TORONTO – All three series of the Mazda Road to Indy – the developmental stepladder for INDYCAR – are in action this weekend on the streets of Exhibition Place, and it provides four aspiring young drivers the dream come true to compete in their native Canada.
Parker Thompson, a veteran of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, posted the best practice lap of the day in the entry-level series, while three Canadian rookies in Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires worked to find their footing on the complex 1.786-mile street circuit. All three series – Indy Lights, USF2000 and the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires – will hold doubleheader races this weekend.
Alberta native Parker Thompson started his weekend right on home soil, posting the fastest lap in USF2000 at 1 minute, 14.6825 seconds (86.092 mph) in the second session. In his second USF2000 season, Thompson is tied with Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing teammate Anthony Martin for the championship lead following nine of 16 rounds.
“This isn't just any race coming up,” said Thompson, 18. “This is my favorite race of the entire calendar, and not just because it's my home grand prix. Toronto is one of the most difficult street circuits in the world. I really look forward to representing the Canadian fans at the event.”
While Thompson was leading the pack in USF2000, three other Canadians are cutting their teeth in rookie Indy Lights campaigns. Juncos Racing’s Zachary Claman De Melo (seventh fastest in practice), Team Pelfrey’s Garett Grist (11th) and Andretti Autosport’s Dalton Kellett (14th) are all working to earn their stripes and the attention of Verizon IndyCar Series teams, especially this weekend in front of their home fans.
“I was born and raised in Stouffville (about 30 miles north of Toronto) and it feels incredible to be racing in front of the home crowds again,” said Kellett, 22, in his fifth season of MRTI competition – two each in USF2000 and Pro Mazda before moving to Indy Lights this year. “I know I speak for myself and a lot of the other drivers when I say the Canadian race fans are absolutely amazing and it is always fun to be back north of the border.”
Grist (pictured above), who hails from also nearby Grimsby, Ontario, is equally excited to race in front of his hometown peers this weekend. Winner of the second Pro Mazda race at Toronto in 2015, Grist is in his second race weekend of a partial schedule with Team Pelfrey.
“Coming home to Toronto is always special,” said the 21-year-old. “This is more than just a race week for me, it's my home.”
Carlin Racing’s Felix Serralles posted the fastest lap of the day for Indy Lights at 1:07.7785 (94.862 mph). Team Pelfrey’s Aaron Telitz topped the Pro Mazda practice chart at 1:11.5984 (89.801 mph).
Indy Lights qualifies at 8:25 a.m. ET Saturday and runs its first race of the weekend doubleheader at 12:25 p.m. Pro Mazda qualifies at 7:50 a.m. and races at 5:20 p.m. USF2000 qualifies at 9:10 a.m. and races at 11:30 a.m. Follow all the action on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.