Following a shakedown test on Monday at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill., the brand new Mazda-powered Tatuus PM-18 wrapped up two days of development testing yesterday evening at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
Mazda factory sports car driver and USF2000 driver coach/steward Joel Miller handled driving duties for the state-of-the-art next-generation chassis that will make its competition debut in the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
Miller, who holds a Mechanical Engineering degree, also conducted prototype development of the Tatuus USF-17 which made its bow to rave reviews last month in a pair of action-packed Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., during the season-opening weekend for the Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.
“The car itself, with more horsepower and more downforce, is going to slot in well,” said Miller. “It is going to close the gap to the Indy Lights car which is needed. It is substantially faster in a straight line. Cornering speeds are hard to estimate because the track was so green but we are already at qualifying pace with the car. Driving wise, it is quite a bit faster than the USF-17 and it has more mechanical grip. With the extra horsepower in this engine, you have to be cognizant of tire degradation in the rear which is good. All the kids will need to learn this. Everything the drivers learn in USF2000 can be applied to this car and they will learn more here before they move on to Indy Lights. It will be an excellent stepping stone.
“At Mid-Ohio, we focused on the chassis and tires. This car has more aero pieces so we wanted to try a few things and we went through that list. It responded very well, so that is very encouraging. On the tires, we tested an array of different compounds. It was kind of a blessing in disguise because Thursday was very, very cold and Friday was warmer so we were able to see two completely different conditions which really made it well-rounded. We’ll continue this at the next test.”
As a means of containing costs for competing teams and drivers, the Tatuus USF-17 also serves as the base car for the PM-18.
Enhancements over the USF-17 include more sophisticated aerodynamics with an adjustable dual-element rear wing and single-plane carbon fiber front wing with adjustable flaps and Pro Mazda-specific front and rear endplates; larger Motegi Racing forged Technomesh monoblock alloy wheels with Cooper tires (13"x10" fronts and 13"x12" rears); and a 275 HP 2.0-liter Mazda MZR-PM18A motor developed by Elite Engines, utilizing a fly-by-wire throttle system and Cosworth SQ6 engine management system. The power will be delivered via a Sadev SL82 six-speed sequential transmission and limited-slip differential.
Development of the PM-18, as with the USF-17, has been overseen by project manager Scot Elkins in conjunction with leading chassis designer and manufacturer Tatuus.