LAGUNA SECA : The PRO MAZDA 2015 final race
For the last meeting of the season, it was to be the Laguna Seca circuit which received the MAZDA ROAD TO INDY series. As often happens in California, the weather was perfect. The valleyed circuit is very close to the pacific ocean, which gives it the particular effect of offering little grip due to the sand brought in by the wind. The first three trial sessions were catastrophique in terms of performance and suggested the start of a complicated weekend. However, for the last session before the time trials, there was some cause for hope with a totally different set-up that still needed some refining.
Saturday morning, and it was time for the qualifications. The cool conditions remained very close to those of the previous evening. Everyone did the first session on the tires used the previous evening. Florian got himself into second on the grid. Then, following on from the red flag, which lead to drivers going into the pits to change onto new tires.
The resumption of the race started a few minutes after the authorised time and left 4 laps for everyone to express themselves. Unfortunately, Florian was slowed down at the end of his second lap by a driver in a tail spin, who also slowed him down for the third lap as he was situated near to him in the time slot. The lost time was to be even more handicapping as the chequered flag prevented him from doing a 4th lap, which could have been considered in order to stay among the top places.
This latest lack of success is just a reflection of the season and forced Florian into two starts from 6th place, while 3 minutes from the end of the session, he was still on the front row !
Race 1 was tainted by several laps under a safety car following on from an incredible departure, seemingly with a kamikaze driver in each row, taking with them 50% of the cars. For Florian, the problem was a distorted rim.
The 2nd departure was to be equally chaotic as early as the first turn, where Florian could only come out in 8th place, a position which he kept until the end of the race.
In race 2, despite there being nothing more at stake (the title having been already decided in race 1), the usual disruptive drivers continued where they left off (do they know how to do anything differently ?) and this time, Florian had difficulty with the steering ball joint following contact.
Once again, Weiron Tan ruined Florian’s race, this came as early as the 3rd turn.
Despite everything, Florian nontheless finished with 3 podiums, 1 victory and 1 pole in his first season in the PRO MAZDA.
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MID-OHIO : A lot of work for a mixed result
After the Iowa oval circuit, a return to the traditional circuit in Mid-Ohio for the 31st July, 1st and 2nd August. The weather was good all weekend for the penultimate championship meeting.
The two trial days allowed the race teams and drivers to readapt and change their car configurations for a road circuit and to work a bit more on the settings. Florian didn’t manage to drive with the quickest but stayed placed among the outsiders during the trials.
During the qualifications on the Friday night, as was often the case this year, lacking performance, Florian could not do better than 6th on the two starting grids, each time 3 thousandths of a second from those above him.
Then on Saturday in race 1, thanks to a good start, Florian gained a place to enter into the top 5 but hs level of performance didn’t allow him to follow the leading quartet.
In race 2, the scenario was exactly the same until the final few laps before the finish. Florian was permanently looking to push his limits to compensate the tenths of the second which were lacking but there, he committed an irreparable error by putting two wheels in the grass which made him spin into the tire safety barrier.
The next meeting at Laguna Seca (California) on the 12th and 13th September for the last two races of the season. More photos...
Iowa : 100 laps on an oval circuit with speeds of over 137 mph.
For the 12th race of the season, the programme made way for the opening race to the Indycar on the Iowa oval circuit. This second test on the oval circuit allowed for the discovery of a much quicker race track to that of Lucas Oil, with completely different trajectories.
The weekend on the whole was difficult for the team to start with, trials which showed quite large gaps between the competition. The two sessions didn’t give enough time to reduce the gaps in spite of all the work accomplished by everyone.
The following morning, complete with full-on sunshine, the times often gave a similar verdict to the trials, with 8th place for Florian. As always on the oval circuit, it’s the best result over two accumulated laps, alone on the track, after one warmer lap. Florian could only reach an average of 141 mph.
Some anomalies discovered on certain teams led to a downgrading of 3 drivers and Florian started off in 5th position. After a superb start, he put himself into third position until the arrival of the first safety car. Just after the restart he lost a place, and was stable in fourth position until halfway through the race. An attack strategy with his car led to a quicker than expected degradation of the tires. As a result, the car became progressively more difficult to control. Florian eventually rallied at the finish and finished in 8th place.
In the general rankings, Florian remains in 7th, but there are still no major differences in points with those preceding him.
The next meeting in Mid-Ohio for two races will be on a very technical race circuit, on the 1st and 2nd August.
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Toronto: fantastic domination with a victory
A complete domination until a mid-race error in race 2 would be apt to resume this weekend in Toronto.
The capital of Ontario, Canada transformed a part of its roads into an urban circuit for the 13th and 14th June to welcome its Grand Prix.
The trials lasted less than usual on the initial programme, which were largely reduced by the promoter so as to keep with the timing which was disturbed by the weather, and which was to be fluctuating and humid all weekend.
