It’s been a busy couple of weeks in the Mazda Road To Indy, with a couple of more busy weeks expected before news quiets down for the holidays. There are MRTI meetings in conjunction with the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show currently underway in Indianapolis.
Two big announcements will take place on Thursday: 1) an engine partner is announced for the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire series and 2) Schmidt Peterson Motorsports announces their driver slate.
The announcement of an engine parter is great news. This will be the first time that the Indy Lights series will have a named engine partner since Infiniti dropped their naming of the Indy Pro Series in 2006. An active engine partner should provide the series and drivers with increased exposure, which in turn improves the return on investment of all sponsors. The aphorism “A rising tide lifts all boats” is what applies in this instance.
The introduction of the new IL-15 Dallara appears to be starting a much needed reniscance for the top rung of the Verizon IndyCar Series ladder. Renewed interest from old teams, new teams, drivers and fans has created an audible buzz, that seems to grow with each new announcement.
Registered teams for Indy Lights include: 8Star Motorsports, Andretti Autosport, Belardi Auto Racing, Bryan Herta Autosport, Carlin, Conquest Racing, Dragon Motor Racing, Fan Force United, Juncos Racing, McCormack Racing, Schmidt Peterson Motorsports w/ Curb Agajanian and Team Moore Racing.
Announced Indy Lights drivers include:
- Felix Serralles for Belardi Auto Racing
- Ethan Ringel for Schmidt Peterson Motorsports
- Spencer Pigot for Juncos Racing
- Kyle Kaiser for Juncos Racing
- Shelby Blackstock for Andretti Autosport
The first official test of the IL-15 is scheduled for Palm Beach International Raceway for January 13/14, 2015.
Further testing will take place on January 26-29, 2015 on the road course and oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Expect another update this weekend after the PRI show in Indianapolis.
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Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire
Moving on up
Reigning Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire team and driver champions, Juncos Racing and Spencer Pigot will be making the move to the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire series as a pair. They will be joined by a familiar face, as Pigot’s Pro Mazda teammate Kyle Kaiser will also be making the jump to the more powerful machines.
Pigot, from Orlando, Florida won six races during his sophomore Pro Mazda campaign to secure a hard-fought championship over rival Scott Hargrove. The former karting champion, who just turned 21, also has two Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda vice-championships to his name. Pigot will have a familiar voice on the radio as he will be joined by his engineer from Pro Mazda, Ernie Gonella, who has been with Juncos racing since it was founded.
18 year old Kaiser had a breakthrough season in 2014, scoring a victory and four podiums on the way to 6th place finish in a very deep Pro Mazda field. After a successful karting career the Santa Clara, California native made the move to cars in 2011 by competing in the Skip Barber Racing Series. That was followed in 2012 by a move to the Pro Formula Mazda class of the Formula Car Challenge where Kaiser scored eight victories in 14 races on the way to a dominating championship. Kaiser’s engineer in Indy Lights will be experienced Verizon IndyCar Series assistant engineer Michael Armbrester. The IUPUI engineering grad has experience with KV Racing Technology, Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing and most recently at Dale Coyne Racing.
The Brownsburg, Indiana based team will be making their second foray in Indy Lights after three different drivers made an appearance for the team during the 2012 season.
Championship winning team returns
Early in the off-season it was not a certainty that Andretti Autosport would return to the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire championship. But the 2008 and 2009 Indy Lights champions recently confirmed their intention to participate in the 2015 championship.
The first driver for the Indianapolis based team will be no stranger to Andretti Autosport fans. Shelby Blackstock will be part of the Andretti family for the fourth straight season after spending one year in Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda and two seasons in Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire.
“I am very happy to be back with the Andretti Autosport team for the 2015 Indy Lights season,” Blackstock said. “I’m extremely excited to test the new IL-15 and to see if all the great expectations are true. I want to thank Andretti Autosport for giving me the opportunity to be in one of its cars this year – this team is like a second family to me. I hope there is a lot of success to come from a completely fresh season.”
The 24 year-old who didn’t get his start in racing until after his freshman year of college is coming off two successful Pro Mazda seasons that saw championship finishes of third and fourth. In that two year span the Nashville, Tennessee native scored one win, 13 podiums and 27 top tens.
Blackstock will be the 17th different driver to pilot an Andretti Autosport Indy Lights car. The previous 16 drivers have scored two championships and 29 race wins. 11 of those drivers have gone on to pilot a Verizon IndyCar Series car including current drivers: Marco Andretti, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Sebastian Saavedra.
The British are coming, the British are coming!
