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The Mazda powered, Cooper Tire shod, Tatuus designed USF-17 completed it’s successful six day shake-down testing today with a final one-day test on the oval at Lucas Oil Raceway.
The USF-17 also spent time testing at the National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park, Barber Motorsports Park, and Road America.
Handling driving duties for the first five days of testing was Joel Miller. Miller is currently the USF2000 driver coach/steward, while also helping develop and pilot Mazda’s factory prototype program in the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The 28 year-old with a mechanical engineering degree from the University of California Riverside has previous F2000 experience, was the 2007 Skip Barber National champion and the Pro (Star) Mazda vice -champion in 2008.
Miller told TSO that “getting back into an open wheel car again (Indy Lights in 2011 was his last time), puts a big smile on his face.”
Matthew Brabham, the 2012 USF2000 champion, USF2000 race winner at Lucas Oil Raceway, and 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 participant, took over the testing at the 0.686 mile Brownsburg, Indiana oval.
“It’s an honor to test the new chassis,” said Brabham.
“Today went really smoothly. We had no issues and ran tons of laps. The systems in the car are a big upgrade compared to the old car, which makes it a lot more comfortable to drive.
“It felt really quite different from the old USF2000 car and had different characteristics in the way it drives and handles obviously.”
Scot Elkins, project manager and USF2000/Pro Mazda Race Director, was chosen to by Dan Andersen to lead the bottom two rungs of the Mazda Road To Indy into the car of the future. Elkins, a Terre Haute, Indiana native, has extensive experience dealing with complex projects that involves multiple manufacturers, and was the perfect choice to develop the car that will produce the next generation of open-wheel pilots.
The Indiana State grad, who is also currently the Chief Operating Officer at the Motorsport Safety Foundation served as the Technical Director for Champ Car from 2004 through it’s merger with the Indy Racing League in 2008. During that time Elkins, who has also spent six years leading the IMSA competition department, was the project manager for the introduction of the Atlantic Series Swift 016.a and Champ Car’s DP-01.
Each day of testing consisted of similar programs. Before lunch, Elkins would guide a team of Mazda Road To Indy, Tatuus , Cooper Tire, Elite Engine, Cosworth and PFC engineers, mechanics and technicians while working on basic car set-up through the use of shorter on-track runs.
After a quick break for lunch, the driver would take on a large chunk of the work load, doing multiple race length runs to test the validity of earlier findings.
Sharing a common tub with the Tatuus F4-T014 FIA Formula 4 chassis, the USF-17 features numerous additional safety and performance upgrades.
The Tatuus F4-T014 is most popular F4 chassis in use worldwide and is the basis of the: Italian Formula 4 Championship, ADAC Forumla 4 (Germany, Austria and the Netherlands), SMP F4 Championship (Russia, Sweden, Finland and Estonia), Spanish Formula 4 Championship and the United Arab Emerates Formula 4 Championship.
Jeff Horton, INDYCAR’s director of engineering has been working with Elkins on all of the upgraded safety enhancements which include a double bulkhead, side intrusion panels, front and rear wheel tethers, and an INDYCAR type head surround.
Upgrading the performance from a standard F4 package will be:
- the 170hp proven Mazda MZR 2.0 liter engine built by Elite Engines
- adjustable twin element rear wing
- 13×8 (front) and 13 x10 (rear) wheels
- PFC Formula 3 quality brakes with driver adjustable brake bias
- upgraded Cosworth electronics package including ECU, GCU and data logger
- three way adjustable Dynamic dampers with Hyperco springs (six spring rates available)
- upgraded uprights for oval racing
- ride-height, camber, toe adjustment, roll center, anti-squat and anti-dive adjustments on the rear axle and ride-height, camber and toe adjustment available on the front axle.
The first container of 15 USF-17’s will loaded by Tatuss in Italy in the middle of August and teams should be receiving their brand new cars by the middle of September. The second container is scheduled to arrive in November or December and
TSO has learned that only four of the chassis in the first container of 15 cars are destined for existing Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda teams.
Exclusive Autosport is the first new team that has announced that they will joining the Mazda Road To Indy. The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan based squad is led by Michael Duncalfe, a former Star Mazda pilot and entrepreneur, and they have captured multiple Formula F/F1600 titles since 2013.
We have heard some other very intriguing team names that are set to join or re-join the Mazda Road To Indy, including a former championship winning Atlantic Championship team and a current SCCA Pro championship winning team (also former USF2000 competitors).
Some thoughts from Steve.
So how did the USF-17 perform in testing?