All in all, 40 minutes to prepare the cars and allow drivers to discover and learn the route.
After this first work, Florian was confident about his adaptation and thought that the work done with his engineers was going to allow him to have a good car for Saturday.
The qualifying trials were also reduced to 20 minutes, starting with dry weather, but not allowing for any margin of error in so little time. A good start to the session placed Florian in third positon but the team thought that he could do better after a team agreement put him on a second set of tires. The return to the track gave out a lot of satisfaction because Florian took pole and the second best time for race 2.
In race 1, the weather was still favorable. At the start, Florian conserved pole in spite of repeated attacks from Grist. A safety car then gave some respite before a perfectly negotiated restart, followed up by a perfect first lap which immediately gave Florian breathing space. He rapidly escaped then managed his 7 second advance. On the last lap, he went all out to record the best time and an extra bonus point.
In race 2, rain was on the agenda and soaked the track. Setting off in second position, Florian put pressure on the pole driver and found an opening following on from a superb overtaking manoeuvre on the first lap. Unfortunately, a clash led a new safety car to a restart which was to be fatal as Florian was left skidding on from a re-acceleration. He left the track, going past the stands on slick tires, seeing the track beginning to dry, in order to target the best lap time in the race. Sadly, a competitor missed his braking point and harpooned Florian, putting an end to his race.
The mistake in race 2 deprived Florian of a weekend which could have been perfect, but in spite of everything, he is still well placed in the overall rankings.
After a month’s break, the next race will take place in Iowa on an oval track as the opener for Indycar, on the 18th July.
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LUCAS OIL : A potential podium ruined due to a puncture
Opening for the Indianapolis 500, it was time for the 9th race of the PRO
MAZDA programme, on its Lucas Oil oval counterpart equivalent. Florian not having been able to participate with the private tests organized by the team, therefore only had official tests from the 21st May to familiarize himself with his car, to the very specific particularities of the American oval circuits. These different series allowed for more focus on the car and for Florian to gradually build confidence in order to get as close as, and especially as quickly as possible to the walls encircling the circuit.
On Saturday, there was a 20 minute warm-up for refining the car then the trials, which was particularly special for qualifying on an oval circuit, took place individually after a draw, for order of passage. Each driver had to do a warm-up lap and two timed laps which were added together, so as to obtain each person’s time and thus establish the starting grid. It was from 9th position that Florian took off and then seized 1st place which he would go on to keep until the the two Andretti team drivers overtook him – both having completely excelled in this event.
The average speed, a circuit lap of 0.625 miles, obtained by Florian was 110 mph.
In this meeting, a single 90 lap race was planned. Florian kept his third place for more than half of the race with very efficient times until the stability of his car broke down due to a slow puncture on the front right tire. It was also the most vital tire in this type of race because it transfers all the load of the car. Consequently, the car became more and more difficult to master and as a result the times worsened.
It was at this time that Florian’s opponents progressively reduced the gap then overtook Florian, who could no longer hold on.
He went on to finish, in spite of everything, 8th, with a final scare when his car touched the wall, thankfully without any repercussions.
The next two races with take place in Toronto on the 13th and 14th June.
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INDIANAPOLIS : More frightened than hurt and a podium
The 7th, 8th and 9th May for the Indianapolis Grand Prix, the Pro Mazda had 3 races on the programme so as to catch up for the cancelled race at Nola.
Ready for the weekend, this superb, sun-laden site gave a chance for the racers to express themselves. World renowned for its’ straight lines, allowing to reach the highest speeds from the circuits available in the championship.
The trial sessions went well for majority of the team with interesting performances allowing hope for good results.
At the end of the second day, the catch-up race for Nola was planned. Florian started 4th on the grid then got hold of third place on the first turn. Unfortunately, this wasn’t to last long, because O’Ward once again lost control of his vehicle as early as the second turn and sent Florian spinning spectacularly, photos and videos showing the violent nature of the accident.
Finally more fear than injury, a sore knee and stiff neck without any serious consequences.
The following morning, the qualifications and race 1 were on the agenda.
For the time trials, Florian got into first position in the first part of the session, but he could not fully exploit his second set of tires because of a red flag which neutralized the track and drivers alike at the precise moment where he was coming back out. The drivers who made the change the earliest seized the lead and retained it until the end. Florian nonetheless obtained third place for race 1 and 2nd place for race 2.
A few hours later, the start of race 1 gave the opportunity for a start on the inside lane, from where Florian benefitted the most, being able to brake first. However, he wasn’t able to conserve his lead and finished second – an almost unexpected result given the incidents the previous evening.