Fans of various Formula 1 feeder series certainly know the Carlin name, but it is a name that will not likely be familiar to North American open wheel fans. That’s about to change as Trevor Carlin announced that he will be bringing his championship caliber team to U.S.A. to take part in the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire series in 2015.
The team currently competes in Formula 4, Formula 3, GP3 and GP2. The 18 year old team has plenty of experience working with series partners Dallara (GP2, GP3 and F3), AER (GP3) and Cooper (Avon) Tires (F3).
The Farnham, United Kingdom squad will be working out of Poughkeepsie, New York and plans to utilize personal from the U.K. and U.S.A.
Racing Director Carlin said, “We’re extremely excited to be taking the Carlin team to the U.S. and embarking on this new challenge into the Indy Lights series. We’ve had one eye on the U.S. for some time now and the time is right to widen our focus. We’re seeing more and more drivers look across the Atlantic from categories such as Formula 3 and GP2 Series to careers in Indy Lights and IndyCar and it makes sense as a European team to offer that route to our customers.
Verizon IndyCar Series drivers that have driven for Carlin include:
- Mikhail Aleshin
- Richard Antinucci
- Conor Daly
- Carlos Huertas
- Charlie Kimball
- Mario Moraes
- Tiago Monteiro
- Josef Newgarden
- Hideki Noda (with Team Japan in A1GP)
- Will Power
- Graham Rahal (with Team Lebanon in A1GP)
- Takuma Sato
The team which has won drivers championships in: British F3, Formula Renault 3.5 and GP3 will announce their pilots at a later date.
Defending champions announce three
2015 will mark Juncos Racing seventh season in Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire championship. The Brownsburg, Indiana based team is coming off their most successful season, winning the team championship and the driver’s championship with pilot Spencer Pigot.
Leading the way for the Ricardo Junco’s owned team will be veteran Pro Mazda talent José Gutiérrez. The Monterey, Mexico native made his Pro Mazda debut as only a 16 year-old in 2013, scoring top 10’s in all four races that he contested.
A full Pro Mazda campaign in 2014 ended on the highest of notes, with the 18 year old scoring his maiden victory in the last race of the season at Sonoma Raceway. He rode that win, another podium and 13 tops tens to a 7th place championship finish.
Will Owen was the second driver to commit to a Juncos Racing Pro Mazda Campaign. The 19th year old made his Mazda Road To Indy debut in 2014, scoring a victory and three top 10 finishes in the Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda championship.
The Castle Rock, Colorado native began his karting career in 2010 and got his first taste of a formula car while winning three Formula Mazda races in the Formula Car Challenge championship. Owen who is currently a freshman at Texas Christian University recently tested with Juncos Racing at MSR Houston.
Timothé Buret will be joining fellow Frenchmen Nico Jamin and Florian Latorre in the Mazda Road To Indy. The 19 year-old from Montpellier France got his first taste of North American racing when he tested with Juncos Racing at the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in September, 2014.
Buret scored seven wins and 12 podiums in a variety of V de V Sports series including the open wheel Challenge Monoplace series.
Andretti Autosport picks up Canuck sophomore
The 21 year old scored one podium and nine top 10’s while driving for Team Pelfrey in the 2014 Pro Mazda Championship.
Kellett started racing karts in 2008 and winning numerous championships made the move to cars in 2011, bringing home third place in the hotly contested Ontario Formula Ford Championship. In 2012, Kellett made the move to the Mazda Road To Indy when he joined the Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda. In his two seasons on the bottom rung of the “ladder” he was able to come home with eight top tens while driving for Pabst Racing. Kellett also made one Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire start in 2011 for Pabst, scoring a top 10 at the tricky Baltimore Inner Harbor street circuit.
The native of Stouffville, Ontario has not forgotten about his studies as he is entering his fourth year of university at the prestigious Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. He is studying engineering physics.
Team Pelfrey Branches Out
Team Pelfrey, a Palmetto, Florida based squad will be adding a third branch to their open wheel racing tree. The former Verizon IndyCar Series team that was reborn in 2011 will be adding a three car Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda program in addition to their Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire and F1600 Championship teams.
The Dale Pelfey owned and Nighel Tuckey managed team, who won the 2011 and 2012 Pro Mazda team championship will announce their drivers at a later date.
John Cummiskey Racing to test two Australian Formula Ford stars
Lloyd is an 18 year old from Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power’s hometown of Toowoomba won six races on his way to the vice-championship of the Australian Formula For Championship.
Martin, a 19 year-old, won the Western Australian Formula Ford Championship in 2014 and was the vice champion and 2013 Rookie of The Year.
