For the second successive day, Felix Rosenqvist took the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires field by storm, romping to a clear victory in this morning’s Cooper Tires Indy Lights Grand Prix of Toronto.
The Swede’s No. 4 Belardi Auto Racing Dallara-Mazda IL-15 was never seriously threatened as the 2015 FIA European Formula 3 champion and two-time Macau Grand Prix winner left everyone in his wake before cruising to a 7.2-second victory.
The main interest instead centered on a thrilling battle for second place which eventually fell the way of Brazilian Andre Negrao (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian), who matched his career-best result while fending off the attentions of Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing) and Santi Urrutia (Schmidt Peterson).
Rosenqvist once again made a picture-perfect start to edge clear of the field by Turn One. There was much jockeying of position in his wake, including minor contact between second and third fastest qualifiers, Negrao and Felix Serralles (Carlin), such that Rosenqvist was able to complete the first lap with a 2.3-second advantage over Negrao. As Rosenqvist continued to pad his lead, Negrao and Serralles continued their tussle for second until the Carlin car suffered a punctured left-rear tire (due to a broken floor-stay as a result of the first-corner incident) and sailed into the escape road at Turn Three.
Serralles rejoined after a pit stop, only to suffer another puncture shortly afterward. This time his crew removed the offending piece of bodywork, whereupon Serralles displayed his true capabilities by posting the fastest lap of the race en route to an unrepresentative 10th-place finish.
Negrao didn’t have much respite, because before long his mirrors instead were being filled by Kaiser, who in turn was being chased by Urrutia.
This threesome provided plenty of excitement as they fought it out for second place. For much of the race Kaiser concentrated his efforts on trying to find a way past Negrao, but later on it was more a case of having to defend from Urrutia. The pair almost came to grief when the pressure from behind caused Kaiser to graze the wall on the exit of Turn 11 with just a few laps remaining, but there was no damage and he continued to hang onto third until the flag.
Carlin’s championship leader Ed Jones finished a lackluster fifth, chased home by Zach Veach (Belardi Auto Racing) and local favorite Garett Grist (Team Pelfrey), from Grimsby, Ont. Fellow Toronto native Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport) looked set for eighth until nosing into the tire barriers at Turn Eight with just a half-dozen laps remaining.
At least he fared better than teammate and championship aspirant Dean Stoneman, who, cruelly, was unable even to start the race after his car refused to fire up properly before the start.
The failure dropped Stoneman to fifth in the title-chase, 38 points adrift of Jones who now leads by 268-244 over Urrutia. Serralles lies third on 236, with Kaiser in fourth on 233 as the series heads next to the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course for another double-header event on July 30-31, once again in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.
Felix Rosenqvist (Karlsson Svensson Projekt/Belardi Auto Racing): “We all have moments during the race when you’re so close to crashing and you think ‘okay, let’s not do that again.’ But the Belardi car was good today and that helped so much. Street circuits have always been good for me and from free practice one, I knew I could win both races. There are so many things that can go wrong so you really have to keep your head down. We were fast every session and I still felt as though I had more, but I didn’t have to use it. I felt very confident but you can’t let that get to you. You can’t lose concentration for even a second. It’s tough to go through a weekend like this, with a difficult track, so to come away with two victories is so rewarding. It’s nice to show how I can drive, because I had a bad stretch in the middle of the year.”