Matheus Leist took Carlin’s fourth consecutive race win today in the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires Series. The young Brazilian claimed his third win of the season at the Iowa Speedway, making it three out of three wins for the Carlin team at the short oval since 2015. Team mate Zach Claman de Melo came home in sixth place, while Neil Alberico struggled with the handling of his IL-15 in 11th as Garth Rickards retired.
Strong pace from the Carlin team in the first practice session in Iowa yesterday saw Alberico set the early pace with team mates Claman De Melo and Leist both in the top three and Rickards sixth. Qualifying then was a slightly disappointing affair for the team, with Claman de Melo the top Carlin starter in second, while Alberico lined up seventh, Rickards eighth and Leist tenth.
Away first time, Claman de Melo made a strong start as the green flag was shown to slot in behind pole man Colton Herta as the field made their way around the 7/8 mile oval for the first time. Behind the leaders Leist was on the move, making up two places early on and was soon behind Alberico who maintained seventh.
A full course yellow brought the racing to a halt after a spin for Rickards, who was able to recover to the pits where his car was inspected by the Carlin mechanics, before later retiring. Back out on track with the green flag shown, Leist suddenly stepped up his pace on lap 26 of 100 and was making up places hand over fist. Within four laps he had passed second placed man and championship leader Kyle Kaiser and was off in pursuit of leader Herta.
By lap 32 Leist was on the attack and claimed the lead from Herta and set about pulling out a gap in clean air. In just four laps the Carlin man had a healthy lead of 2.5 seconds, while behind him team mate Claman De Melo was fifth.
Claman De Melo had his own battles to fight; the young Canadian came under attack from a charging Santiago Urrutia who was making his way through the field. Leist meanwhile had managed to draw out a lead of 6.5 seconds and soon began to lap backmarkers. Dealing perfectly with the traffic and managing his Cooper Tires, Leist’s lead in the final stages dropped to three seconds, but the 18 year-old never looked under any danger. At the chequered flag Leist took a supreme win, his third in four races, while Claman de Melo crossed the line sixth and Alberico 11th.
Speaking about his victory, Leist said, “I actually had a very difficult qualifying. I didn’t manage to find two good laps; the car was a little too loose for me, so unfortunately we started 10th.
“I knew that we had a really good car for the race and Carlin have been so strong here for the last two years. I knew I had a winning car, I just had to figure out for myself the best line. The highline worked very well for me and for the car, which gave me the confidence to go on the outside of other drivers. The restart was really good for me. The car was just perfect today which allowed me to pull a gap to the cars behind, and my spotter was just helping me control the pace and I was focussed on controlling my tyres. It is an amazing day for me.”
The Indy Lights drivers will be back out in action in less than a week’s time for the second street race of the season in Toronto, Canada.