JCR contested four USF2000 races in 2014, and scored an impressive seventh place finish in Toronto with Canadian Driver Nathan Blok. Cummiskey has decades of experience in the Verizon IndyCar Series as a chief mechanic with Team Penske, Team Green Racing, Newman-Haas Racing and Dragon Racing.
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Gabin wins Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda seat
The third annual Skip Barber Championship Scholarship Shootout saw Luke Gabin take home a $200,000 Mazda Motorsports scholarship that he can use to move his career forward in the Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda series.
Needing to win the final race, the 19-year old Australian made a last lap pass of Jorge Herrera to just edge Michai Stephens in the final points tally. The championship is a cumulation of five races, media interviews and instructor evaluations.
Gabin recently tested with the newly formed Team Pelfrey USF2000 team.
Cape Motorsports with /WTR set slate for 2015
The all white cars of Cape Motorsports with /WTR are a familiar site in Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda victory lane. Drivers from the St. Petersburg, Florida based team led by Nicholas and Dominic Cape have won the last four USF2000 trophies. The team recently announced that their drivers for the upcoming 2015 season would be Nico Jamin and Aaron Telitz.
Jamin celebrated his 19th birthday by announcing that he be contesting his sophomore USF2000 season in the No. 2 Cape Motorsports with /WTR entry.
The Rouen, France native split the 2014 USF2000 season between Belardi Auto Racing and Pabst Racing, scoring one podium and ten top 10’s on the way to a ninth place championship season.
Jamin also has experience in the French F4 Championship and Formula Renault 2.0 NEC championship.
Telitz, from the small town of Birchwood in northern Wisconsin, is the reigning USF2000 rookie of the year. His 2014 campaign with ArmsUp Motorsports included one victory and five podiums on the way to a fourth place championship finish.
A recent Team USA Scholarship winner, Telitz also has experience in Skip Barber and the F1600 Championship Series, where he scored a third place finish in 2013. Telitz also won the Skip Barber Championship Shootout in 2013. That victory earned him a $200,000 Mazda Motorsports scholarship that he used to move up to USF2000 series.
– Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire vice-champion Jack Harvey was recently award the Earl Howe Trophy from the British Racing Drivers Club (BRDC). Named after Le Mans Winner and co-founder of the BRDC, the award is presented to the highest placed British driver in the Indianapolis 500 or to the British Driver who has established the most meritorious performance of the year in North America. Previous winners include: Dario Franchitti, Justin Wilson and Dan Wheldon.
– On December 8-9 2015, NOLA Motorsports Park will host the first open wheel test on their modified circuit in preparation for the inaugural Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana. The 2.67 mile, 13-turn track will play host to Andretti Autosport (1 Pro Mazda car), Team Pelfrey (2 Pro Mazda cars & 2 USF2000 cars) and John Cumminskey Racing (2 USF2000 cars). The track will also play host to the entire Mazda Road To Indy for Cooper Tires WinterFest on February 18-20, 2015.
– Andersen Promotions and Green Savoree Racing Promotions have agreed on a partnership that will see the Mazda Road To Indy appear at Green Savoree promoted races for the next two years. Those events currently include the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the Honda Indy Toronto and the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio
– Andersen Promotions recently announced a four year union with VP Racing Fuels, which will see the leader in race fuel technology supply Motorsport 100 fuel (unleaded gasoline with 10% ethanol) to the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire series in 2015 and the Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire & Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda in 2016. The San Antonio based company was founded in 1975 by Steve Burns and they also suppliesfuel for the: Pirelli World Challenge, TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, NHRA Championship Drag Racing and World Of Outlaws Sprint Cars.
– The new Dallara IL-15 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire car will utilize the the Braille MICRO-LiTE ML20C Lithium battery from Mazda Road To Indy partner Braille Battery. The batteries we developed in Formula 1 and are also used exclusively in the Verizon IndyCar Series and the entire MRTI. Batteries from the company, located in Sarasota, Florida, can be found in Formula 1, NASCAR, Verizon IndyCar Series, FIA WEC, V8 Supercars and more.
– Reigning Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tire champion Gabby Chaves was recently a double winner in the prestigious 6 Hours of Bogota race in his home country of Colombia. He spent a total of four hours behind the wheel, and took home the overall victory as well as a class victory in Super GT. His co-driver in the Super GT car was fellow Colombian and Indy Lights driver Juan Piedrahita. Chaves will also be testing a Verizon IndyCar Series machine with Bryan Herta Autosport in the near future.