Lap times were official, but after some new car gremlins appeared during the first day of testing at National Corvette Museum Motorsports Park, the lap times for a brand new car, with only a couple of days of development work were outstanding. TSO learned that the USF17 was:
- at 2016 race-pace and within a half-second of pole at Barber Motorsports Park
- above 2016 race pace and good enough to qualify in the top 10 at Road America
- at race and qualifying pace at Lucas Oil Raceway
Very impressive, especially for a brand-new car that has had no team development and and also has only half of the downforce that the current Van Diemen package currently races with.
Re: that reduced downforce. That, at least in my (Steve’s) opinion, is the best thing that could happen to entry level series of the Mazda Road To Indy.
First, it allows drivers skipping F1600 and coming straight from karting to USF2000, a chance to develop a better feel for mechanical grip. That is a skill that becomes very important as they continue to progress up the open wheel ladder.
“The car will stay much more competitive across a long run without degradation,” declared Miller. “ And, as the fuel bleeds off, the balance changes which is something these drivers will deal with all the way up the ladder – and they’ll learn it now on the first level.”
Second, it should greatly improve the racing. Due to the current high downforce levels, following closely on the high speed corners of a natural terrain circuit and oval is an issue with the current package. The lower downforce USF-17 should allow drivers to follow each other more closely, making it easier to pass and improving the racing.
“It has less aero and downforce which makes the car slide around slightly more,” explained Brabham. “I think it will be fantastic for learning car control especially on the ovals. Hopefully it will make the racing closer and tighter too without as much aero wash in traffic.
“The mechanical grip from the Tatuus chassis is also a big improvement compared to the old car. It makes up for the less downforce.
How does the future of the lowest rung of the Mazda Road To Indy look?
Bright. Very Bright.
With 24 solid orders placed by 14 different entities, and more orders expected any day, the first two 15-car containers should be filled by the time the first batch are loaded into a container for the trip from Italy to the United States in mid-August.
The majority of current USF2000 teams (owners and drivers) stuck around for the test day at Road America, and the excitement among the team principals was quite evident.
One long-time USF2000 team owner told TSO that while the current car (a 10+ year old Van Diemen design, based off of a 30 year old car) has been a good one, it was time to catch up to the rest of the world and modernize the bottom rung of the Mazda Road To Indy.
Current USF2000 rookie Dakota Dickerson was interested spectator and is very keen to help a team develop the new car and the 20 year-old Mazda backed pilot clearly understands the benefit that can have in his future career development.
“The teams all love it, said Anderson. “Some teams are thinking about adding to the orders they have already made, and we have more serious potential buyers than we have cars left in the first order of 30. I couldn’t be happier with our next generation car.”
As is always the case in racing, the running costs of a car will determine whether or not it is successful. One of the primary goals that Elkins and Andersen have kept in mind from day one was reducing the operating costs for the teams. The cost of a rolling chassis is $51,800, and Andersen has made a strong effort to keep the cost of consumables at a manageable level.
“The component usage is fantastic,” explained Andersen. “Brake wear is better by far than the current car, as is the tire wear.”
“At Barber, we did three straight sets of mock qualifying and a race and the brake pads looked nearly brand new after 600 miles,” added Miller. “As far as wear and tear and consumables, this car is much more cost effective.”
A different business model?
Another positive that you won’t hear mentioned too much, but that could potentially be huge junior series business model game changer, is that the purchase of this Tatuss chassis will be a great investment for a driver, parent, or long time sponsor. Because the basic tub will form the basis of both the USF2000 and Pro Mazda car, the $51,800 rolling chassis cost of the car can be spread out over a three or four year program. A true win-win-win situation for the parents/sponsors, teams and series.
It’s a win for the parent/sponsor because not only can the cost of the chassis be spread out over a multiple year program, the car will still have considerable value and will be easily sold.
It’s a win for the teams because they don’t have the initial capital outlay. Most junior level open wheel teams operate on such razor thin margins, not having that initial outlay could easily be the difference between continuing and not continuing.
It’s a win for the series because they have now have driver via their parents that are more invested to see out a three or four year program.
The next time the public and media will have the opportunity to see the US-17 run in anger, it will be in the hands of teams at the teams at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test. The annual off-season test will move back to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway again in 2016, and is scheduled to take place on October 8th and 9th.
Mazda Road to Indy Drivers Set for Spring Training in Alabama
Cosmopolitan Field will Converge in Birmingham for Final Pre-Season Test
PALMETTO, Fla. (March 2, 2016) – Almost 50 up-and-coming race car drivers representing no fewer than 18 nations will converge this week on Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., for the official Mazda Road to Indy Spring Training Test – the final opportunity for teams to prepare for the following week’s season-opening races on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.
All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy will be in attendance, with Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competitors taking to the scenic 2.3-mile road course on Saturday, March 5, and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda fields sharing track time on Sunday and Monday, March 6-7.
The Mazda Road to Indy provides a clear path for teams and drivers with scholarship prizes at every level to assist in their progression from karting through USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. More than $3.6 million will be up for grabs during the season which begins with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11-13 and continues through to the finale for all three series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., on September 9-11.
