Mazda Road to Indy Series reach toward their climax at Mid-Ohio
A hectic weekend lies in store at the famed Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course which will host double-header events for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires as well as a triple-header event for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on July 31-August 2.
All seven Mazda Road to Indy events will be held in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series headliner and are likely to prove pivotal in the chase for three championship titles and over $2.3 million in MAZDASPEED scholarships and other end-of-season prizes and awards aimed at assisting young drivers in their pursuit of a career in the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.
Harvey, Pigot and Jones Embroiled in Three-Way Indy Lights Title Fight
A pair of Englishmen, Jack Harvey and Ed Jones, and an American, Spencer Pigot, are separated by only 20 points with just four races left in the 16-round Indy Lights campaign. At stake is a scholarship which will include a guaranteed entry in three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2016, including the historic 100th Indianapolis 500.
Harvey, 22, from Lincoln, England, currently holds an 18-point advantage over Pigot following an impressively consistent campaign with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian, which is in search of a record-extending eighth Indy Lights championship. Harvey, who only lost the title on a count-back to second-place finishes following an impressive rookie season in 2014, has won twice this year and has failed to finish among the top five only once. He also enjoyed a dominant weekend last year at Mid-Ohio, winning both races.
Pigot, 21, from Orlando, Fla., has won more races this year than anyone else, four, for Juncos Racing and is aiming for a second successive scholarship after winning the 2014 Pro Mazda championship. Pigot also has won previously at Mid-Ohio in USF2000 competition.
Jones, 20, who was raised in Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, began the season on a tear, winning the first three races with the Carlin team which was also making its North American debut after amassing tremendous success in European open-wheel racing. His early points lead was eroded by a couple of disappointing results, but Jones bounced back to prominence with a fine second-place finish – behind Carlin teammate and ex-Formula 1 driver Max Chilton – in the most recent race at the Iowa Speedway oval.
RC Enerson, from New Port Richey, Fla., also has a mathematical shot at the championship. Enerson is the youngest driver in the field at just 18, having stepped up directly from USF2000, but has proved to be a quick learner, earning four podium finishes already for the Schmidt Peterson team. Enerson has claimed three USF2000 race wins at Mid-Ohio over the past two years.
Chilton and Felix Serralles (Belardi Auto Racing) have added their names to the winners’ roster in the two most recent races, while Sean Rayhall, from Winston, Ga., will return to the series this weekend with 8Star Motorsports, keen to add to his sensational victory on the Indianapolis Grand Prix circuit in May.
The Cooper Tires Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Powered by Mazda weekend will commence with a pair of 30-minute practice sessions on Friday, July 31, at 8:40 AM and 1:00 PM. Qualifying will take place at 8:00 AM on Saturday, August 1, followed by a 40-minute “sprint” race at 1:55 PM. The green flag for Sunday’s 60-minute “feature” event will fly at 10:30 AM. All times are EDT.
Live streaming of all sessions will be available at racecontrol.indycar.com with timing and commentary available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at indylights.com in addition to full coverage on the IMS Radio Network to Sirius XM Satellite Radio, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR App from Verizon. The race will air on NBCSN at 1:00 AM EDT on Thursday, August 6. Behind-the-scenes coverage can be found at RoadToIndy.TV.
Six Nationalities Involved in Pro Mazda Championship Battle
For proof of the global appeal of the Mazda Road to Indy, look no further than the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, in which a Uruguayan (Santi Urrutia), a Malaysian (Weiron Tan), an American (Neil Alberico), a Frenchman (Timothé Buret), a Mexican (Pato O’Ward) and a Canadian (Garett Grist) are separated by just 46 points with four races remaining this season. Their quest to win a MAZDASPEED scholarship worth $568,700 to assist in graduation to Indy Lights, the top level of the Mazda Road to Indy, in 2016 will continue this weekend with two races which will comprise the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio.
Only O’Ward (Team Pelfrey), the youngest driver in the field at 16, has yet to win a race, although perhaps that milestone is just around the corner given his recent string of three podium finishes in as many starts. In fact, O’Ward has scored more points than anyone else during that period of time.
O’Ward’s teammate, Urrutia, holds a healthy 27-point lead in the standings following an impressively consistent first-ever season in North America after learning the tools of his trade in Europe over the past four years. Tan, too, has crossed the Pond after competing in the German Formula 3 series in 2014. The Malaysian has won four times with Andretti Autosport – more than anyone else – including a romp to victory last time out at Iowa Speedway.
