t’s not just that the cars get faster as a
driver moves up the Mazda Road To Indy
ladder, but that the experience becomes
much more reflective of the end goal. That’s
what up-and-coming driver RC Enerson is
discovering as he steps into Schmidt
Peterson Motorsports’ Lucas Oil-backed
Indy Lights car after two years of slugging it
out in USF2000, where he finished second
in points in 2014. And he has questions...
The Mazda-powered Dallara IL15 in
Indy Lights (a new car this year for the
first time since the series launched in
2002) is a lot quicker than the USF2000
cars – as much as 10sec a lap at many
tracks. It is, by design, much closer to the
Dallara DW12 that races in the Verizon
IndyCar Series, the ultimate goal of most
drivers contesting Indy Lights. The Indy
Lights series is also closer physically and
figuratively to the IndyCar Series, with
Lights running mostly on IndyCar
weekends and most Indy Lights teams
having a corresponding IndyCar team.
That’s true for Schmidt Peterson
Motorsports, where James Jakes and
James Hinchcliffe drive the big cars.
That close proximity and relationship
allow the Indy Lights drivers access to some
pretty good stores of knowledge as they try
to work their way up. So what happens
when Enerson and “Hinch” get together
and the youngest driver in Indy Lights is
able to pick the brain of the guy who took
victory in April at NOLA Motorsports Park
in the Arrow Electronics/Lucas Oil
Dallara-Honda? We listened in to find out...
Enerson, who caught the racing bug in
karts at the age of nine, says he skipped
straight from the Cooper Tires USF2000
Championship to Indy Lights because the
next step for most, Pro Mazda, has a car
that feels rather different. The jump from
USF2000 to Indy Lights is a big leap in
speed, but closer in car feel, he notes. So
Enerson wants to know how close the
IL15 Indy Lights car is to the DW12.
It’s not so much about the car,
Hinchcliffe, says, but the racing itself.
“For me, the transition from the Indy
Lights car to the big car in terms of
physically driving it, it was all pretty
straightforward,” he says. “You come up
through the ranks and every time you get
to a new series, the car brakes 20 percent
better, has 20 percent more power, 20
percent more downforce. Physically driving
the car was the next logical step. The big
difference came in the races, where all of a
sudden you’re covering distances three
from Indy Lights to
the IndyCar Series in
2011. The four-time
race winner has
become a fan favorite.
RC Enerson is on the Mazda Road To Indy
in the Lucas Oil Indy Lights car; James
Hinchcliffe is already at the destination.
So, does Hinch have any words of
wisdom for the up-and-comer?
WORDS & IMAGES Richard S. James