Home News Hughes tops testing as USFP2000, USF2000 and USF Juniors grids grow

Hughes tops testing as USFP2000, USF2000 and USF Juniors grids grow

by Ida Wood

Photo: Gavin Baker Photography

The Spring Training pre-season test for three of IndyCar’s support series took place at NOLA Motorsports Park’s North layout this week.

Each series had two sessions on Monday and three on Tuesday, and teams announced driver signings throughout the test.

In USF Pro 2000, the returning BN Racing team has signed Nicolas Baptiste. The 18-year-old Colombian raced in Formula Regional Europe in 2022 and spent last year on the sidelines. TJ Speed meanwhile has brought in Hunter Yeany. The 2020 United States Formula 4 champion raced in USFP2000 part-time in 2021 before moving over to the FIA Formula 3 Championship where he had 27 points-free races over three years.

DEForce Racing’s line-up is completed by Jorge Garciarce, who came eighth in USF2000 last year with the team.

Velocity Racing Development’s Nikita Johnson topped USFP2000’s first test session, a 1m31.5731s lap putting him 0.1395 seconds ahead of team-mate Nico Christodoulou in second place. BN Racing’s Ricardo Escotto (who has indicated he will be racing in round one but is yet to confirm who for) was 0.1526s behind in third, with the top 14 covered by 0.847s.

Turn 3 Motorsport’s Lochie Hughes lowered the pace to 1m31.1571s in session two. He had a gap of 0.1049s to Christodoulou and 0.6828s to Escotto. The gap between third and 14th was just 0.3126s.

Hughe was on top again at the start of day two but slower, setting a 1m31.7782 to lead Christodoulou by a tiny 0.0042s. Baptiste was next best, 0.4761s off Hughes, with Pabst Racing’s Jace Denmark 0.622s back in fourth. Nicholas Monteiro, Michael Boyiadzis and Logan Adams were the only drivers to improve.

It was close at the top in session four. TJ Speed’s David Morales set a 1m31.6206s to go fastest by just 0.0354s over Johnson. Both set personal best laptimes, along with Monteiro, Braden Eves and Adams.

In the final session Baptiste set an impressive 1m31.320s, but it was beaten by Pabst’s Simon Sikes and Yeany who respectively on their last laps set a 1m30.377s and 1m24.694s. When the offical session results appeared 39 minutes after the chequered flag Baptiste was back on top by 0.0691s ahead of Hughes. Adam Fitzgerald was 0.136s off the top in third, and with their fastest laps deleted Yeany and Sikes were 11th and 15th.

Four drivers were absent, and 12 of the 19 who took part improved. Baptiste rose to third place overall.

In USF2000, DEForce has retained Maxwell Jamieson for a second season after he came 16th last year and Exclusive Autosport has signed Thomas Schrage who won the F16000 Championship Series and came fourth in the Formula Ford Festival in 2022 then did two USF2000 rounds in 2023 and took a best finish of fourth.

Jay Howard Driver Development’s Evagoras Papasavvas started Spring Training on top, setting a 1m36.4532s in session one to lead Pabst’s Max Garcia by 0.2651s. DEForce’s Nicolas Giaffone was 0.4222s behind in third, and just ahead of VRD’s Max Taylor and Elliot Cox, whose 2024 USF2000 programme is yet to be confirmed by the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team he drives for.

Everyone but Papasavvas improved in session two, while Cox was absent, and Garcia lowered the pace to 1m35.6631s. He was fastest by 0.4397s over Taylor, with Exclusive’s Joey Brienza just 0.0027s slower in third. A second covered the top eight.

DC Autosport’s Ayrton Houk was the only non-improver in session three as Garcia went fastest again with a 1m35.2634s. Taylor cut the gap to 0.2634s, and Papasavvas was 0.4649s back in third.

