A new sheriff in town
This NBC Sports Network Motorsports Talk report confirms that Scot Elkins will become the race director for the Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire and Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda series.
Elkins, who is currently the managing director, IMSA Technical Regulations, will continue his role with IMSA and the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship. There are no conflicting event dates between the three series.
Elkins, a Terre Haute, Indiana native spent time in open wheel racing as the Technical Director of the Champ Car World Series.
I was able to confirm from an Mazda Road To Indy official that Tony Cotman will continue in his role as Race Director for the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire series.
Indy Lights News
Enerson makes the grade and skips to last rung of the Mazda Road To Indy ladder.
“SPM is a great organization,” Enerson said. “Surrounding myself with experienced team members, where there is chance to advance up to the Verizon IndyCar Series within the team, is ideal. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”
The 17 year old vice-champion of the 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda championship will be making the step up to Indy Lights after three seasons on the first step of the Mazda Road To Indy. Enerson used five wins, nine podiums and 11 front row starts to finish the season only nine points behind 2014 champion Florian Latorre.
In 2013, the New Port Richey, Florida native came home with a ninth place championship finish. His first season of USF2000 saw him score four wins on the way to third place in the USF2000 National Class Championship. Enerson began karting at the age of five and also spent time in Skip Barber before joining the MRTI.
Enerson will be engineered by experienced Indy Lights veteran Doug Zister. Zister will be rejoining Schmidt Peterson Motorsports after working with Zach Veach at Andretti Autosport in 2014. The successful University of Waterloo graduate has won Indy Lights championships with Josef Newgarden (Schmidt Peterson Motorsports) in 2011 and Wade Cunningham (Brian Stewart Racing) in 2005 and 2006.
Enerson made a big step in terms of “growing-up” during the 2014 season and from what I’ve seen, he is putting an even bigger effort into his first season in Indy Lights. Having an experienced teammate would be a huge help and Enerson should be expected to contend for podiums and will be an even money pick to win Rookie Of The Year Honors.
Carlin and Jones hope to make waves after crossing the pond together.
The nineteen year old spent the 2014 season in the FIA Formula 3 Championship with the Farnham, UK based squad. His season started off well when he scored two podiums and four top 10’s in his first two event. However, his progress was halted when he suffered a back injury during the event at the Pau street circuit event. The set-back cost him one-third of his season, but he was able to come back strong, scoring five top 10’s in the last third of the 33 race season.
This will not be Jones’ first foray onto U.S. soil, as he took part in the Ferrari sponsored Florida Winter Series in 2014, scoring eight podiums, one pole and three fastest laps.
In 2013, the Dubai, UAE born driver won the European F3 Open championship as rookie, even though he missed the first two races of the campaign. His impressive stats line included: six victories, 10 podiums, four poles, and three fastest laps.
The former UAE karting champion also has experience in Formula Renault 2.0 and British F3.
Jones said, “I am really excited and thankful for this opportunity to race in Indy Lights. I have always seen myself going over to the States for racing at some point and Carlin’s choice to participate in the series has made it an ideal time to make the transition a reality. There will be a lot to learn for the team and myself especially on the ovals but I am as motivated as ever to make it a success with the aim of making it to Indy Car now clearly in sight.“
Team Moore gets an IL-15 in their stocking
Long-time Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire competitor Team Moore has taken delivery of the first of two IL-15 chassis.
Mark Moore of Team Moore Racing said, “What better way to celebrate New Year than the arrival of the team’s first Dallara IL-15. I honestly think it is the most beautiful formula car in the world right now! The design team from Dallara and project managers like Tony Cotman and Alex Timmermans did a fantastic job. Well done!”
“I can’t say how excited I am for the series right now. We currently have a product that our young drivers can excel with to the next level in INDYCAR. The Verizon IndyCar Series is not a pipe dream for drivers in Indy Lights; 19 of the last 33 drivers on the 2014 Indianapolis 500 grid have raced Indy Lights,” continued Moore.
“We race for prize money and the Champion’s prize is three IndyCar races and one of them includes the Indy 500. Can you imagine winning a European Championship and getting three F1 races and one of them including Monaco?” concluded Moore.
Mike Colliver and Don Bricker will be returning to the team as engineers. The two have worked together at Team Moore the past few seasons and also have experience working in the Verizon IndyCar Series, which could prove beneficial when working with the brand new Dallara/Mazda platform.
The Pitsboro, Indiana based team was formed in 2007 and since that time 24 different drivers have scored eight wins, eight poles and 28 podiums. Verizon IndyCar Series driver James Hinchcliffe snagged three of those wins on the way to a second place championship finish in 2010.
Driver announcements will be made in the near future.
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and 8Star Motorsports were the first teams to put the Mazda powered Dallara IL-15 through it’s paces during a test at Palm Beach International Raceway on December 17, 2014.
Handing the driving duties for 8Star Motorsports was Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire vice-champoin Scott Hargrove and experienced test driver Oswaldo Negri. Negri has previous experience as a test driver, serving in the same capacity when new Barber Dodge Pro Series and Formula BMW cars were introduced.
