It was an eventful first race of the weekend for the Carlin drivers in Toronto today, with a mixed race delivering a range of results. Road America race winner Zach Claman de Melo claimed a hard fought second place, while Neil Alberico claimed eighth at the flag and Garth Rickards tenth. It was a frustrating race for Matheus Leist, who was caught out by the bumpy Toronto circuit and ended his race after contact with the tyre barriers.
The Carlin drivers were spread throughout the field for today’s rolling start, with Claman de Melo initially taking second place from team mate Leist through the first few corners. Both displaying strong opening pace, Claman de Melo was a close second to leader Kyle Kaiser with Leist running behind in third, defending hard from Santiago Urrutia. Alberico meanwhile had made up a place from his starting position and was running in sixth with Rickards running in 13th.
Pushing hard to pull away from the chasing Urrutia, Leist clipped the kerb in the opening laps, which sent him into the tyre barriers and out of the race. The ensuing full course yellow once again bunched the field and put Claman de Melo back into the clutches of Urrutia. After several corners of defending hard, Urrutia found a way past, with Claman de Melo briefly dropping back to third.
Alberico meanwhile was suffering his own dramas, having been caught out by the concertina effect of the full yellow, the Californian had made contact with the car in front and needed to pit for a new wing. On returning to the track the Carlin man was at the back of the field, with plenty of work left to do.
At the front Kaiser was running his own race in the lead, but behind him the fight for second was heating up again. Urrutia had his mirrors full of Claman de Melo’s bright blue IL-15, and corner after corner had to defend hard. Claman de Melo found a way past with a perfect move on lap 14, taking back second and immediately braking away.
Alberico meanwhile was pushing hard to recover from his enforced pit stop and passed team mate Rickards in the final stages of the race. A relatively uneventful end to the race saw Claman de Melo take a strong second place and strengthen his championship position.
Speaking about his race, Claman de Melo said, “I tried to look forward as much as I could, hitting my marks and not making any mistakes. This is the result of lots of work and a big push mid-season. I’m really happy with the car and really happy with the team. We’ve learned so much together and they’ve taught me a lot. If it had been like this at the beginning of the year, we could have been championship contenders but it’s not over yet.”
The Indy Lights drivers will take part in one further qualifying session and race tomorrow.