Carlin: Serralles Storms to Victory in St. Petersburg
 March 13, 2016| 
  • Team News
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Felix Serralles continued Carlin’s winning streak at the St. Petersburg street circuit today, taking the first victory of the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season in Florida. The Puerto Rican started from seventh on the grid and made a lightning start to make up several places before stealing the lead from an ailing Zach Veach. Teammate Ed Jones lost out at the start but recovered back to 10th, while Neil Alberico took 12th place in his first Indy Lights race.

After an eventful qualifying session which saw a red flag curtail personal fastest laps for Serralles and Jones, the Carlin men were left disappointed with grid spots of seventh and 12th respectively, with Alberico 16th. 

With the Indy Lights race featuring the customary rolling start, several rookies were caught out, dropping down the order. Serralles was quick to take advantage of mistakes and had already made it up to second by the end of lap one behind race leader Veach. Jones meanwhile had lost out on the outside and with nowhere to go made contact with the car in front which left him boxed in and down the order in 15th. Alberico was enjoying opposite fortunes, making the most of a great start to move up three places to 13th. 

With all cars making it round the first lap, Serralles set about keeping Veach under pressure for the lead. Teammate Jones meanwhile was also making progress and by a few laps in was back up behind Alberico who in turn was running close behind Zach Claman de Melo in the fight for 12th. Alberico lost out while making a move on de Melo, which allowed Jones to quickly take advantage and just a lap later Jones made it past De Melo with a determined move at turn one. 

At the front, Serralles was keeping Veach under pressure, with the gap around 1.5 seconds, and another 1.5 seconds back to third placed man Scott Hargrove. Jones and Alberico were about to make up a place each, after Shelby Blackstock went off track, putting Jones just on the edge of the top 10 in 11th and Alberico 13th. 

As the race entered the second half, Veach started to pull away at the front, with Serralles falling back closer to Hargrove. Alberico was also enjoying some close racing, just half a second off de Melo.

The order at the front was about to change though; Serralles immediately pounced on Veach who had an issue, snatching the lead and putting Veach between himself and Hargrove. With a clear track ahead of him, Serralles had the confidence to push, pulling out a sizeable gap to the cars behind. 

As Veach continued to suffer with a problem and fall down the order, Jones was 10th and Alberico 12th. Serralles continued to push hard to better his best lap time and starting position for tomorrow. As the chequered fell, Serralles took a dominant win, with Jones and Alberico maintaining positions. 

Race winner Serralles said, “It’s a great result.  I just tried to do everything right and not make any mistakes. I tried really hard to look after my rear tyres so I could push at the end. I’m just really happy to start the year like this. Big thanks to the team for giving me a great car.”

Team mate Jones reflected; “The start was really difficult, the right side just went and left side almost stopped; I think there were a few cars that side that struggled at the start which really held us all up. I had a bit of contact with the car in front and then there were other cars to avoid in Turn Four. I tried to make the most of every opportunity on the first lap, but just kept finding issues every way I went! I worked my way through a few cars, but we had a couple of issues and not quite the pace but I’m sure we’ll be a lot better tomorrow.” 

Speaking about his Indy Lights debut, Alberico added, “I made a few places on the start, but its tough on a street circuit and just highlights how important qualifying is on a track like this. So we’ll see how much we can do tomorrow.”
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