Vikash Anand, from Chennai, India, has become the third driver to qualify for the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy $200K Scholarship Shootout.
Anand, 22, earned his opportunity after clinching the MRF Formula 1600 Championship following a dramatic conclusion to the MMSC FMSCI Indian National Racing Championships last weekend at the Madras Motor Race Track (MMRT), near Chennai, India.
The winner of the shootout – which features champions from around the world – will claim a $200,000 Mazda Scholarship to graduate into the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the first rung on the unique Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder which offers talented young drivers opportunities to progress from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series with scholarships at every level.
Anand emerged victorious in a winner-take-all 12th and final race following a season-long battle with fellow Chennai racer Karthik Tharani. The pair entered the final weekend tied on points and continued their see-saw battle for honors throughout the weekend. Anand qualified comfortably on pole before relinquishing the advantage to Tharani following a poor start to the first of three races on Saturday.
Anand recovered to finish second, albeit far behind his rival who thereby regained the points lead. He made amends on Sunday, firstly by winning the reverse-grid race after starting third, then holding off a determined challenge in the final encounter to win by less than a second over Tharani.
“I worked hard to win this championship and I really can’t explain how I am feeling right now,” said a delighted Anand, who returned to racing this season after an 18-month break and notched six wins for a tally of 206 points, 10 ahead of Tharani. “The Mazda Road to Indy is a great opportunity to go abroad and explore new opportunities and learn. I will give my best to be competitive.”
Anand joins Michael Scott, from Te Puke, New Zealand, who clinched the New Zealand Formula Ford Championship in April and Tim de Silva, from Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif., whose points tally in the Pacific F2000 Championship Presented by Primus Racing Parts cannot be eclipsed.
“For the past four decades, we at the MMSC (Madras Motor Sports Club) have always believed in the creation of unique opportunities for the drivers in our championships,” said Vicky Chandhok, MMSC Vice President. “As the chairman of the national championships for the last 27 years, I am absolutely thrilled to be associated with the Mazda Road to Indy, giving yet another young Indian like Vikash an opportunity to race internationally. The MMSC championships have produced the likes of Narain Karthikeyan and Karun Chandhok, who went on to Formula 1, and I hope that Vikash makes it all the way to the Indy 500 ultimately.”
“We would like to congratulate Vikash on a hard-fought championship,” added Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions which oversees all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. “We are excited to welcome him into the Shootout and give him his first look at racing here in the States.
“I think we are going to see a tremendous caliber of champions on the grid in December and I couldn’t be more excited for the Shootout.”