Road to Indy
March 4, 2019 | 12:00 PM
USF2000 veteran Darren Keane, 19, who in addition to chasing a career in auto racing is pursuing an Engineering degree at the University of Florida, took advantage of slightly cooler conditions this morning to post the best time of the weekend at 1:24.5314, an average speed of 94.119 mph for the 2.21-mile, 14-turn road course.
The warm weather precluded anyone from approaching the unofficial USF2000 lap record of 1:23.7723 (94.972 mph), set during last year’s test by fellow Florida resident Kyle Kirkwood, who went on to claim the 2018 championship in dominant style, winning 12 of the 14 races for the St. Petersburg-based team.
As an indicator of the level of competitiveness that is expected in 2019, all of the 17 drivers who took part in each of the five sessions, totaling four hours of track time, were bracketed by just over 1.5 seconds.
“This was an important test for us, with all the other cars out there,” said Keane. “We wanted to make an impression this weekend, knowing that it would stick with us and set a tone for the season – and I think we did that. I feel more confident in general now, especially given all the resources the team has.
“We trust each other a lot and we’re super confident in each other’s ability. We’re going into St. Pete with a clear mind and we know what we have to do.”
Keane’s effort this morning edged out Manuel Sulaiman, 18, from Puebla, Mexico, who was fastest of all on Day One at 1:24.5835. Sulaiman has joined DEForce Racing for his rookie season in the Road to Indy, after competing for the past two years in the British F4 Championship.
“I really like the car,” said Sulaiman. “The Cooper tires are quite soft, compared to other racing tires I have driven, and I prefer a softer tire. The car is quite powerful and has a good level of aerodynamics and grip, especially on this track. The team and I work well together – we were in the top three in every session, so we feel prepared for St. Pete.”
After being fastest of all during the first session on Saturday, Keane’s Cape Motorsports teammate, Braden Eves, 19, from New Albany, Ohio, ended the weekend with the third fastest time, 1:24.6568, just one-tenth of a second ahead of Denmark’s Christian Rasmussen aboard the first of three Tatuus USF-17s entered by the Jay Howard Driver Development team.
Howard, who hails originally from England, won the USF2000 Championship himself as a rookie in 2005. He went on to add the Indy Lights crown one year later.
Brazilian teenager Eduardo Barrichello, son of F1 veteran Rubens Barrichello, was fastest in the final period of practice this afternoon. His time from earlier this morning remained good enough to round out the top five overall for the new Miller-Vinatieri Motorsports team.
Australian Cameron Shields (Newman Wachs Racing), Yuven Sundaramoorthy (Pabst Racing), from Guilderland, N.Y., Puerto Rico-based Reece Gold (Cape Motorsports), Jack William Miller (Miller-Vinatieri Motorsports), from Carmel, Ind., and Englishman Matt Round-Garrido (Jay Howard Driver Development) completed the top 10, all covered by less than three-quarters of a second
While the Indy Pro 2000 and USF2000 teams are already packing up and heading almost 300 miles northwest for the opening race weekend of the season on the streets of St. Petersburg, teams and drivers from the top rung of the highly acclaimed open-wheel development ladder, Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, will remain in Homestead for their exclusive day of testing on Monday.
Content and image by Road to Indy.