Alberico (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), from Los Gatos, Calif., and Grist (Juncos Racing), from Grimsby, Ont., are the only non-rookies among the top eight in the point standings. Alberico, who finished third in the 2014 title-chase, has struggled to match the form that brought victory in the first two races of the season, while Grist, who struggled in the early races, has found some speed of late after winning his home race in Toronto, Canada, then setting a blistering pace during a subsequent series test at Mid-Ohio.
Buret (Juncos Racing), from Montpellier, France also is in the thick of the points battle with one win and five additional podium finishes to his credit, while countryman Florian Latorre (Cape Motorsports), who won last year at Mid-Ohio en route to the USF2000 championship and a MAZDASPEED scholarship prize to graduate into Pro Mazda, has won once this year.
Mid-Ohio also will see the return of Michael Johnson (JDC MotorSports). The only paralyzed racer on the Mazda Road to Indy was injured in a heavy crash at St. Petersburg, Fla., earlier in the season but the native of Flint, Mich., has been working hard to prepare for his comeback and showed well during the recent open test.
The Pro Mazda teams will continue their preparations for the weekend with three test sessions on Thursday, July 30, followed by another 30-minute practice on Friday and a single qualifying session later in the afternoon. Race One will start at 1:00 PM on Saturday, August 1, and Race Two at 8:50 AM on Sunday. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at promazda.com with live streaming at racecontrol.indycar.com. Special features can be found at RoadToIndy.TV.
France vs. America in USF2000 Title-Chase
For the second time in as many years, the battle for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and a MAZDASPEED scholarship to assist in graduation to Pro Mazda has boiled down to a duel between a Frenchman and an American. This weekend could prove pivotal to the outcome as the Allied Building Products USF2000 Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio will comprise three races on Friday and Saturday. As with Indy Lights and Pro Mazda, the 16-race season will conclude with two more races at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., on September 11-13.
The European challenge is led by Nico Jamin, from Rouen, France, who is seeking to secure a fifth successive crown for Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing. Jamin, 19, has been a dominant force in qualifying, starting from pole in eighth of the last nine races including seven in a row leading into this weekend. He has won five times and added three seconds and a pair of thirds during the 11 races run to date.
His primary rival, representing Pabst Racing, is Jake Eidson, from Littleton, Colo., who won one of the races last year at Mid-Ohio and finished third in the championship. Eidson, 20, formerly a champion in both the Skip Barber Racing Series and the F1600 Championship Series, as well as a Team USA Scholarship winner, has four wins to his credit this year, plus two seconds and four thirds.
Jamin and Eidson are separated by just 17 points prior to this weekend’s triple-header, with 66 points up for grabs. Another American, Jamin’s Cape Motorsports teammate, Aaron Telitz, 23, from Birchwood, Wis., lies a further 40 points adrift after accumulating one win, four seconds and two thirds.
Australian rookies Anthony Martin and Luke Gabin, who won a MAZDASPEED scholarship last year after winning the Skip Barber Championship Shootout, have shown impressive form with their respective first-year USF2000 teams, John Cummiskey Racing and Team Pelfrey, while Canadian karting standout Parker Thompson (JDC MotorSports) also has made steady progress.
Other regular contenders will include China’s Yufeng Luo (Pabst Racing) and the rapidly improving Team Pelfrey pair, Garth Rickards, from Mechanicsburg, Pa., and Norway’s Ayla Agren. In addition, Afterburner Autosport will return to the series with highly rated English teenager Sennan Fielding and Jack Mitchell, from Chicago, Ill., while Alex Mayer, from Lansdale, Pa., and Clint McMahon, from Covington, Ga., will make their USF2000 debuts with a new team, RJB Motorsports.
In common with their Pro Mazda counterparts, the USF2000 field will begin their weekend with a trio of 40-minute test sessions on Thursday, July 30. The following day will include one more practice session, then a single 30-minute period of qualifying at 12:15 PM and Race One at 4:45 PM. Race Two will start at 9:50 AM on Saturday, August 1, with the green flag for Race Three set for later in the afternoon at 6:00 PM. All times are EDT. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at usf2000.com with live streaming at racecontrol.indycar.com and behind the scenes features on RoadToIndy.TV.
Drivers from all three Mazda Road to Indy series will attend autograph sessions at the INDYCAR Fan Village on Saturday, August 1, starting with the Indy Lights field at 10:30 AM then Pro Mazda at 3:30 PM, and the USF2000 combatants at 4:15 PM.