LEXINGTON, Ohio – The future of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires racing appears to be strong, if its new car’s first test was any indication.
On Monday, 2011 Pro (Star) Mazda champion, 2012 Indy Lights champion and 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Tristan Vautier put the brand-new AER turbo-powered Dallara IL-15 chassis through its paces for the first time during an exclusive test session at the 13-turn, 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The exciting new car which incorporates advanced electronic controls and all the very latest safety features, was shaken down briefly last week at Putnam Park Raceway, just west of Indianapolis, but yesterday marked its first full day of development testing. The car performed flawlessly, with Vautier taking advantage of perfect weather conditions to complete a total of 85 laps, including a best lap already a half-second faster than Jack Harvey’s pole time from the weekend’s Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Indy Lights double-header.
“The goal was to come here and do mileage, which we achieved,” said President and Founder of NZR Consulting Tony Cotman, who has been responsible for the bid and design process of the new car. “The car is obviously very fast, so that’s good. It is important for us to get the car in a position that, when the teams get it, all the bugs are sorted out and we can give them a pretty good baseline. It was a lot of work to get the car put together the last couple of weeks and all the partners have done a fantastic job and given us a good starting point.”
“We are extremely satisfied with the very first official test for the IL-15,” added Stefano De Ponti, head of Dallara’s U.S. operations.
The day began just a few minutes after 9 a.m. with Vautier completing several installation laps to confirm that an oil system glitch, which had created excessive back pressure and resulted in restricted running last week, had been rectified. Vautier then moved on to longer runs, including a series of 15-lap stints during the afternoon.
“My first impressions are that the engine is great, the drivability is already right there and the gearbox is amazing,” said Vautier following his morning runs. “The brakes I think are the biggest step forward. They are really, really good. The balance was off at the start obviously, but we made a couple of small changes and the car came alive.
“A really good day,” he concluded following an extremely productive afternoon. “It went very smoothly. We didn’t have any major issues which is always good with a brand-new car, and we finished faster than the pole position that was set this past weekend with a 1:13.40. The car is a lot of fun to drive. It’s a blast. Everything about it is better than the old car. It’s a proper car that prepares drivers better for IndyCar as well. It has very similar characteristics in the way it responds on track – better braking, better acceleration, better everything. So, definitely a lot of potential.”