Sunday, June 12, 2022

INDY LIGHTS: HMD teammates Serravalle, Bogle out before break at Road America

Antonio Serravvalles car at its hauler.
ALL PHOTOS: William Soquet

by William Soquet Staff Writer

Antonio Serravalle finished last in Sunday’s Indy Lights Grand Prix of Road America when his #11 HMD Motorsports Mazda blew an engine after completing five of the race’s 20 laps.

Hailing from the Toronto area, Serravalle quickly rose up through the karting ranks, winning championships in Italy, Canada, and Bahrain, among other locales. In 2018, he jumped to the Indy Pro 2000 series, the second step of the Road to Indy ladder. After running with Exclusive Autosport that season, his family formed a privateer effort for 2019, with help from Jay Howard Driver Development and Italian-based RP Motorsport. Serravalle doubled his number of points scored, going from 92 to 188, and was poised to join HMD Motorsports for the 2020 Indy Lights season alongside David Malukas and Santiago Urrutia. However, the Indy Lights series did not run a season in 2020 as a result of the global pandemic, and Serravalle instead ran a couple races in the Formula Americas Regional Championship with Jay Howard. The privateer effort returned for 2021, with Serravalle contesting sixteen of the twenty championship rounds and scoring a best finish of sixth at Road America. In advance of 2022, Serravalle had no set plans until late February, where he signed a two-race deal with Abel Motorsports to start the Indy Lights season. After two top-ten finishes, Serravalle replaced Manuel Sulaiman at HMD for some events in the 2022 season.

Serravalle was second in the lone practice session for the weekend behind teammate Christian Bogle, who were both buoyed by fresh tires near the close of the session. On the other end of the charts in 13th was yet another HMD driver, Danish pilot Benjamin Pederson. His fastest lap was a 1:57.86 seconds, a mere two-tenths off of 12th-place driver James Roe. Roe was the slowest driver in qualifying, lapping a 1:55:68.

The initial double-file start saw shakeups for position at the front and at the back, most notably with polesitter Sting Ray Robb losing his lead position before the first corner. Matt Brabham had an off-course excursion coming out of Turn 7, and behind him, Ernie Francis Jr. locked up the brakes on his #99 machine and went sliding into the turn eight gravel trap, drawing a caution. Francis fell a lap down during the ensuing process to get his car out of the gravel trap, but did not lose any more laps for repairs. However, he was still well behind the field for the Lap 4 restart. Despite being single-file, there was still plenty of action to go around, with some moves that are more common in NASCAR than open-wheel racing. Serravalle fell to the back and lost a little bit of ground to the field on Lap 4, a gap that was more pronounced on the frontstretch at the end of Lap 5. Then, in the back half of the course on Lap 6, the car suddenly began spewing smoke. Serravalle pulled off into the grass and exited the car, ending his race.

“On the restart, there was a little less power when I hit the throttle," Serravelle said after getting back to his team’s hauler. "The second lap, I was just losing, losing (power) and then the third lap it blew up. We had the pace, we were pretty fast. The start, we got a little hit on the nose during braking so I thought that the wing might be a little broken but other than that, the engine just let go.”

On the first lap of the restart after the caution for Serravelle, teammate Christian Bogle was going for a position on the long straightaway in between Turns 3 and 5 when the underbody of his car clipped a curb on the outside of the track, drawing the nose of the car up in the air and turning the nose into the catchfence, where it slid for a while before stopping. The incident ripped a hole in the catchfence, and the ensuing repairs took long enough that the conclusion of the Lights race was held after the IndyCar race.

Bogle's car being unloaded off the tow truck.

“I made a mistake there," said Bogle. "I committed to going on the racing line, pushed a little towards the curb and ended up hitting the front side of the car on to the curb and it sent me into the catchfence. It’s unfortunate, because I thought our pace was pretty good this weekend. Qualifying didn’t go great, but overall we knew we had pace to move up the field throughout the race." Asked about the immediate circumstances on track, Bogle had some interesting adjectives to describe them: “The restart was pretty mental. There were cars going absolutely everywhere, damage all throughout the field. Thought we could’ve gotten a bit more from that restart, but obviously our day got cut short.”

Rounding out the Bottom Three was Benjamin Pederson, who made a pit stop during the latter portion of the race to repair damage sustained on the restart. The Lights cars were sent to an impound area for the IndyCar race, so teams were unable to work on the cars, and Pederson’s team was the only one who made the call for a pit stop to repair the damage.

13) #11-Antonio Serravalle / 5 laps / engine
12) #7-Christian Bogle / 8 laps / accident
11) #24-Benjamin Pedersen / 19 laps / running
NOTE: Indy Lights is a single-make series.

1st) HMD Motorsports (3)
2nd) Abel Motorsports (2)
3rd) Andretti Autosport (1)

1st) Christian Bogle (3)
2nd) Jacob Abel, Hunter McElrea, Ryan Phinny (1)

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