Meet the Contenders: Felix Serralles
 September 8, 2016| 
  • Series News
Felix Serralles is one of six drivers in contention for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship crown entering the doubleheader season finale this weekend at Mazda Raceway.

PALMETTO, Fla. – On paper, it appeared that Felix Juan Serralles IV entered his sophomore season in the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires with a new team and two teammates. But in reality, the young Puerto Rican had been on the Carlin team’s radar for years, having competed against the European open-wheel powerhouse in British Formula 3. And the “new” teammates? One is a former roommate and the other a former teammate, making for a very cohesive driver unit.

The son of a former powerboat champion, Serralles grew up with adrenalin in his veins. Riding a dirt bike at age 3, Serralles progressed quickly through karts and into formula cars. Earning a Team USA Scholarship alongside eventual Indy Lights champion and Verizon IndyCar Series rookie Spencer Pigot, Serralles stayed in Europe, racing in Formula Renault and then Formula 3, firstly in the British championship and later in the FIA European series. Serralles headed Stateside in 2015, finishing sixth in his rookie Indy Lights season.

Serralles had kept his eye on the Carlin team throughout the season, and felt that his best chance to win the title was in joining forces with Trevor Carlin’s eponymous team. The pieces fell into place – including the announcement of two very familiar names as teammates. Serralles had competed against Neil Alberico in Skip Barber, and was a teammate of Ed Jones’ in Formula Renault.

“I knew where I wanted to go this year,” said Serralles. “I wanted to be a part of the championship this year, and Carlin is a championship-winning team in everything they do. They have that attitude. I get along so well with everyone: (team manager) Colin Hale, my engineer, all the guys – and especially Neil and Ed.

“I’ve known Neil and Ed a long time.” Serralles continued. “Neil was a finalist in the Team USA Scholarship program, and when Spencer and I won, he decided to come to England anyway, to watch and be in the environment. He stayed on to run Formula Ford and I was racing Formula Renault, so over a few beers, we decided to share a place. We shared an apartment for about a year, which was great since we didn’t know anyone. Ed and I were teammates at Fortec in Formula Renault. There was none of that awkwardness of getting to know each other; we just dove right in and got ready to race. We work well together and we all like to work hard. We can be in the office for hours, talking about setup and working on going faster so it’s a really good environment.” 

Serralles began the season with hopes that he would strive for the championship at season’s end. Lying fourth in the title-chase going into the “Soul Red Finale” at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, he is 38 points behind championship leader Santi Urrutia – and while he may have lost opportunities along the way, Serralles has enjoyed the season.

“This may not have been the greatest year on track, but for me, it’s still been one of my best years. We’ve had some bad luck in qualifying and in the races, and we’ve had some things happen that were out of our control. I know I can win when everything goes smoothly, but it’s been frustrating that we haven’t had that one perfect weekend. We’ll be on the podium in one race and then something happens in the other. But I can still finish well in the championship and that’s what I’m going to try to do.

“Having the experience from last year really helps, even if it was just having been on all the racetracks. I had never been to most of the U.S. tracks before, so everything was new last year. But at the end of the day, I really don’t feel any pressure. The only pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself to drive well. But especially after Road America, where someone else’s mistake cost me the race, my girlfriend Alejandra helped me to see that I need to accept what we can get and enjoy it. I have to be grateful no matter what happens. I am focused more on myself and not worried on what happens outside of that. It could be my last year of racing so why worry about the future instead of just enjoying now?”

It seems as though every race in the 2016 Indy Lights season has yielded unexpected results and there’s no reason to expect that Mazda Raceway will be any different. Serralles still has the championship – and the Mazda scholarship worth $1M that would propel him into the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series – in his sights. 

“It would mean a great deal to be able to call myself a champion. I’ve been so close in the past – I nearly won the F3 title. It would also mean that I would get the chance to do what every race driver wants to do from their early days: to drive an Indy car. That’s the way I look at it, so my focus stays on getting there. 

“I have the experience from last year at Mazda Raceway, but what’s different is that I’m with Carlin now. They qualified on pole, had a good car there last year and have been competitive all season this year. I have confidence in the team and in the car, so if I do everything right, I can be up there. It’s a matter of how you look at it and making sure you stay positive.” 

Away from the racetrack, Serralles happily leads a pretty ordinary existence – except for that whole racing thing…

“It’s so important to get away and clear your mind from racing, and Alejandra really helps with that. She didn’t grow up with racing, so we don’t really talk about it – it’s not that she’s not interested, but she understands what it takes out of you. At home, I’m just a regular person: I study, she works and studies, we train a lot and play with our dog. We both enjoy sailing as well. She used to race Lasers and 420s, and I sailed Hobies and Optimists – I really grew up in the water when my dad raced powerboats. I would love to go to the America’s Cup, especially if I could get to sail on one! But when we’re home, she and I really do have the same life – except that I go away for my job.”
 
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