INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. – Victor Franzoni had to work hard to ensure victory in this afternoon’s Mazda Road to Indy Grand Prix Presented by Royal Purple Supporting Lupus Foundation of America. After setting the pace in qualifying for locally based Juncos Racing by a comfortable margin of almost a half second, the personable Brazilian botched his start and had to come from behind to beat Australian Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports) to the checkered flag.
Californian TJ Fischer (Team Pelfrey) maintained his streak of third-place positions in the third round of this year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. He also won the Staubli Award.
Franzoni led the field toward the starter’s stand at a virtual snail’s pace, but the ploy backfired as he found himself swamped by several hungry rivals as the field barreled into Turn One. Championship leader Martin, who had won both opening races in St. Petersburg, Fla., took full advantage by sweeping from third on the grid into the lead. Pelfrey teammates Fischer, Carlos Cunha and Nikita Lastochkin also were embroiled in the mix.
Martin duly led at the end of the opening lap, by which time Franzoni had managed to claw his way back into second place. Franzoni quickly made up the deficit but Martin put up a staunch defense of his hard-earned advantage.
After four laps, Franzoni used the draft to draw alongside last year’s winner of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on the entry to Turn One... but the canny Australian made sure his Soul Red car was occupying the preferred inside line. Undeterred, Franzoni held on around the outside, whereupon the two talented young men proceeded to jockey for position, side by side, before Martin emerged onto the back straight still in the lead.
Next time around, Franzoni made his move a little bit earlier and was able to clear his rival at the apex of Turn One to grasp the lead for the first time. He never looked back and went on to secure his first Pro Mazda victory by a margin of just over five seconds.
Los Angeles-based Russian Lastochkin held third place for the first couple of laps but was already struggling for confidence in his car’s braking capabilities. Fischer was the first to take advantage, slipping through under braking for Turn One. Lastochkin also lost out to Cunha, from Brazil, a couple of laps later, and then teenaged Californian Phillippe Denes, who drove another strong race for World Speed Motorsports.
Lastochkin held on for sixth ahead of 14-year-old Sting Ray Robb, from Payatte, Idaho, who enjoyed a race-long battle with World Speed teammate Bobby Eberle.
The PFC Award went to the winning team, Juncos Racing, which is based less than a half-mile away from the track in Speedway, Ind., while Martin secured the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award.
Bob Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., won the National Class, finishing ninth overall after a protracted duel with the Championship class Juncos Racing entry of fellow Illinois native Jeff Green.
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “It’s unbelievable to get my first win in Pro Mazda and my first win at Indianapolis. This track is amazing; everything here is about racing so to win here is totally different than winning anywhere else. Anthony made a better start than me but he didn’t have anywhere to go, so he was pushing me. I’ve raced Anthony for three years now on the Mazda Road to Indy so we respect each other – and we know that if we do something bad for each other, it will be bad for the championship. Of course, if we are still fighting this close as we get to the end of the championship, things will get more difficult. My car is really fast and I am starting on the pole (for Round 4), so I will try to make a better start and win again tomorrow.”