Brienza improved to 1m35.6724s to top session four by over half a second, then Giaffone set a 1m35.7137s to pip JHDD’s Michael Costello to top spot by 0.0119s and Brienza by 0.0222s in session five. Six of the 13 drivers in that session improved their pace,

The latest additions to USF Juniors’ grid are Ariel Elkin at International Motorsport, junior karting graduate Diego Guiot at Zanella Racing and Leandro Juncos – the 18-year-old son of Juncos Racing team boss Ricardo Juncos – and Brady Golan at DEForce. Golan came 10th in USF Juniors last year with the team.

Elkin was a two-time junior karting champion in Israel then was a medallist for the country in the FIA Motorsport Games. In 2022 he also won the IAME Italy Series, came third in the SuperKarts USA SuperNationals and fifth in the IAME Euro Series for X30 Senior karts. Last year he came 17th in Italian F4 and a US F4 cameo resulted in a podium and 14th in the standings.

Andretti junior Sebastian Wheldon topped USF Juniors’ first test session by 0.2994s over DEForce’s Bruno Ribeiro, with only six drivers within a second of him.

JHDD’s Liam McNeilly was third fastest but was the driver to beat in the next three sessions, lowering the pace to 1m39.3432s in session two, topping session three with a 1m39.7766s then improving again to top session four with a 1m39.0214s.

All 28 drivers improved in session two, with a second covering the top six and with Wheldon in second place. JHDD’s Timothy Carel got within 0.1514s of McNeilly in session three, with 0.0078s covering third to fifth. Wheldon was third fastest byt 0.4706s slower than McNeily. Carel was one of nine drivers who improved.

Exclusive’s Jack Jeffers was a distant second in session four, 0.4626s off McNeilly’s pace, but this time 0.964s covered the top 10. Wheldon, in fifth place, and Juncos were among the seven drivers who failed to improve.

A 1m39.5994s put Jeffers on top of session five by 0.0037s over Wheldon, with Jackson Tovo the sole improver and McNeilly absent.