Indy Lights Enjoys Significant Boost for 2016
The top level of the unique driver development ladder, Indy Lights, benefits from a substantial surge of interest this year following the successful adoption of an exciting and brand-new Dallara-Mazda equipment package in 2015. A strong field of 16 cars is expected at Barber, representing a 25 percent increase over the average field last season.
The quality is impressive, too, with reigning FIA European Formula 3 Champion and two-time Macau Grand Prix winner Felix Rosenqvist, from Sweden, former FIA Formula 2 Champion and GP3 Series runner-up Dean Stoneman, from England, and 2015 Pro Mazda champion Santiago Urrutia, from Uruguay, joining an intriguing mix of veterans and rookies.
Defending Team Championship winner Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian will return with another stellar line-up comprising 2015 race winner RC Enerson, from New Port Richey, Fla., Urrutia, who makes the step with help from a substantial Mazda Scholarship after winning the Pro Mazda title, Brazilian Andre Negrao, a veteran of the GP2 Series in recent years, and Korean Heamin Choi.
Enerson, who will celebrate his 19th birthday on Sunday, set the fastest time in a one-day test session last week on the Phoenix International Raceway oval in Arizona.
Belardi Auto Racing, which guided Gabby Chaves to the 2014 championship, also has high expectations after Rosenqvist topped the times in an earlier test session at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. The highly rated Swede will benefit from the experience of 21-year-old Ohioan Zach Veach, who will make his return to Indy Lights after finishing third in the 2014 title-chase.
After winning the 2015 driver championship with Spencer Pigot, who will achieve one of his life goals by graduating to the Verizon IndyCar Series at St. Petersburg, Juncos Racing will look to Pigot’s teammate from last year, Californian teenager Kyle Kaiser, to continue the good work. Kaiser will be joined by Canadian rookie Zachary Claman De Melo.
European open-wheel powerhouse team Carlin burst onto the North American scene in 2015 by winning its first three Indy Lights races, and Dubai-based Englishman Ed Jones will be looking to repeat that feat – and more – during his sophomore campaign. Carlin has expanded its operation from two to three cars with the addition of Puerto Rican Felix Serralles, who won at Milwaukee last year, and rookie Neil Alberico, who has finished second in both the Pro Mazda and USF2000 championships over the past three years.
Andretti Autosport also will field a strong three-car team for Tennessean Shelby Blackstock, who claimed a podium finish last year at Mid-Ohio, Pro Mazda graduate Dalton Kellett, from Toronto, Canada, and rising English star Stoneman, who also has an offshore powerboat championship on his resume.
Team Pelfrey will complete the field with two cars for series veteran Juan Piedrahita, from Colombia, and Canadian Scott Hargrove, the 2013 USF2000 champion who also finished second to Pigot in the 2014 Pro Mazda standings.
Canada’s Grist Heads Select Pro Mazda Field
Garett Grist, from Grimsby, Ont., Canada, has a score to settle in 2016. He began last year as one of the title favorites in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, joining defending champion team Juncos Racing after winning three times in 2014, and while he accumulated more points in the second half of the season than anyone else, including champion Santi Urrutia, a disappointing first half of the campaign left him languishing third in the points table. Now a six-time Pro Mazda race winner, Grist has his eyes set firmly on the championship and a coveted Mazda Scholarship to assist in graduation to Indy Lights in 2017.
Grist will have three teammates at Juncos Racing: highly rated Australian Jake Parsons, who finished second in last year’s Chinese Formula Masters Championship, returning veteran Will Owen, from Castle Rock, Colo., and young Argentinean Nicolas Dapero.
Malaysian Weiron Tan, a four-time winner last year, also has high expectations, joining Team Pelfrey, which guided Urrutia to the 2015 championship, alongside proven USF2000 race winner Aaron Telitz, from Birchwood, Wis.
Two of Telitz’s USF2000 rivals for the past two years, fellow former Team USA Scholarship winner Jake Eidson, from Littleton, Colo., and last year’s champion Nico Jamin, from Rouen, France, also will step up into Pro Mazda with another sure-fire front-running team Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing.
A pair of National class veterans, Bobby Eberle, from Houston, Texas, and Jay Horak, from Mesa, Ariz., will represent World Speed Motorsports and M1 Racing respectively.
Nine Nationalities Among 22-Strong USF2000 Entry
The first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder already is brimming with talent as drivers from as far afield as Australia, Brazil, China, England, New Zealand, Norway and Russia are set to challenge home-grown talent from both Canada and the United States in this year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Among those seeking to follow in the footsteps of 2015 champion Nico Jamin are three of last year’s most promising rookies, Australian Anthony Martin, Canadian Parker Thompson and Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin. The trio finished fourth, fifth and eighth, respectively in 2015 and aim to continue the Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing team’s legacy by vying for a sixth consecutive championship crown.
