Despite losing his pole position on the opening lap, Juncos Racing’s Victor Franzoni swept effortlessly past primary rival Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports) to take the lead of this Sunday’s Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Road America Presented by Allied Building Products.
The talented and popular Brazilian then drove off into the distance. Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin earned his first podium finish with a solid run to third for Team Pelfrey.
Franzoni, who also won last year at Road America in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, comfortably secured the pole position during a damp qualifying session yesterday afternoon. He duly led the field toward the green flag in picture perfect conditions less than 24 hours later, only to fall victim of the draft as Martin slingshotted past him to grasp the lead at Turn One.
The pair battled mightily for the first couple of laps before Franzoni finally managed to sneak past under braking for Turn 12, Canada Corner. He was never seriously challenged thereafter as he romped to his third consecutive victory, this time by a margin of almost 12 seconds over Martin.
Lastochkin displayed renewed confidence, especially during the opening stages when he ran in the wheel tracks of the two leaders after fighting past Brazilian teammate Carlos Cunha at the start. Lastochkin was unable to maintain that pace but still remained well clear of the chasing pack. He also took home the Staubli Award.
His task was made easier when Cunha ran briefly off course on the second lap and then, to the consternation of his crew, made an unscheduled pit stop to report that his front shock absorber cover had fallen off. Cunha was quickly sent on his way. He circulated at the same pace as the drivers who finished on the podium but could salvage no better than ninth by the finish of the 30-minute, 14-lap race. TJ Fischer, driving a third Team Pelfrey car, also was out of luck, his streak of podium finishes ended by a faulty fuel pump.
Idaho teenager Sting Ray Robb finished a distant fourth for World Speed Motorsports, although he was being challenged in the closing stages by Milwaukee’s Max Hanratty, who took fifth after making a welcome return to the series for the locally based ArmsUp Motorsports team.
Jeff Green, from Peoria, Ill., earned the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award by rising from 12th on the grid to a career-best sixth, not far behind his much younger rivals, while veteran Bob Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., won the National Class with a seventh-place overall result.
Franzoni, who secured another PFC Award for the winning Juncos Racing team, now leads the championship by a 14-point margin, 149-135, heading into tomorrow’s sixth round – the midway point in the 12-race season. But he will likely have to work much harder after some unfortunately timed red flag stoppages during this morning’s qualifying meant he was unable to record a representative lap time and therefore will be required to start from the back of the field.
The green flag for tomorrow’s race will fly at 3:05 p.m. EDT. Live timing and live streaming will be available on the Road To Indy TV App, at RoadToIndy.TV, promazda.com and indycar.com.