Franck Perera showed once again why he is considered one of the very best racing drivers on the American scene, with a truly dominant performance in Sonoma, California.
With an ill-functioning fuel pump late in the 45-minute qualifying session for the Carneros 100, Franck Perera was up against it to put the No. 55 CJ Consulting Guthrie Racing car on the pole.
He had swapped the pole with Raphael Matos three times, but time was running out on the Frenchman competing in his eighth Firestone Indy Lights race. However he pushed the car to its limit on the final lap to earn a truly stunning P1.
"It was a nice lap," he said of the 1-minute, 23.2851-second (99.547 mph) trip around the 2.303-mile, 12-turn Infineon Raceway course. "I think this year I’ve been pretty good at the end of the session. I’m surprised because even though we were fighting for the pole the whole session, we had a fuel pump problem on the last two laps, but I pushed anyway. When they said I got pole, I couldn’t believe it."
It was the second SWE Pole Award for Perera and third front-row start.
With an absolutely faultless display of pace and control Franck Perera led all 30 laps of the Carneros 100 to claim his first Firestone Indy Lights victory, recording the race’s fastest lap in the process.
“It’s an amazing weekend,” said Perera. “It was a new track again, and we were really good. We managed to beat Raphael (Matos) in the qualifying. He tested here last weekend, so we did great to get pole. We had a good race. The car was consistent, we didn’t have to push it 100 percent. It was good to have a race like that.”
“It’s been a challenging season on and off track,” Franck concluded. “So to get this first Indy Lights victory is fantastic for me and for my managers at CJ Motorsport, who have supported me all the way.”
Starting eighth in race two by virtue of the reverse grid, Perera drove with great patience and intelligence to take the chequered flag in 5th place.
On a track where overtaking is notoriously difficult, the Frenchman executed perfectly on his strategy of watching the Antinucci-Matos battle, taking place just ahead of him, until an opportunity arose. Sure enough, the two title contenders made contact and drove wide on lap 27, leaving Perera an opening on the inside through which he expertly squeezed.
The final race of the season takes place at the Chicago Speedway on September 7th.