Pabst Racing, which guided Jake Eidson to three wins and second place in the 2015 title-chase, will return with Pennsylvanian Garth Rickards and China’s Yufeng Luo, both of whom posted promising results during their rookie campaigns, plus Jordan Lloyd, who showed well in a few USF2000 outings before returning to his native Australia to win the inaugural CAMS Jayco Formula 4 Championship last year.
Team Pelfrey once again will field no fewer than four Van Diemen-Mazdas for Jordan Cane, from England, who won a record-equaling seven F1600 Championship Series races last year at the tender age of 14; New Yorker Robert Megennis, 15, who also made his mark with eight podium finishes; Californian TJ Fischer, who has competed in Europe the past two years; and Kiwi James Munro, who comfortably won the New Zealand Formula Ford title in 2013.
Other potential front-runners include John Cummiskey Racing’s pair of Ayla Agren, from Norway, who in 2014 became the first female to win the F1600 Championship Series, and Brazilian Lucas Kohl; 2014 Skip Barber Scholarship winner Luke Gabin (JAY Motorsports), from Australia, who finished sixth in the 2015 championship, highlighted by a podium finish in Toronto; two-time Team USA Scholarship winner Michai Stephens (RJB Motorsports); and Dakota Dickerson (Afterburner Autosport), who will step up to USF2000 on the strength of a Mazda scholarship after winning the Skip Barber Racing Championship Shootout, plus a Team USA Scholarship, in 2015.
The Mazda Road to Indy Spring Training test will commence with a pair of sessions for Indy Lights on Saturday, March 5, from 9:00-12:00 p.m. and 1:30-5:00 p.m., then continue with the Pro Mazda and USF2000 teams taking over with three sessions apiece on Sunday and Monday. Live timing for all on-track sessions will be carried on the respective series websites – indylights.com, promazda.com and usf2000.com.
From time to time, we like to pass along Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road To Indy contests when we come across them. Because, who doesn’t love free stuff. ———- Cooper Tire and Discount Tire are giving away a set of Cooper Tires. You can find out how to enter at www.teamcoopertire.com. ———- The brand…
Spencer Pigot: From the Indy Lights Title to the Rolex 24 Reigning Champ Teams with Mazda for Sports Car Debut DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – By winning the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship last September, Spencer Pigot became the first four-time Mazda scholarship winner having captured four titles in five years on the Mazda Road to…
By Steve Wittich Welcome to our first Mazda Road To Indy /TSOLadder digest update. In case you missed it earlier in the month, Trackside Online announced that we would be breaking off our Mazda Road To Indy (and other open wheel ladder coverage) to our sister site at www.TSOLadder.com. You will still receive MRTI coverage…
The quest for the $1 million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship and a seat in the Verizon IndyCar Series begins in earnest this week at the first official test of the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire championship. A gaggle of 11 drivers, and group of five teams will take to the 2.21 mile, 14-turn roval at Homestead-Miami Speedway for pre-season testing.
The 2016 campaign will mark the 31st season of Indy Lights, the 3rd season with Dan Andersen and his Andersen Promotions team at the helm, and the the 2nd season with the stunning and speedy Mazda powered, Cooper Tire shod, Dallara IL-15.
Spencer Pigot won the 2015 title at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September and in October, he announced that he secured a ride with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for at least three IndyCar races (including an attempt to qualify for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500).
Juncos Racing, who won the Indy Lights driver’s championship with Pigot, returns for another crack at the title with one familiar and one new name. Kyle Kaiser has been confirmed to return to the (for now – see linked story) Brownsburg, Indiana based team in an attempt to improve on his two podiums and 6th place championship finish.
Kaiser, a 19 year-old from Santa Clara, California will be joined by Zachary Claman DeMelo, who has been confirmed in the second Juncos seat. The 17 year-old Claman DeMelo is a Montreal, Quebec native who spent 2015 racing in Europe after a stand-out career in karting.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian will begin 2016 in search of the team’s 8th Indy Lights championship by testing one sophomore and one rookie.
Sophomore pilot RC Enerson is confirmed to return to the No. 7 Lucas Oil sponsored, Mazda powered Dallara IL-15 for a run at the championship. The 18 year-old is beginning his fifth Mazda Road To Indy season, and is coming off an impressive rookie Indy Lights campaign where one win, five podiums and one pole, propelled the New Port Richey, Florida native to 4th in the final points standings.
Joining Enerson for the test, but not yet confirmed for the seat, will be reigning Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire champion Santiago Urrutia. Urrutia, who won three times and stood on the podium 10 times is looking to use his Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship to make the jump up to Indy Lights.
