INDYCAR News and Notes – Oct. 29, 2015

  1. Mazda Road to Indy Announces 2016 Schedules
  2. Tatuus to Manufacture Next Chassis for Pro Mazda, USF2000
  3. Race-worn Wheldon Helmet Available in Wilson eBay Auction
  4. Kaiser Returns to Juncos Racing for 2016 Indy Lights Season

1. Mazda Road to Indy Announces 2016 Schedules: On the heels of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series schedule released earlier this week, the Mazda Road to Indy announced next season’s plans for its three rungs of the development system.

Seven venues on the 2016 MRTI schedule will feature all three ladder levels – Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

All MRTI races will be contested on the same weekend as Verizon IndyCar Series events with the exception of the season finale, which will take place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., for the second consecutive year. Phoenix International Raceway, Road America and the streets of Boston have been added to the Indy Lights schedule, while Pro Mazda and USF2000 have added Road America to their schedules.

To view the complete schedule for each series, go to http://www.indycar.com/News/2015/10/10-28-Mazda-Road-to-Indy-announces-2016-schedule.

All three series start the season March 12-13 in St. Petersburg, Fla., as part of the Verizon IndyCar Series’ Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Competitors in all three levels again will compete for scholarship packages to advance to the next level. Spencer Pigot, the 2015 Indy Lights champion, recently announced a 2016 agreement to race in the Verizon IndyCar Series with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“I am extremely pleased with the caliber of events we have on our 2016 schedule,” said Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, which operates all three series under INDYCAR sanction. “We have a total of 50 races on deck for the three series across key markets in the United States as well as Canada. Finishing the season – and crowning all three champions – at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca finale this year proved to be a great ending and we are excited to return and close out the season again next year.”

The top level of the MRTI ladder, Indy Lights will see an expanded schedule of 18 races next season blending three ovals, three street circuits and five road course events. It will include doubleheader rounds at all street and road courses with the exception of Boston. A new qualifying feature – the Cooper Tires Lightning Round – will be incorporated at select Indy Lights circuits. It will feature the top three drivers from qualifying in a one-lap shootout on a new, softer-compound Cooper RS3 racing slick for the Cooper Tires Pole Award.

Pro Mazda, the middle rung of the MRTI ladder, features two short ovals, plus doubleheader weekends at two street circuits and five road courses on its 16-race calendar. The USF2000 16-race schedule consists of one short oval, doubleheaders at two street and four road circuits, plus the traditional tripleheader weekend at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

NBCSN will host one-hour broadcasts of all race events with live broadcasts on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network, Sirius XM Satellite Radio, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR 16 app. ESPN International holds the international broadcast rights with races airing in Canada, Colombia, Mexico and Australia, among other countries.

RoadToIndy.TV and the Mazda Road to Indy app will continue to feature behind-the-scenes content, race recap episodes, special features, live streaming at select events and live shows of Mazda Road to Indy on- and off-track activities.

2. Tatuus to Manufacture Next Chassis for Pro Mazda, USF2000: Andersen Promotions announced that Italian manufacturer Tatuus has been chosen to design and produce the next generation of chassis for the first two levels of the Mazda Road to Indy – the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. The new Tatuus USF-17 and Tatuus PM-18 chassis will make their competition debuts in 2017 and 2018, respectively.

Tatuus has been designing and manufacturing race-winning cars since 1980, including those for FIA F4 and Formula Renault 2.0. The Request for Proposals (RFP) and selection process was led by motorsports veteran Scot Elkins, race director for the USF2000 and Pro Mazda series.

“The attention to detail in their proposal and easy acceptance of existing Andersen Promotions partners really give us high expectations for these cars and we are ecstatic to have them as partners for many years to come,” said Elkins.

The Tatuus USF-17 will be a significant technology leap over the current Van Diemen USF2000 chassis. The USF-17 is a full carbon monocoque chassis built to the latest FIA F3 test specifications utilizing the current Mazda MZR 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine, with additional safety features including full Zylon side intrusion panels and reinforced bulkheads to strengthen the chassis for racing on oval circuits. The USF-17 will also feature a six-speed paddle shift gearbox, four-way adjustable dampers, LCD steering wheel and ECU and INDYCAR-specific quick jack and roll hoop attachments.

The PM-18 will use the USF-17 as the base car to help control operational costs for teams wishing to move up. The PM-18 adds more power over the USF-17 from a Mazda SKYACTIV engine, more sophisticated aerodynamics with a revised underbody and diffuser, a three-element rear wing and a front wing with adjustable composite wing flaps.

The new USF2000 chassis will be unveiled at the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in May 2016. Prototype testing is expected to begin in June with car deliveries taking place in the fall. A similar schedule will follow for Pro Mazda.

3. Race-worn Wheldon Helmet Available in Wilson eBay Auction: A helmet worn by Dan Wheldon in a Verizon IndyCar Series race is among the items featured in the final days of the Wilson Children’s Fund auction on eBay. The helmet was donated to the charity auction by Wheldon’s widow, Susie, who signed the helmet along with sons Sebastian and Oliver.

Wilson died Aug. 24 from a head injury sustained in a race the previous day. Proceeds from the auction of racing, other sports and entertainment memorabilia and other items will be directed to Wilson’s family. More than $675,000 has been raised thus far through the auction, additional fundraisers and donations.

Visit http://stores.ebay.com/Celebrity-Charity-Auctions/Justin-Wilson-Memorial to bid on the helmet and other unique items, including a signed, 2006 race-worn Wilson firesuit and the shoes Wilson wore when he won the 2005 Mexico City race (also autographed).

Wilson tribute T-shirts are available at http://shop.ims.com/indycar, with proceeds also directed to the fund. Contributions can be made directly to the fund at http://justinwilson.co.uk/donate or by mail to: Wilson Children’s Fund, c/o Forum Credit Union, PO Box 50738, Indianapolis, IN 46250-0738.

4. Kaiser Returns to Juncos Racing for 2016 Indy Lights Season: Juncos Racing announced that American Kyle Kaiser will return to the team for the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires season.

Kaiser finished sixth in this year’s standings with a pair of podium finishes. Kaiser also drove for Juncos in the 2014 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season.