For Garth Rickards and Matheus Leist this weekend around the Streets of St. Petersburg, Florida will be their first taste of racing in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Championship. However pre-season testing has been successful for both drivers as they look ahead to their first season in the highly competitive series. As St. Pete gets ever closer we caught up with them both to find out how testing has been going…
How have your first tests in the Indy Lights car been?
Garth Rickards (GR): They have both been very productive and we’ve all been working hard to prepare for the first race in St. Pete which I’m feeling pretty good ahead of.
Matheus Leist (ML): The tests that I have done with the team were very nice. I did a lot of laps and I’m feeling confident and ready for the first round this weekend.
What have you found to be the main difference from other cars you’ve driven in the past?
GR: The biggest thing is how much power the engine and the brakes have compared to the other cars I’ve driven. You are going much faster but still able to brake much later!
ML: This car is definitely the fastest one that I have ever driven. It’s a big car with big tires and a big engine. It also feels very nice in the corners so I can’t wait to get racing in it.
How do you feel that it suits your driving style?
GR: I think it suits me in a number of different ways but the biggest compliment would be that it really likes you to use the throttle to help rotate the car in specific corners.
ML: The way that I drive this car is similar to the way I used to drive my BRDC British Formula 3 car, so that’s been helping me and also been great for getting me up to speed. I feel it suits me very well.
How have you been preparing for the upcoming season?
GR: In the gym mostly and also working hard during our few test days that we have had as a team. I have also done a few sessions on the team simulator to get a bit more seat time which is always valuable.
ML: I think I’m ready and well prepared for the season. I did a lot of simulator sessions in the run up to this race and have been working out every day to make sure I’m ready.
Have your teammates given you any tips?
GR: Yes, Neil has given me a few words of advice since he was a rookie himself last year and it’s really helped me ahead of the season.
ML: Yes, they have!
What are you most looking forward to about the season? Is there a track in particular that you’re looking forward to driving this car around?
GR: I’m really looking forward to improving and growing as a driver this year, which is the main focus. I’m extremely excited to drive at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the oval. My favorite track is Watkins Glenn so there is plenty to look forward to throughout the season!
ML: I’m looking forward to racing both on ovals and street courses. There’s a great variety in this championship which is exciting. There are lots of tracks that I’ve never raced around or experienced before so I’m pretty excited for that. I’m looking forward to race in Indianapolis, like Garth said, that’s something special I think. I also look forward to success this year – I’m going to be fighting for the win.
You’ve tested on both an ovals and road course tracks, what have you found to be the main challenges?
GR: One of the main challenges on the road course has been learning how to get the most out of the new tire runs to simulate qualifying because it is very different from what I’ve done in the past. The oval was really cool and the biggest challenge I found was trusting the downforce of the car when you’re going close to 200mph flat out.
ML: Definitely my main challenge is going to be the oval. I think there’s still room for improvement there but time and experience will come as I get more track time.
Rickards and Leist will be on track this weekend with fellow Carlin team mates Neil Alberico and Zach Claman DeMelo as the opening race of the season at St Petersburg, FL, kicks off.