Zach Veach will be back in the saddle for his first official Indy Lights activity since a podium at the season finale at Sonoma Raceway in 2014. The 21 year-old three-time Indy Lights race winner has signed with Belardi Auto Racing to start the 2016 season.
“Ziggy” will be joined at Belardi by reigning FIA Formula 3 champ Felix Rosenqvist. Rosenqvist, who is managed by former Formula 1 and Indy Car star Stefan Johansson, tested with Team Pelfrey in December is not yet confirmed for a seat in 2016. The 24 year-old will have a busy week, as the 24 year-old is also taking part in the Rolex 24 at DAYTONA this coming weekend.
With four wins, and seven poles, formative European junior team Carlin made an instant splash when they jumped into the American open wheel ladder pool in 2015. The Trevor Carlin team looks to take the next step by expanding their program to three or four cars in 2016. Returnee to the team and three-time race winner Ed Jones is confirmed for a full season alongside fellow race winning Indy Lights sophomore Felix Serralles, who is moving over from Belardi Auto Racing. They will be joined at the test by newly confirmed Rising Star Racing sponsored driver Neil Alberico.
Jones and Serralles both spent 2015 learning unfamiliar circuits and also how to race on ovals. With a year education themselves on the nuances of racing in the U.S.A., the pair that combined for four wins and nine podiums should push each other to compete for the championship.
Joining the two veteran drivers at Carlin will be Alberico, who is certainly no stranger to the American racing. The Los Gatos, California born Alberico currently has 10 wins and 21 podiums in four yeas of Mazda Road To Indy competition.
As only a one car team in 2015, Andretti Autosport and Indy Lights rookie Shelby Blackstock struggled to find the adequate pace to be competitive during the first two-thirds of the season. The Michael Andretti owned team did find their way at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and was able to finish the season strong. Blackstock is confirmed for a second season and will be joined by Mazda Road To Indy veteran, but Indy Lights rookie Dalton Kellett.
Getting a late start in racing, the 25 year-old Blackstock has started to catch and surpass some of his much younger and more experienced contemporaries. The Nashville, Tennessee native, who did not start his racing career until his freshman year of college has amassed 14 podiums and one win in four years of Mazda Road To Indy competition.
Kellett, who holds an engineering physics degree from the prestigious Queens University, will also be entering his fifth Mazda Road To Indy season and the 22 year-old from the Toronto area should be able to help the Indianapolis, Indiana based team move their program forward.
As always thanks for reading and TSO will be back with daily coverage of the test beginning on Tuesday.
Homestead-Miami Speedway test schedule.
Tuesday, January 26
- 9am – 12pm —> on-track testing
- noon – 1pm —> lunch
- 1pm – 5pm —> on track testing
Wednesday, January 27
- 9am – 12pm —> on-track testing
- noon – 1pm —> lunch
- 1pm – 5pm —> on track testing
Other official series tests will take place on the oval at Phoenix International Raceway on February 25th and at Barber Motorsports Park on March 5th.
Carlin sign Alberico for 2016 Indy Lights Series Neil Alberico will race with Carlin in the 2016 Indy Lights Series presented by Cooper Tires. The 23 year-old American will continue his career on the Mazda Road to Indy, after finishing the 2015 season as Pro Mazda vice-champion. Alberico joins already announced Carlin drivers Ed Jones…
By Steve Wittich
The 2015 edition of the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire championship saw a thrilling three-way duel between Spencer Pigot, Jack Harvey and Ed Jones come down to the final weekend of the year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and the 2016 championship is shaping up to be even better.
There was a total of 16 different drivers that got behind the wheel of the brand new Mazda powered Dallara IL-15 in 2015, with 11 of those being full season entries. With what TSO is hearing from team owners, both of those numbers should increase this year. There are currently eight confirmed drivers, with 16 expected entries and 21 “possible” best case scenario entries.
After falling to seven and eight car grids only two short years ago, breaking the 20 car plateau would be a huge accomplishment for Dan Andersen and his dedicated staff. TSO had one team tell us that 20 entries would go a long way to solidifying the Mazda Road To Indy as legitimate option among top level European talent. That can only help grid size moving forward.
The next official on-track activity for the teams and drivers is an open test on January 26 and 27 that will occur at Homestead Miami Speedway.
Below are some team and driver breakdowns.
- Confirmed (2)
- Total expected (2)
- Total possible (2)
After a false-start that saw three drivers make six forgettable appearances in 2012, Juncos Racing made a proper leap from their Pro Mazda success into the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire championship in 2015. Leap might not actually be descriptive enough. The two car team led by former driver Ricardo Juncos vaulted into the 2015 Indy Lights championship when Spencer Pigot scored six wins and the championship in his rookie season.
