18-year-old Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda Lites One champion Ricardo Vera tested in the Dyson Mazda-powered Lola LMP1 car at Sebring International Raceway earlier this week, as a part of his award for winning the Lites One title.
Vera joined team boss Chris Dyson at Sebring in his first exploration of the top rung of the American Le Mans Series prototype ladder. Vera, a native of Puerto Rico, got up to speed quickly – with only 10 laps in the morning session and 25 laps in the afternoon, he was able to set a very respectable lap time near the end of his final run.
“First off, I really appreciate the Dyson team, they were very nice to us and very professional,” said Vera. “The car was great – it was almost easier to drive than the LMPC car! I was impressed by the braking of the car and the handling. The gears were really quick and smooth. I would love to get another chance to drive the LMP1 car, it was a great experience!”
“I was really impressed with Ricardo,” said ALMS LMP1 champion Dyson. “He is mature beyond his years and he has exactly the right approach to succeed in this business. He was immediately consistent and as he became familiar with the Lola LMP and the Mazda turbo, his times really started to come down. His feedback was excellent as well. He will absolutely be a talent to watch for the future. Ricardo's performance shows what a great talent incubator the IMSA Lites series has become. Mazda is fully committed to the IMSA Lites platform and it is a great stepping stone to the top category of sports car racing. Ricardo earned this test today with his championship and we wish him the very best in 2012.”
Joining Vera at the test was Brian Alder, former manager of Vera's championship-winning team, Intersport Racing. Alder has ventured out on his own, forming BAR1 Motorsports – Alder and Vera have teamed up to form an LMPC team in the American Le Mans Series, so this test was particularly important.
“The test went really well,” said Alder. “Ricardo got very close to Chris Dyson in his lap times. He showed a tremendous maturity, to be able to jump into such powerful car and be quick right away shows how good a driver he really is. You could see his confidence grow during each of the four runs he had today and that will help him a lot going forward into LMPC – knowing he can handle a P1 car will give him just that much more motivation as he progresses. And the Dyson team was very welcoming and a real pleasure to work with.”
The Prototype Lites category presents an opportunity for semi-professional drivers to compete in a world-class environment while also providing an avenue for drivers to move up the ladder into the LMPC or LMP classes. The series is divided into two classes: Lites 1, featuring the Élan DP02 chassis, powered by the 230hp 2.0L Mazda MZR engine; and Lites 2, utilizing the West WX10 and WR1000 chassis with a Kawasaki ZX10R motor.