On Saturday, at the start of race 2, Florian was on the front of the grid but on the exterior and as with the great majority of the starts on this circuit, he was overtaken by the second and third rows to come out in 6th position. The gaps between each being very small in terms of time, he was not able to get back any places before the finish.
This difficult weekend, which could have been very serious, turned out to be not too bad.
“I want to thank all my team for the work accomplished on Thursday night through to Friday. My car was completely destroyed and, costing them a nights’ work, they gave it back to me in perfect working conditions. I equally want to thank all those that supported me after my accident and who helped me to bounce back stronger the following morning.”
Still 5th in the overall rankings, Florian will be at the Oval circuit in Indianapolis, the 23rd May, for the next race.
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BARBER : A capricious engine for chronos that makes it difficult in races to Florian
After Nola, now on to Alabama with the fantastic Barber circuit which welcomed drivers for races 5 and 6.
Despite a stormy and threatening looking sky, the trials for the PRO MAZDA category were spared.
The first two days were dedicated to trials with mixed results, continuing on from the previous challenge at Nola, still with the same team doubts, and without a lot of solutions.
Friday afternoon gave way to qualifying and disappointing results from a ninth position start for both of the races. However, as the deficit was becoming larger and larger, particularly on the straight lines of the track, it led to suspicions about the engine. After deeper analysis from the experts, the lack of compression, which had become obvious, explained both the lack of performance and the persistent difficulties in improving.
The Saturday race saw Florian returning to one of his best performances, matching his ambitions. The start didn't begin well as his side of the grid blocked his path, leading to a loss of three places but as a reward for a great race, he finished 8th.
On Sunday, a good start helped him gain two places, then two additional overtaking manoeuvres allowed him to finish in 5th place with the second best lap time of the race. The introduction of numerous safety cars neutralised his performance and denied him movement in the race too often to hope for anything more.
The next stage sees Florian head to the Indianapolis road circuit for three races, with an objective of improving from 4th place in the general rankings. More photos... More videos
NOLA : Meeting interrupted by the weather and shortened as a result.
On the 11th and 12th April 2015, the Nola circuit (Louisiana) welcomed Indycar for the first time. A combination of weather conditions and a very rough scheduling didn’t allow the organisers to reach their objectives. And to top it all off, the grand prix finished in sadness.
Concerning the Pro Mazda, two trial days were still on the programme for Thursday and Friday. It was under the hot sun, in total contrast with what the drivers were expecting later on during the weekend, that they needed to work under for the car settings.
As with Winterfest, Florian’s team had a hard time supplying the drivers with competitive cars. The worry was getting bigger with the approach to the qualifications but in spite of everything, the last session left hope for improvement.
The first showers began on Friday evening and continued on Saturday, but the qualifications were nonetheless able to take place on a dry racing track. With his first set of tires, Florian found it difficult to get away from the racing traffic, but he was able, in spite of everything, to show what he could do more with the second set and obtain third place for race 1, and 4th place for race 2. These results were almost unexpected in view of the previous trials and performances of his teammates, allowing for a glimpse of encouraging race results.
Now it was time for the weather to dictate proceedings. Race 1, initially planned for Saturday afternoon, was delayed and put back to Sunday at 7 :55am. The situation only got worse overnight and the circuit was soaked, but the race still took place. In spite of zero visibility, Florian kept hold of his third place at the start but suffered a lot thereinafter and lost two positions. Getting back to race pace, he edged closer to the other drivers to finish 5th.
The winter trials having not given the chance to drive in rainy conditions, Florian discovered for the first time his new car in these hellish conditions and only gained confidence as the race went along.
Race two was ultimately cancelled.
Next up is Barber in 15 days’ time with, let’s hope, sunny weather so that Florian, currently 5th in the general rankings, can continue his rise. More photos... More videos...
St. Petersburg : First races in the PRO MAZDA with plenty of highs and lows.
As is tradition with Indycar, the season started with the St. Petersburg urban circuit in Florida. It was to be between the buildings of this superb city that Florian made his debut in the Pro Mazda. Debuts to be just as promising as wasteful – in race 2, due to the clumsiness of a young 15 year old driver, who wanted to move up the Indycar rankings perhaps a little too quickly…
The Friday time trials were disturbed by very agitated weather where the drivers had to compete with rain showers. The first session wasn’t very satisfying but after amending some settings to adapt the chassis to the race track, Florian had a very good second session, with a better time.
The Saturday qualifications were unfortunately not a reflection of the trials from the previous day. The addition of new tires are no longer authorized in trials, which gave a new twist to things and Florian’s set-up hadn’t really taken this problem into account. Add to this the traffic in the second part of the session where Florian couldn’t find a clear path without being disturbed and the result was clear: 10th place for both of the races.