Pigot and fellow rookie Kyle Kaiser were led to six wins, four poles, and 13 podiums by three former drivers: Juncos (team principal), Ernesto Gonella (technical director) and CR Crews (team manager). Pigot, the recipient of the $1million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship has moved onto the Verizon IndyCar Series with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, but Kaiser will return and will be joined by rookie Zachary Claman Demelo.
The 19 year-old Kaiser will be entering his second Indy Lights and fourth overall Mazda Road To Indy season. The Santa Clara, California native made a big jump in performance between his first and second Pro Mazda seasons and will look for a similar improvement between his freshman and sophomore Indy Lights campaigns.
After a standout karting career, Claman DeMelo, a 17 year-old spent 2015 in Europe racing in various Formula 3 and Formula Renault 2.0 series. The Montreal, Quebec native recently participated the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Circuit of the Americas and turned in an impressive performance that saw him only one tenth of a second off the top time set by his new teammate Kaiser.
- Confirmed (2) – Dalton Kellett – Shelby Blackstock
- Total expected (3)
- Total possible (4)
After persevering as a one car team in 2015, Andretti Autosport will be back in 2016 with a more traditional multi-car team. Shelby Blackstock returns to the Indianapolis based team in 2016 and the sophomore will be paired up with Andretti Autosport Pro Mazda veteran Dalton Kellett, who is making the step up to Indy Lights. The two-time Indy Lights championship winning team desires to be a four-car effort this year and believes that goal is still in reach.
Blackstock and the team took two-thirds of a season to get their heads around the new IL-15 chassis but the Nashville, Tennessee native showed improved pace beginning at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course; scoring three top-six finishes in the last four races of the year.
The extra data provided by USF2000 and Pro Mazda grad Kellett, a 22 year-old from the Toronto, Ontario area, in the second car should help the team move forward substantially in 2016. Kellett is a veteran of 58 Mazda Road To Indy starts and recently moved to Indianapolis, Indiana after completing a degree in engineering physics at the prestigious Queens University in Kingston, Ontario.
Blackstock and Kellett have been engaged in a vigorous off-season testing program that has seen them turn laps at Circuit of the Americas, Phoenix Raceway, Sebring Raceway and Road America.
- Confirmed (2) – Ed Jones – Felix Serralles
- Total expected (3)
- Total possible (4)
European junior formula stalwarts Carlin didn’t waste any time making their mark in America with the trio of Ed Jones, Max Chilton and Nelson Piquet scoring score four wins, seven poles and 13 podiums during the teams debut Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire season.
Trevor Carlin did tell TSO at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca that he would like to field four cars in 2016, and with two cars already confirmed that scenario certainly becomes a stronger possibility, although a three car team is also a possibility.
After spending the first four years of his formula car career in Europe, Jones will return to Carlin for a sophomore Indy Lights season and a chance to win the championship that the Dubai born driver missed by only 33 points in 2015. After three wins, seven podiums, three poles, 148 laps led and four quickest race laps in 2015, the 20 year-old will be join RC Enerson as one of the early favorites for the $1,000,000 Mazda Motorsports advancement scholarship in 2016.
Joining Jones in Carlin brilliant blue will be fellow Indy Lights sophomore Felix Serralles. The Ponce, Pueto Rico native got his racing start in the U.S.A. (USF2000 and Skip Barber), but in 2011 made the move to Europe where he remained until coming back to race in the Indy Lights championship for Belardi Auto Racing. The 23 year-old had an up-and-down rookie campaign that included one win, two podiums and more often than not, pace that did not equal results. If the Milwaukee Mile winner can cut down on DNF”s, he should find himself in the championship hunt.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian
- Confirmed (1) – RC Enerson
- Total expected (4)
- Possible (5)
The seven-time Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire championship winning team will be aiming to win their first overall crown since Sage Karam won the title in 2013. TSO has learned that the team who won three races in 2015 is once again planning on a four car assault in 2016.
The team will be led by confirmed sophomore driver RC Enerson who scored a win and five podiums on the way to a fourth place championship finish as an 18 year-old rookie in 2015. The New Port Richey, Florida native and his engineer Doug Zister have formed a cohesive unit and will start the season at St. Petersburg as one of the favorites to win the $1,000,000 Mazda Motorsports advancement scholarship and a seat in the Verizon IndyCar Series.
The team is expected to announce their remaining drivers very soon and have tested Santiago Urrutia, Henrique Baptista, Heamin Choi and James French for the remaining seats.
Belardi Auto Racing
- Confirmed (1)
- Total expected (2)
- Total possible (3)
Blaredi Auto Racing had a mixed results in 2015, but were still able to extend their consecutive seasons with a win streak to three when Felix Serralles won the oval event at the Milwaukee Mile. The Brownsburg, Indiana based team joined the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire series for the first time in 2011, and won their first race with Peter Dempsey at the wheel of a thrilling Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2013. The Brian Belardi owned and John Brunner managed team, who captured the 2014 Indy Lights crown with Gabby Chaves, has one confirmed entry and are expected to field a second car, with a third car being a long shot.