Test results
Pos Driver Team Time Gap Laps
USF Pro 2000
1 Lochie Hughes Turn 3 Motorsport 1m31.1571s 36
2 Nico Christodoulou VRD 1m31.2620s +0.1049s 47
3 Nicolas Baptiste BN Racing 1m31.3207s +0.1636s 70
4 Adam Fitzgerald Turn 3 Motorsport 1m31.4567s +0.2996s 61
5 David Morales TJ Speed 1m31.6206s +0.4635s 53
6 Nikita Johnson VRD 1m31.6560s +0.4989s 57
7 Danny Dyszelski Turn 3 Motorsport 1m31.6832s +0.5261s 64
8 Mac Clark DEForce Racing 1m31.6884s +0.5313s 61
9 Jace Denmark Pabst Racing 1m31.7422s +0.5851s 78
10 Ethan Ho Turn 3 Motorsport 1m31.8206s +0.6635s 65
11 Ricardo Escotto BN Racing 1m31.8399s +0.6828s 71
12 Christian Brooks Pabst Racing 1m31.8504s +0.6933s 82
13 Tyke Durst Turn 3 Motorsport 1m31.8635s +0.7064s 34
14 Liam Sceats TJ Speed 1m31.9630s +0.8059s 74
15 Simon Sikes Pabst Racing 1m32.0563s +0.8992s 82
16 Hunter Yeany TJ Speed 1m32.0975s +0.9404s 72
18 Nicholas Monteiro DEForce Racing 1m32.1415s +0.9844s 67
17 Frankie Mossman JHDD 1m32.1525s +0.9954s 59
19 Braden Eves Exclusive Autosport 1m32.2009s +1.0438s 54
20 Jorge Garciarce DEForce Racing 1m32.4267s +1.2696s 76
21 Michael Boyiadzis JHDD 1m33.4347s +2.2776s 47
22 Logan Adams Comet/NCMP Racing 1m33.7209s +2.5638s 32
23 Esteban Rodriguez BN Racing 1m37.1309s +5.9738s 12
1 Max Garcia Pabst Racing 1m35.2634s 79
2 Max Taylor VRD 1m35.5020s +0.2386s 65
3 Joey Brienza Exclusive Autosport 1m35.6724s +0.4090s 89
4 Nicolas Giaffone DEForce Racing 1m35.7137s +0.4503s 61
5 Michael Costello JHDD 1m35.7256s +0.4622s 85
6 Evagoras Papasavvas JHDD 1m35.7283s +0.4649s 81
7 Thomas Schrage Exclusive Autosport 1m35.8589s +0.5955s 76
8 Hudson Schwartz Pabst Racing 1m35.8818s +0.6184s 79
9 Sam Corry Pabst Racing 1m35.9000s +0.6366s 80
10 Quinn Armstrong DEForce Racing 1m36.0507s +0.7873s 84
11 Elliot Cox SFHRD 1m36.0986s +0.8352s 49
12 Cole Kleck VRD 1m36.3284s +1.0650s 91
13 Lucas Fecury DEForce Racing 1m36.5888s +1.3254s 91
14 Ayrton Houk DC Autosport 1m36.6300s +1.3666s 84
15 Tanner DeFabis JHDD 1m36.6305s +1.3671s 56
16 Maxwell Jamieson DEForce Racing 1m36.8995s +1.6361s 41
17 Carson Etter DC Autosport 1m37.0299s +1.7665s 92
18 Xavier Kokai VRD 1m37.0891s +1.8257s 85
USF Juniors
1 Liam McNeilly JHDD 1m39.0214s 56
2 Jack Jeffers Exclusive Autosport 1m39.4840s +0.4626s 61
3 Sebastian Wheldon VRD 1m39.5668s +0.5454s 62
4 Ayden Ingratta JHDD 1m39.5812s +0.5598s 61
5 Evan Cooley Exclusive Autosport 1m39.6824s +0.6610s 54
6 Vinicius Tessaro DEForce Racing 1m39.8163s +0.7949s 59
7 Jeshua Alianell VRD 1m39.8594s +0.8380s 65
8 Bruno Ribeiro DEForce Racing 1m39.8602s +0.8388s 58
9 Leandro Juncos DEForce Racing 1m39.8858s +0.8644s 58
10 Timothy Carel JHDD 1m39.9241s +0.9027s 64
11 George Agyros III JHDD 1m39.9854s +0.9640s 65
12 Enzo Tovo Team Tonis 1m40.1419s +1.1205s 66
13 Joao Vergara Exclusive Autosport 1m40.1448s +1.1234s 64
14 Ariel Elkin International Motorsport 1m40.1553s +1.1339s 54
15 Augusto Soto-Schirripa International Motorsport 1m40.4078s +1.3864s 55
16 Leonardo Escorpioni Zanella Racing 1m40.4118s +1.3904s 42
17 Hudson Potter JHDD 1m40.5033s +1.4819s 62
18 Christian Cameron VRD 1m40.5140s +1.4926s 61
19 Aidan Potter JHDD 1m40.5266s +1.5052s 48
20 Anthony Martella Exclusive Autosport 1m40.5399s +1.5185s 65
21 Patricio Gonzalez DEForce DD 1m40.6460s +1.6246s 60
22 Rodrigo Gonzalez DEForce DD 1m40.8487s +1.8273s 57
23 Diego Guiot Zanella Racing 1m40.9279s +1.9065s 59
24 Brady Golan DEForce Racing 1m41.0316s +2.0102s 58
25 Ava Dobson JHDD 1m41.0377s +2.0163s 63
26 Jackson Tovo Team Tonis 1m41.3722s +2.3508s 63
27 Michael Suco VRD 1m41.4607s +2.4393s 55
28 Giovanni Cabrera Exclusive Autosport 1m43.1863s +4.1649s 62