— 8Star Motorsports (@8starmotor) December 18, 2014
It was newly inked RC Enerson and Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire veteran Jack Harvey that piloted the Schmidt Peterson Motorsports machines.
— RC Enerson (@RCEnerson) December 17, 2014
Expect more car and driver combinations at the next official series test, that will be held on January 13-14, 2015 at Palm Beach International Raceway.
Other official Indy Lights testing will occur at:
- Homestead -Miami Speedway Road Course on January 26-27
- Homestead-Miami Speedway Oval on January 29
- NOLA Motorsports Park on February 18-19
- Barber Motorsports Park on February 24-25
Reigning Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire championship winning engineer Geoff Fickling has switch loyalties, going from the red of Belardi Auto Racing to the blue of Carlin. Fickling, the son of the legendary P-1 Racing principal Bill Fickling, took home top honors in 2014 with Gabby Chaves.
Fickling split the 2013 campaign between Lights champion Sage Karam and multiple race winner Jack Hawksworth. He has also spent time P-1 Racing, Andersen Racing and Team Pelfrey.
This is a very strong first hire for Carlin.
Also switching teams, from Andretti Autosport to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports during the off-season was Doug Zister, engineer for Zach Veach in 2014. That means that two of the top three engineers switched teams for the upcoming season. It will be interesting development to watch. Team chemistry is often an overlooked variable of success.
Quick Canuck changes addresses
Juncos Racing was the first Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire team to fill their 2015 dance card when they announced that Canadian Garett Grist would be joining Timothe Buret, Will Owen and Jose Gutierrez in a four car attack.
The 19 year old Pro Mazda sophomore moves to the championship winning team after a successful rookie campaign that saw him score two wins (Lucas Oil Raceway and Mid-Ohio) and ten top tens on the way to an eighth place championship finish while driving for Andretti Autosport. Grist’s results didn’t always match his pace (9 times he racked-up a top 5 race lap), and with a little more luck and consistency he should be a favorite to take home the Mazda Motorsports scholarship and advance to Indy Lights.
“I am very excited to be joining Juncos Racing for the 2015 season,” said Grist. “I see it as a great opportunity for me to develop to a higher level. The team and I share the goal of winning the championship. It will be great to have a second year in the class; so far in cars I’ve been a rookie every season. I’d also like to thank everyone at Andretti Autosport for a great few years. I learned a ton and had a great time doing it.”
After a successful karting career that included a Canadian National Karting Chapionship, the Grimbsy, Ontario native made the same step many young Ontario natives do, to the Ontario Formula Ford Championship. Grist’s first foray south of the border came with Bryan Herta Autosport’s Formula F1600 Championship team in 2012. In 2013, he made the leap to the Mazda Road To Indy by winning one race and Rookie of the Year honors on the way to an impressive third place finish in the Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda championship.
Burkett and Cape join forces
After spending two seasons in the Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda series with Belardi Auto Racing, Canadian Daniel Burkett will be moving up to contest the Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire championship with Cape Motorsports with /WTR.
“My goal main goal entering 2015 is to develop my skills and learn as much as possible from the Cape brothers,” Burkett said. “They’ve developed so many great drivers over the years and it’s an honor to be a part of their organization. We will see what happens in my rookie year of Pro Mazda, however I’m confident that I can be in the top-five every race, fighting for the win.”
The 19 year-old from Winnipeg, Manitoba scored 14 top 10’s in his two USF2000 campaigns. During breaks in his USF2000 schedule, Burkett also gained valuable seat time in more powerful cars by contesting the ten round Atlantic Championship. He won seven races, scored nine podiums and set the fastest race lap nine times on the way to a dominating championship.
2015 will mark the second season in Pro Mazda for the perennial USF2000 contenders Cape Motorsports with /WTR. Their first campaign in 2014 was a successful one that saw them just narrowly miss out on the team championship and drivers championship with Scott Hargrove.
The combination of the Cape brothers (noted pranksters) and Burkett should make for some fun moments this year in Pro Mazda. Check out Daniel’s sense of humor in this video:
Tan shifts focus to the USA and Pro Mazda
Andretti Autosport has announced that their second Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire seat will be filled by Wieron Tan. With the support of the Caterham F1 young driver program, the 20-year old Malaysian has spent the last two seasons racing in Europe.
2014 saw the Kuala Lumpur native score 2 wins and five podiums in the last six races of the ATS Formel 3 Cup (the competitive German F3 series) while coming home fifth in the championship. In 2013, Tan scored five wins on the way to a second place finish in the UK based Protyre Formula Renault Championship. After a successful karting career, Tan made his debut in cars in the JK Racing Asia Series (Formula BMW) during the 2012 season. Tan has a total of 11 victories in only three seasons of Formula Car racing.
He has been a consistent winner in every series he’s competed in, so it will be interesting to see where this F3 talent slots in, in the U.S.A.
Tan, who is currently studying Automotive Engineering Technology at the University of Hertfordshire, should fit in well with his fellow Andretti Autosport teammate Dalton Kellett, who is current ly studying engineering physics at Queens University.
