St. Petersburg, Fla. (March 18, 2019) – The weekend spent racing around the 1.8 mile street circuit in downtown St. Petersburg Florida, was one to remember for Belardi Auto Racing. A pole position, a win, and the points lead have Belardi Auto Racing itching to get to Circuit of the Americas.
Making his return to the Indy Lights category, Zachary Claman did just what he set out to do in St. Petersburg, win and be atop the points championship. The first practice session of the year was held on Friday, and right out of the box Zachary and his No. 13 Dallara Indy Lights machine had speed, winding up third on the time sheet.
Moving into race one qualifying, Zachary spent the majority of the time on pole position, until late in the runs when he faced a few challengers. As everyone came to pit lane to bolt on fresh Cooper Tires, Zachary was able to go out and lay down one last quick lap that wound up giving him the pole position for the first race on Saturday.
Saturday was a dominating performance for the 20 year old Canadian, as Zachary was able to gap the rest of the field for the majority of the race, only having to contend with a late race charge from series rookie Toby Sowery. Zachary was able to maintain a gap to second and pull into victory lane for his first win with Belardi Auto Racing and second win in the Indy Lights Series. Round two qualifying was a bit more difficult for Zachary as he wound up fourth for race No. two, but was hungry to get to the front.
Race two was marred with cautions, the first coming on lap one as rookie Oliver Askew crashed into the barriers sending out a full course caution moving Zachary up one position to third. As the drivers found their rhythm, Zachary was able to pick off one more car, this time the 98 machine of Robert Megennis for second where he would wind up finishing. Zachary heads to COTA sitting first in the series championship.
Overall I am really happy with St. Pete, to leave with the points lead was the perfect way to start the year. The Belardi guys gave me a great car all weekend, and I could really go out and show what I am capable of, and I feel that I really did that. Now is the time to shift my foucs to COTA and getting two wins, and leaving with an even bigger points lead than I came in with.” – Zachary Claman
Frenchman Julien Falchero had a learning weekend behind the wheel of the No. 4 Dallara Indy Lights machine, as he experienced his first taste of open-wheel racing in the United States. Practice was spent learning the circuit and getting better aquainted to the more powerful Indy Lights car. By the end of the 29 laps Julien completed, he felt he had a car to compete with even though he was eighth on the time sheet. Qualifying for race No. one saw a giant improvement in time for Julien, as he dropped about five tenths of a second from his practice time putting him eighth for race one.
Continuing with the learning weekend, Julien was able to race all 35 laps without incident, just getting a taste of what Indy Lights is all about. At the conclusion of the 35 lap event Julien found himself in the eighth position, but with all the confidence heading into race No. two on Sunday.
Starting in the eighth position once again, Julien had his eyes set on moving through the field and battling with the other drivers. After two cars dropped out due to incident, placing Julien in sixth. As the laps began to tick away, Julien was able to pass series veteran Ryan Norman winding up fifth and hungry for more in Texas. Julien heads to COTA sitting sixth in the series championship standings.
“That was a great first experience for me on that track. I am not used to a street circuit so it was a bit difficult for me in qualifications, but I had a good result in race two. Now I am focused on COTA, and I am ready to challenge for the win.” – Julien Falchero
Making the jump from USF2000 to the much larger Indy Lights car can be an incredibly tough transition for most, but Brazilian Lucas Kohl took it in stride learning from his veteran teammate Zachary Claman and the experienced staff at Belardi Auto Racing all weekend long. Practice saw Lucas running 32 laps which was tied with Oliver Askew for the most laps turned, finishing in the tenth position on the time sheet.
After getting time to debrief with his engineer Pete and his teammates, Lucas felt confident going into qualifying that he would be able to better his time from practice and become even more comfortable.
Lucas did just what he set out to do and was able to better his time by almost an entire second, putting him tenth on the grid less than a tenth off of the veteran Dalton Kellet who started just ahead of him. Much like his teammate Julien Falchero, race No. one was all about learning how the competition drives, and getting comfortable battling for position. Lucas was able to run a solid 35 lap race learning and even picking up a position to finish ninth.
Qualifying two saw even more improvement for the young man from Brazil. Dropping his time by about four tenths of a second to start in the ninth position. Following his teammate Julien, Lucas was able to score his best finish in Indy Lights. Dodging two crashes and maintain the gap to eighth, Lucas brought home the No. five machine in the seventh position. Lucas heads to COTA sitting ninth in the series championship standings.
“I think the weekend went great for me and my No. five guys. We checked all the boxes of the things we had planned. I learned every time that I went on track, and was able to improve every time I went on track. We were able to bring the car home in one piece, and I can’t wait to go to Texas!” – Lucas Kohl
Belardi Auto Racing heads back south, this time to the Circuit of the Americas in Austin Texas for the first Indy Lights race at this famous track. Practice kicks off the weekend on Friday March 22, with races on Saturday and Sunday. You can follow the action all weekend long using the Road to Indy TV app and by following Belardi Auto Racing on social media.