Piedrahita finishes third as both team drivers stand on team’s hometown podium
WEST ALLIS, WI — In 2014, Belardi Auto Racing recorded its best year in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires program, winning at the Long Beach Grand Prix, Barber Motorsports Park, Pocono Raceway, the Toronto Indy and the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis, all en route to the series championship. With their title-winning driver Gabby Chaves having moved to the Verizon IndyCar Series with Bryan Herta Autosport, the squad has now added a huge win at another historic facility thanks to Indy Lights rookie Felix Serralles delivering an incredible performance on the famed Milwaukee Mile this past Milwaukee IndyFest weekend.
After starting sixth, Serralles got off to a good start, but remained focused on preserving his tires and when he dropped the hammer midway through the race, he was unstoppable, eventually passing leader RC Enerson in traffic to score his first career Indy Lights victory. Felix’s teammate Juan Piedrahita was also on his game, showing the overall strength of the team, as he finished on the podium in third as the result of a strong outing.
“It was a special weekend for myself, family and friends,” said an excited Brian Belardi, Team Principal. “Not only to win and podium at my home race track, but it was also Felix’s first win and Juan’s first podium. It was a great day for the team and the drivers considering how hard they have worked this season. I think we have great momentum going to Iowa this weekend.”
The Belardi duo was quick out of the gate at the Milwaukee Mile, running in the front half of the grid all weekend, but with a shortened schedule of just three sessions heading into the race, there wasn’t time to make any mistakes. After Piedrahita and Serralles qualified fifth and sixth in the Saturday evening time trials, they came back during the 30-minute morning warm-up on Sunday to pace the entire Indy Lights paddock. Juan turned a fast lap of 25.151 / 145.282 mph to sit atop of time sheets and Felix was just a tick off in second. Both drivers were still dealing with a minor understeer, but Belardi’s team engineers made key adjustments that paid off in the 100-lap race.
When the green flag flew for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire Grand Prix of Milwaukee, Piedrahita and Serralles settled into their positions, showing great patience. Tire management would be a key component of success on the Mile and Serralles was careful not to overuse his Coopers in the early going. As the race closed on its halfway point, Serralles had slipped passed Piedrahita and was pressuring Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser for third when he spun, bringing out the yellow, which allowed Felix to park his #4 Dallara IL-15 right off the rear wing of Spencer Pigot for the restart.
When the race went back to green, Serralles was able to find his way by Pigot and went to work reeling in Enerson. On lap 89, Felix leveraged Enerson’s struggle to get past a lapped car, taking over the lead with bold and decisive move. The Belardi Auto Racing team pilot would not be challenged again, stretching away to a 5.566-second triumph.
Piedrahita advanced to third when Pigot suffered gearbox issues, and he was then able to hold off championship leader Jack Harvey to take the final spot on the podium.
It will be a quick turn-around for the Belardi Auto Racing squad as they will head to Iowa Speedway this coming weekend. The team has tested well on the ovals this year and they will hit the track on Friday armed with confidence and momentum.
BELARDI AUTO RACING — DRIVER QUOTES
Felix Serralles – #4
Qualified: 6th — 49.094 seconds (two-lap combined timed)
Driver Quote: “I’m really happy to get my first Indy Lights win. Belardi Auto Racing gave me a great race car and once I settled into my comfort zone, I just had to find the lines that worked for the changing conditions. It was great to win for the first time in the team’s hometown track and it was great for Brian and his family after all he’s gone through the last couple of weeks with his infection. I’m sure everyone deserved a bit of happiness and celebration after the tough year we’ve all had.”
Juan Piedrahita – #5
Qualified: 5th – 49.073 seconds (two-lap combined timed)
Driver Quote: “It was a fantastic weekend for us, we were P1 in almost every session, the team gave us a fantastic car and I’m happy to give Brian a well-deserved result. I really wanted to win but Felix was flying over the last laps. I’m going to Iowa with the mindset of winning because we showed what we really can do.”