Joining the team, rejoining the Indy Lights series, and becoming an automatic championship contender will be Zach Veach. The 21 year-old has three wins, five poles and 10 podiums in two previous Indy Lights seasons with Andretti Autosport.
The Stockdale, Ohio native was forced to miss a season open wheel competition when a potential Verizon IndyCar Series ride failed to materialize at the last minute, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t keep busy. The avid rock climber contested an TUDOR United SportsCar Championship race, served as an instructor at the MINI Performance Motoring School at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, drove an IndyCar two seater, and served as a driver analyst on the INDYCAR Radio Network. (it must be nice to be young)
- Confirmed (0)
- Total Expected (2)
- Total Possible (2)
With the announcement in October that they would be absorbing the 8Star Motorsports Indy Lights program, Team Pelfrey will become the only Mazda Road To Indy team currently competing on all three steps of top level American open wheel ladder.
Team Pelfrey principal Nigel Tuckey did confirm to TSO that their plan was to enter two cars in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire championship in 2016.
The Indy Lights program will be based out of the former 8Star Motorsports shop in Pompano Beach, Florida, while the Pro Mazda and USF2000 operations will continue to be operated out of the team’s current home base in Palmetto, Florida. Team manager Gary Neal, engineer Yves Touron and an experienced team of mechanics from the 8Star operation that won two Indy Lights races in 2015 have remained with the new organization and they should be competitive from the first practice in St. Petersburg.
The team has not confirmed any drivers, but have recently tested with Juan Piedrahita, Scott Hargrove, and Felix Rosenqvist.
- Confirmed (0)
- Total possible (1)
McCormack Racing and team namesake Jack McCormack have a long history in open wheel racing dating from the late 1960’s when the 73 year-old began a long association with Sam Posey. The Cohasset, Massachusetts born McCormack was crew chief for Posey in everything from Can-Am to F5000 to Indy Car before going on to work as a chief mechanic for names like Dan Gurney, Warner Hodgdon, John Menard, George Bignotti and Dick Simon. Based in California, McCormack Racing was a part of the Indy Lights series in the mid-90’s with driver Rob Wilson before McCormack started his own business and scaled back on racing.
— Davey Hamilton Jr (@DaveyHamiltonJr) December 17, 2015
In 2014, the Indianapolis, Indiana based team set up a their race shop and procured a previous generation Indy Lights chassis and also purchased a brand new Dallara IL-15. Over the past year, Davey Hamilton, Jr. (D.J.) has been testing in the old chassis and has recently started to test the IL-15 at Buttonwillow Raceway Park in Southern California. D.J., who recently graduated from high school in Indiana has had some success in high horsepower, high downforce race cars, winning a number of winged sprint car races on the West Coast.
At the same time Hamilton, Jr. was testing the IL-15, Pete Callaway got his first taste of an open-wheel car while testing the previous generation Dallara. Callaway, who has an engineering degree from Northeastern University is the General Manager of California operations for Callaway Cars. Callaway Cars are known for: creating high performance packages for the Chevrolet Corvettes, Camaro and Silverado, providing advanced engineering solutions to automotive OEM’s and building and racing the GT3 Chevrolet Corvette in Europe.
Over the course of his four year Mazda Road To Indy career, Neil Alberico has proven that he certainly has what it takes to step-up the ladder to Indy Lights. The Rising Star Racing sponsored 23 year-old will be getting a chance to show-off his skills behind the wheel while testing with a front-running team next week. Quick hands, a heavy right foot and a positive attitude have led the Los Gatos, California native to 10 wins and 21 podiums in USF2000 and Pro Mazda.
Daniel Burkett, a 20 year-old and a veteran of three season in Mazda Road To Indy recently announced that he would be joining sports car team C.J. Wilson Racing on a full-time basis in 2016. From Winnipeg, Manitoba, Burkett has been tabbed to share a Porsche GT4 Cayman in the Continental Tire Sportscar Challenge GS Class. But… TSO would not be surprised to see him in a few non-conflicting Indy Lights races.
Brazilian native Henrique Baptista tested with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports at Palm Beach International Raceway in December. The 23 year-old has been racing in Europe and has spent the last two years racing in various Formula 3 series.
Had an amazing experience testing this beast in Palm Beach international Raceway! Can't wait to… https://t.co/FKsvgpVlyq
— Henrique Baptista (@HenriqueBaptis1) December 19, 2015
After contesting a partial Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda season in 2012, Heamin Choi spent the next two season successfully racing sports cars in Asia. The South Korean born driver rejoined the Mazda Road To Indy while piloting a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian Indy Lights car in the 2015 finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The 32 year old has tested with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian during the off-season, and is hoping to put together a full-season deal to run with the Indianapolis, Indiana based team.
