Toronto, Canada – A P2 and P10 finish helped Felix Serralles stay in the 2016 Indy Lights title fight after an eventful double header around the narrow streets of Toronto.
Felix overcame contact at the start of Race 1 to take a comfortable second place podium on Saturday, before two separate punctured tires restricted the Carlin driver to P10 in Race 2 on Sunday.
The weekend started off in fine style for Felix, who arrived for the only Canadian round of the series on the back of a dramatic win at the Iowa Speedway just one week earlier. A strong baseline set up and a love for the bumpy and unforgiving track layout allowed the Puerto Rican to quickly settle into a rhythm in Toronto, with Felix setting the quickest time in Practice 2 after running P8 in Practice 1 on a used set of tires.
Qualifying saw Felix continue to demonstrate his searing pace. During the first round of fast laps, Felix put the #4 car on pole, before a red flag interrupted his second run and prevented any improvement on the timesheets. One man who did improve however was Felix Rosenqvist, who snatched pole from the DCM driver by +0.4s.
Race 1 got underway in chaotic fashion, as Felix [Serralles] was forced wide at Turn 1 by a wayward Santiago Urrutia. With Urrutia making contact, both he and Zach Veach got ahead, while championship leader Ed Jones struggled in P5 and Rosenqvist stretched away out front. Felix wasted no time in mounting an attack on Urrutia for P3 and found a way through on Lap 8 of 45. Soon after, Felix passed around the outside of Veach for the second time in a week – following his race-winning move at Iowa – and setting off in pursuit of Rosenqvist. Despite bringing the gap down, Rosenqvist’s preserved push-to-pass button signalled the end of Felix’s victory charge, in between the Swede and Juncos Racing’s Kyle Kaiser.
It was a case of déjà vu for Felix at the start of Race 2, having made contact on the first lap and scuppering any hopes of a win. Andre Negrao was the guilty party on this occasion, connecting with Felix in the braking zone for Turn 4 after a good toe out of Turn 3. The consequences of the incident became apparent three laps later when a left-rear puncture led to Felix limping back to pit lane. Disaster struck twice three laps later thanks to another puncture caused by a damaged diffuser on Felix’s Dallara IL-15, pushing him well down the order.
Despite being two laps down, Felix made a number of bold moves to bring himself back onto the lead lap and went on to set the fastest lap of the race, again reiterating his raw speed and confidence on his way to a bitterly undeserving P10 finish.
Reflecting on a mixed weekend on track, Felix said: “It’s been another weekend where we had the pace but not the luck. P2 on Saturday was great but the punctures ruined our Sunday. We felt comfortable right from moment we rolled the car out the transporter. The balance was good and we were easily fastest on new tires in Practice 2. It really feels like we’re on top of the car as a team now and that gives me a lot of confidence as a driver.
The start of Race 1 was unfortunate because Santi [Urrutia] came barrelling up the inside of Turn 1 and pushed me out wide. I tried to make up ground on Felix but I was too far back.
I got unlucky at the start in Race 2 as well. After Negrao hit me, we had some diffuser damage that cut the tire. Sadly the team didn’t realise what was causing the punctures until after the second stop and it put us way back. It’s a shame because I felt we were the quickest throughout the whole weekend.”
Despite the bouts of bad luck, Felix remains firmly in the title hunt thanks to fellow title rivals Jones and Dean Stoneman both enduring a poor weekend in Toronto. Returning Stateside, Felix has 236 points and rests third in the Indy Lights standings, just 32 points behind current leader, Jones.
“Overall I’m happy with how everything is going. I’ve never been more comfortable in the car and on the limit. My head’s in the game, and I’m sure we can continue to fight for the title between now and the end of the season.”