Andretti Autosport will be entering their fifth season of Pro Mazda competition and will be looking for their second championship.
The definition of determination
If determination alone funded racing, Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire hopeful Maxx Ebenal, would already be on the Verizon IndyCar Series circuit with fellow Canadian James Hinchcliffe. But determination doesn’t pay the bills, so the Regina, Saskatchewan driver is working hard to put together to a budget to compete on the Mazda Road To Indy.
Ebenal’s career path to this point is anything but tradition, but it is the definition of perseverance:
- brain tumor operations at age 13 and 16
- working as a mechanic at the Bridgestone Racing Academy in exchange for a race seat only to have Bridgestone cut back their racing program
- working as a Star Mazda race mechanic at JDC Motorsports for two seasons
- working for two years in the northern Alberta oil fields, while living in his truck to save for his next opportunity
- driving a garbage truck and transit bus in his hometown of Regina
- moving to China in 2012, to race in the China Formula Grand Prix series only to be told a couple of weeks before the season started that ‘foreigners’ would not be allowed to compete
- driving everything, and anything in Aisa to pay the bills
And finally, this past season Ebenal got the opportunity to fulfill his dream and complete a full season in single seat open wheel cars. While working as PS Racing team manager, and driving instructor, he was vice-champion of the Asian Formula Renault Series (similar to other worldwide Renault 2.0 championships). He lost out on the championship to the more experienced Alice Powell, when his axel broke on the warm-up lap of the final race of the season (all he needed to do was start that final race to claim the title). His season included 4 wins, 2 poles, podiums in 10 of 12 races and 3 fastest laps.
This interview with the CBC goes in-depth into his remarkable story.
Welcoming a new team
The Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda championship has gained a new team. Swan Motorsports announced that they will be fielding a three-car effort, to contest the 2015 championship.
“Dan Andersen and the entire staff at Andersen Promotions have organized a great path and logical progression to the Verizon IndyCar Series with the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Team Owner Mirl Swan. “We are very excited to be in on the USF2000 step, and look forward to working with drivers looking to begin this path to the top.”
The Fort Worth, Texas based team lead by Mirl Swan has won 8 SCCA National Runnoffs and also has experience in the Atlantic Championship Series and F1600 Formula F Championship. Swan, and experienced driver himself, was crew chief on Townsend Bell’s championship winning season with Dorricott Racing in 2001.
The team is expected to start testing in mid-January and will be making driver announcements in the near future.
Canadian karting star makes the jump to cars
JDC Motorsports has announced that Parker Thompson will be their first driver in a multi-car assault on the 2015 Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda championship. Thompson, a native of Red Deer, Alberta made his debut in a formula car during the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September, 2014.
The 16 year-old karting champion was impressive in that debut, scoring the fourth quickest time during the two day trial run. Thompson might not have a lot of experience on the track, but he should have a great support system, with 2004 Indianapolis 500 and 2009 24 Hours of Daytona champion Buddy Rice, serving as his mentor.
“I am extremely thankful for the opportunity from John Church to be a part of his organization for 2015,” said Thompson. “I am excited to kick off the new race season in the Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 series and look forward to hunting down the championship with the JDC Motorsports boys.”
Expect the John Church led squad to make more USF2000 and Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire driver announcement in the coming weeks.
Driver owned team has seats available
MDL racing currently has two open seats available for USF2000. If anyone is interested send me a message.
— Matthew (@matthewdileo) December 1, 2014
According to this tweet and interview on eFormulaCarNews.com MDL Racing is looking to enter the Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda championship.
The team, owned by Matthew Di Leo, is crewed by experienced open wheel hands Peter Dragffy, and Mo Larsen, and scored 4th (2012) and 5th (2011) place championship finishes with Di Leo at the wheel.
Interested drivers can contact Di Leo at 705-331-9707 or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
**Austin Cindric is no stranger to stepping outside of open wheel racing. The 16 year-old veteran Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda driver added ARCA stock cars to a cars driven in 2014 list that includes: USF2000, Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire, Global Rally Cross and Pirelli World Challenge. The son of Team Penske president Tim Cindric impressed in a two day test at Daytona Speedway, scoring the fourth quickest time overall.
**Colton Herta, a 2014 Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda competitor, and son of Verizon IndyCar Series team owner Bryan Herta, will spend the 2015 season overseas racing for Carlin in the British based MSA Formula Championship. MSA Formula is a part of the new FIA backed Formula 4 category that will utilize a Mygale carbon-fibre monocoque and a 160HP Ford 1.6L EcoBoost engine. The season consists of 30 races (10 events) all run as support for the popular British Touring Car Championship. Herta showed a lot of pace in USF2000 last year, so it will be interesting to see where he stacks up with some of the best young talent in the United Kingdom.
To Joel Sebastianelli for winning the fan vote to become the next Road To Indy TV host. The University of Florida telecommunications major beat out four other hopefuls for the opportunity to join the open wheel traveling circus for the summer. We look forward to getting know Joel as he hosts our window into the Mazda Road To Indy.
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