James French, an IUPUI Engineering Motorsports major, was the second driver to test a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian machine during the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Circuit of the Americas this past November and was immediately on pace, finishing the test only one second off experienced Indy Lights pilot Kyle Kaiser. The 23 year-old’s name will be a familiar one for fans of the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship where he will once again contest a full Prototype Challenge season with Performance Tech. However, the Sheboygan, Wisconsin native did tell Dave Kallmann of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that he will at minimum be taking part in the Indy Lights races at his home track of Road America, with an eye to adding more races if the budget can be found. Some sort of ride share with Scott Anderson would make a lot of sense.
After getting a taste of an Indy Lights car with Juncos Racing during the recent Chris Griffis Memorial Test at Circuit of the Americas, it appears that Pro Mazda veteran Jose Gutierrez will be making the switch to the WeatherTech SportsCar Championship. The 19 year-old announced that he would be joining PRI Motorsports to contest the Tequila Patron North American Endurance Championship in Prototype Challenge machinery.
Scott Hargrove, the 2013 Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda champion and 2014 Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire vice-champion began the 2015 Indy Lights season with a one-off appearance at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with 8Star Motorsports where he ended the weekend with a solid fourth and sixth. Hargrove could not find the funding to continue for the rest of the season, but did keep himself busy by taking part in the Ultra 94 Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin championship. The 20 year-old has 13 wins in 18 races in the last two seasons of the popular one-make championship that utilizes the Porsche 911 GT3 Cup. The British Colombia driver did share with TSO that he had a very successful December test with Team Pelfrey and that he is working every angle to get back in an open wheel car for 2016.
Although Juan Piedrahita has contested an impressive 82 Mazda Road To Indy races across the three series, he is still only 23 years-old. The steady Columbian native who started his Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire career with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian but moved to Belardi Auto Racing last year scored one podium on the way to an eighth place finish in the championship. The driver who is popular among his peers and is always smiling has been testing this offseason with Team Pelfrey and it wouldn’t be surprising to see him end up with the Gary Neal led squad.
After sitting out of top level competition for almost two full seasons, former GP3 driver Ethan Ringel stepped back into the fray by contesting the full 2015 Indy Lights season with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian. It took a while, but by the end of the season, the 21 year-old had begun to get the rust knocked off on the road and street course circuit. However, rust was certainly not a problem on the ovals. The Orlando, Florida resident made a stunning oval debut at the Freedom 100 in May, taking the pole and just missed out on a win by placing second to his more experienced teammate. Rob Howden’s very informative Road To Indy Insider blog reported that Ringel’s family has still not made a decision on whether to return to Indy Lights in 2016. This does confirm what TSO has also been hearing.
Reigning FIA Formula 3 European Championship and two time Macau Grand Prix winner Felix Rosenqvist recently tested a Mazda powered Dallara IL-15 with Team Pelfrey. The 24 year old who is managed by former F1 and Indy Car driver (and Scott Dixon’s manager) Stefan Johannsen has scored a remarkable 41 (yes, that reads 4-1) Formula 3 victories over the past four seasons. The native of Varnamo, Sweeden will be contesting the Rolex 24 at DAYTONA in the Prototype Challenge class. A move to the U.S.A. by one of the best European formula car drivers would be a big deal, and that he is even considering it shows the impact that Andersen Promotions is having on the Mazda Road To Indy and the Verizon IndyCar Series.
— Felix Rosenqvist (@FRosenqvist) December 16, 2015
Andretti Autosport Pro Mazda driver Weiron Tan made an immediate splash upon joining the Mazda Road To Indy at Cooper Tires Winterfest in February 2015, as the former Caterham F1 Academy driver won twice and came home second three more times. Tan, from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was one of the quickest drivers all year in Pro Mazda, but got off to a bit of a rocky start before settling down and scoring four wins, including the series only two oval races, on the way to a fourth place championship finish. The 20 year-old’s manager informed TSO that Tan is planning on staying in U.S.A. for 2016 and would like to move up to Indy Lights if the budget can be found, but that a return to Pro Mazda for a championship assault isn’t out of the question.
Not much was known about Uruguayan pilot Santiago Urrutia going into the 2015 Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire championship, but that won’t be the case when the smooth and consistent pilot moves up to Indy Lights. After missing Cooper Tires Winterfest, the Eliseo Salazar mentored driver won three times and stood on the podium 10 times on the way to winning the Pro Mazda Championship and Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship that comes with it. The 19 year-old has been testing with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian and is expected to be confirmed as a teammate to RC Enerson in the very near future.
We’ll be back soon with Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire and Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda silly season updates.