Race 1 proved, in spite of everything, to be high in quality from Florian. After a start which he hoped would have been more fluid, he only gained one place on the first turn before setting off on a remarkable recovery to gain 6 places thanks to brave overtaking, very dangerous on a city circuit, flirting with the walls all the time.
Race 2 started off in the same conditions. This time the start was interesting, with several places acquired but unfortunately on the 4th turn of the first lap, already up to 7th place, a driver just in front committed a terrible mistake by sending the driver preceding him into a spin, thus the inevitable 6 car pile-up. The tightness of the streets didn’t leave room for any escape route, so the race finished with just 11 cars, Florian not among them.
The next stage is on the 11th and 12th April on the Nola circuit (New Orleans) for two new races.
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WINTERFEST: Very good job of preparation and a podium in passing
After some winter tests, Winterfest allowed the teams to better prepare the cars for the championship to come and for the race drivers to perfect their driving skills. Some teams, which started their preparation in advance of Cape Motorsports, fought for the title. The objective for Florian and his engineer was to improve progressively over the fortnight.
As in 2014, Winterfest began on the Nola circuit on the 19th and 20th February and on the Barber circuit on the 25th and 26th February. These two circuits being on the program for the 2015 championship, it was important to participate to garner the necessary data and allow Florian to understand the racing lines that he already knows so well. The twist this time being that he needs to master an extra 90 horsepower with a new car. The first meeting was complicated by a specific line where the team struggled to find a good setup. In spite of everything, Florian competed well and got the best out of his car as was seen in his timing performances: 7th, 5th, 8th.
The three days of rest before Barber was dedicated to spending long hours behind the computer to study videos and the acquisition of data in order to get closer to a better time.
The second step of this Winterfest in Barber (Northern Alabama) was certainly not the good choice for this time of the year. The first day and the 2 hours of driving practice were to be cancelled due to torrential rain which rendered the race track unusable. The program was reduced to just two races without qualifying and two warm ups, reduced to 20 minutes. This was to be sufficient for Florian to demonstrate that his performances are now on a par with the best. Race incidents disrupted ‘pure’ results, but all the same, Florian left Barber with a podium (3rd place), a 4th place in the general ranking and a car very close to his expectations.
The next round of private trials before the start of the championship in St. Petersburg on the 28th and 29th March should allow the team to be perfectly up to date. More photos
2015: Florian heads back to the USA with PRO MAZDA
It's now official.
Florian faces up against the USA one more time with Cape Motorsports (with Wayne Taylor Racing), for the PRO MAZDA 2015 championship.
After his recent USF2000 title, the Cape brothers have expressed a huge desire to keep Florian in their team to win the very prestigious 2015 PRO MAZDA championship in just his second year of participation.
The challenge will be demanding and difficult but it doesn't put off Florian. The adaptation period for the new car is already over and the first official and private tests have already demonstrated that speed would be a priority.
"Thanks to Mazda, I can continue my path to Indy and I'm convinced that wth Dominic and Nicolas Cape, we are going to have great success. I think that we are going to be able to fight for the PRO MAZDA 2015 title."
Florian will join the United States for a series of private tests in mid-January and will pursue the winter championship Winterfest that takes place from the 19th - 26th February on 6 tracks. The 2015 title will be handed out after 16 races - of which 2 oval tracks and two city circuits, beginning on 28th March. Let's hope for a second consecutive title on American soil, that would open the doors to IndyLight, the final hurdle to IndyCar. More Video
PRO MAZDA : First official trials in Indianapolis
It's with his new status as 2014 USF2000 champion that Florian launched his 2015 season in Indianapolis on the 13th and 14th September. The Chris Griffis Memorial allows teams, mid-season, to test the drivers who could interest them for the next season and hence allow drivers to see the team's working methods that could potentially welcome them.
At the USF2000 season launch, Florian had chosen to discover PRO MAZDA with CAPE MOTORSPORTS. The know-how of the team, the desire shown by the Cape brothers to keep Florian in their team and the collective skills recognised this year were the determining criteria for this choice. These official tests are organised over 2 days with two series of one hour a day. The drivers and team objectives being to clearly get noticed at all costs, we will witness a high speed race with 1-2 sets of tires per driver. For Florian, it's all about discovering a new car, to start to understand the behaviour of it and the reactions to different settings to progressively improve in this 2015 pre-season.
In this optic, the Cape brothers only equip the car with new tires in the last session. Beforehand, Florian's performances are only difficultly comparable to his adversaries even though he was continually between 5th and 8th place with worn tires.
In the last session, which is the one recorded, Florian changed to a new set of tires in order to evaluate the difference between himself and the work that still lies ahead against his opponents, notably those in the 2nd or 3rd year of this category.
The result was convincing with the 3rd fastest time and just 70 thousandths of a second from 2nd, (who finished 3rd in the championship last year).
Time now for the negotiations for the pre-season winter preparation.