A weekend of intense racing action saw Zach Claman DeMelo and Matheus Leist claim their first podiums in the Indy Lights Series presented by Cooper Tires. Two races made up this weekend’s Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation. Claman De Melo claimed second place in race one on Friday after a chaotic start, with series rookie Leist claiming third in Saturday’s race.
Following a strong qualifying session on Friday morning, Claman DeMelo and team mate Neil Alberico were the top Carlin started for race one, lining up second and third respectively. A chaotic start saw both Carlin men slip back, but it was Claman DeMelo who made up the most positions. After passing team mate Alberico, Claman DeMelo passed points leader Colton Herta to claim the final podium spot in third, later stealing second. The young Canadian held onto the spot to take his first podium in the series. Alberico followed him home with a strong fourth place just ahead of Leist who climbed the field to fifth. Garth Rickards completed the top ten in 10th place.
Following a second qualifying session on Saturday morning, Leist was the top Carlin qualifier in third, the position he held at the customary rolling start. The Brazilian rookie claimed second in the early stages passing Santiago Urrutia, but would lose the position later and drop back to third. Leist’s fight in the final half of the race would be with team mate Alberico, who had passed several cars to run in fourth place. The final for the podium spot lasted several laps, with Alberico at one point claiming third before Leist came back through. Light contact between the pair resulted in a damaged front wing for Alberico, who struggling with the handling of his damaged IL-15 dropped back to sixth at the chequered flag.
Claman DeMelo provided some of the most exciting racing action of the race, undoubtedly quick, the Toronto born racer ran wide while making up places from his ninth place starting position. Recovering from the back of the field, Claman DeMelo showed plenty of speed but in an eventful race was only able to manage 11th at the flag. Team mate Rickards came home 12th.
Speaking about his second place finish in race one, Claman DeMelo said, “I made a bad start, but then held my position. I managed to pressure a few people into mistakes. We had a really good car this weekend. I feel like I was held up by Kellett in race one when I was coming up behind him to lap him. If it wasn’t for that I feel like I could have at least got close enough to [leader] Nico [Jamin] to challenge him. We’ve shown good pace here.”
Team mate Leist was delighted with his race two podium adding “It feels mega to get my first podium in the USA. Everything is new for me here. The team was new, the tracks, the tyres. Everything is completely different to what I’m used to. I’m very happy to take this podium.
“It was very difficult to keep Neil behind me, but I didn’t think he would have push to pass, so I was working hard to keep him behind me. It was difficult to stay in front because I was finding it hard with the rear tyres. I’m so happy though to take my first podium and can’t wait to race here again later this month.”
The Indy Lights drivers will be back on track in just under two weeks time for the season highlight Freedom 100 on the historic Indianapolis Speedway on 26th May.