overcome issues in their quest for success. When an engine problem hampered one of their drivers early on in the weekend, the team worked tirelessly to put Felix Serralles back in the hunt by changing motors, and they were rewarded with another top-five finish from their rookie star. In Race 2 on Sunday, Serralles rebounded from the engine swap to turn in a superb performance that furthered his reputation in the paddock, chasing third place Max Chilton for 35 laps after advancing aggressively from ninth on the grid at the green flag. The Puerto Rican’s fourth place finish comes on the heels of his first Indy Lights podium at Long Beach. Teammate Juan Piedrahita was also forced to battle issues, including an injured hand, but he still attacked Sunday’s event with fervor, completing the weekend with two top-eight results, maintaining his season-long consistency.
“I’m extremely proud of how our team fought through the problems they encountered and how they would not give up on the goal of giving our drivers great racecars for every session,” enthused Brian Belardi, Team Principal. “We’re a small team of passionate people and when we band together, we can get things done with ultimate success. The pedigree of our 2014 championship remains and our drivers responded on Sunday with spirited performances. Felix brought us yet another top-five, which gives us all confidence moving forward to Indy and the month of May. Juan is showing incredible pace and he just needs a little luck to go his way.”
After finding an engine problem with Serralles’ #4 entry after the first practice session on Friday, the team set about swapping the powerplant during the minimal span of three hours that was available before the next session of the packed day, which included two practices and qualifying. The team completed the task with no time to spare and got Felix onto pit lane in time, but it took both Practice 2 and Qualifying to get everything dialed in and to diagnose some small problems. Serralles qualified seventh and Piedrahita was tenth, setting up the charge for the opening race of the doubleheader on Saturday.
After challenging for a top-five spot early in Race 1, Serralles settled into sixth and turned a faster lap than the driver who eventually finished third. However, the high level of competition in the Indy Lights series made it impossible for him to advance any further. Piedrahita was also showing great pace, as he held off the challenges of Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser and Andretti Autosports’ Shelby Blackstock to finish seventh. In Race 2 on Sunday, Serralles benefitted from a monster start to advance to fourth early in the running, and he proceeded to stalk Carlin Racing’s Max Chilton for the entire race, showing the nose of his Dallara IL15 to the former F1 driver on numerous occasions. Although he challenged, Felix simply could not find the way by Chilton, on a track that is notoriously difficult to overtake. Piedrahita was also quick and he was part of an extremely entertaining fight for sixth and ultimately finished eighth, right on the rear wing of Saturday podium finisher RC Enerson.
In the championship standings, Serralles has taken hold of fifth thanks to another strong result, while Piedrahita is locked in a battle for eighth with fellow second-year driver Scott Andersen. With the initial events of the 2015 schedule now behind them, the Belardi drivers and team will now put all their focus on the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The second running of the Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the track’s road course is set for May 7-9, while the prestigious Freedom 100 is scheduled for Friday, May 22. Belardi Auto Racing was victorious in the marquee event in 2014 and they are planning to repeat the success this season with one of their two talented pilots.
BELARDI AUTO RACING – DRIVER INFORMATION
Felix Serralles – #4
Qualified: 7th – 1:13.570 (+1.183 secs)
Race 1: 6th
Race 2: 4th
Driver Quote: “Barber was tough weekend. We had a lot of issues with the car, and we had to switch engines between practice one and practice two on Friday. In qualifying, we still had engines issues with the second engine and didn’t fix it until after the qualifying. And we struggled a bit finding the car, but in Race 2 we made a great recovery race. We started P9 and finished P4, we were really close to Max (Chilton), and I tried to make a move but we were too close in pace, which made an official move very difficult. The team did a great job in working and fixing the issues and I’m really proud of them because they were able to change the engine in such a short amount of time. I am hoping that Indianapolis will be better for us, as we do have a lot of testing before the weekend in case we have any issues.”
Juan Piedrahita – #5
Qualified: 10th – 1:13.948 (+1.562)
Race 1: 7th
Race 2: 8th
Driver Quote: “We had another tough weekend. I can only thank all the guys at Belardi for their hard work. We had gearbox/differential issues and they worked really hard to fix everything. We are improving and hopefully we can be running in the front at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.”