FOTA given a fitting final send-off at London party

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The Formula One Teams’ Association (FOTA) may have come to an untimely end earlier this year, but that did not stop the group organizing one final event for the fans that took place in London yesterday.

The group was set up back in 2008 with the intention of being a unified body for the teams that could work with the FIA and the commercial rights holder. Despite some initial success, the withdrawal of Ferrari, Sauber, Red Bull and Toro Rosso by the end of 2011 undermined the ‘united front’ that FOTA stood for.

With the formation of the F1 strategy group last season – comprising of Ferrari, Red Bull, Mercedes, Williams, McLaren and Lotus – FOTA soon became redundant, and eventually folded in February.

However, away from the political sphere of Formula 1, FOTA did some amazing work to bring the sport closer to the fans. Through the forum events that were held all over the world, fans were able to put questions to a number of F1 drivers, team principals and legends. In Austin last year, fans were treated to an audience with Sergio Perez, Esteban Gutierrez, Alexander Rossi, Adrian Sutil and Pastor Maldonado. They also got the chance to win some great prizes and merchandise.

Therefore, when it was confirmed that FOTA was folding, general secretary Oliver Weingarten came up with the idea to hold a small event to offload some of the remaining items and goods that he had. However, thanks to the kindness of the teams, this soon escalated into a final big party in Marylebone with hundreds of fans in attendance.

Marussia president Graeme Lowdon made an appearance on stage, fresh from a teams meeting about cost cutting measures, but he was reluctant to talk about it. Instead, he underlined the importance of the fans in Formula 1, and how events such as this acted as proof that they have a voice which cannot be ignored.

British F1 legend John Watson also made an appearance and was happy to answer questions from the crowd, before helping to auction off some team gear and signed photos. Proceeds were divided between Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Instituto Ayrton Senna.

All in all, it was one final hurrah for FOTA, and it was fitting that this did not come in a boardroom, but instead with the fans at the heart of it.

To Olly and all the others at FOTA, thank you, and the very best of luck for the future.

MRTI: Keith Donegan earns Mazda Shootout Scholarship

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography
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Dublin, Ireland’s Keith Donegan claimed a $200K scholarship from Mazda after emerging victorious at the second annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout. The 20-year-old Donegan earned an at-large nomination for the scholarship based on his performance at this year’s Formula Ford Festival, in which he finished second in the final, and emerged from a pack of 17 drivers from across the globe to claim the scholarship.

“It really hasn’t hit me yet,” said an emotional Donegan, who earlier in his career actually spent two years away from racing as he focused on academics. “The weekend was really good and I enjoyed it. I have to say a huge thanks to Mazda and Cooper Tires and everyone at the Mazda Road to Indy. I enjoyed every moment. Throughout the weekend we were consistent and I kept the small things in check. I didn’t make any stupid mistakes and kept my head cool and that really paid off in the end.”

The two-day shootout was held at the Bondurant Racing School in Arizona and saw the nominated drivers tackle the school’s 1.6-mile circuit in Formula Mazda race cars before facing on and off-track assessments. Donegan was selected by a panel of judges that included former driver and current Verizon IndyCar Series TV analyst Scott Goodyear, Mazda drivers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell, and Jonathan Bomarito, as well as Victor Franzoni – the current champion of the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires – and Oliver Askew, the current champion of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.

Donegan was humbled to be in the presence of drivers who have won scholarships and championships previously, and added that he is grateful to have the opportunity to continue his racing career.

“You see all these champions here today that will go on to great things in the future and I’m sure the names you see here today aren’t going to disappear,” Donegan added. “They will be back up there and I’m sure I will be racing them again some day. It is an unbelievable opportunity to be given and for Mazda to provide that for any young driver. It just gives that bit of motivation that you need because the [U.S.] is where you need to go to become a professional these days. It is such a boost to my career.”

Donegan is now slated to join the 2018 USF2000 championship, with further announcements regarding the team with whom he’ll be racing to come in the future.

Follow @KyleMLavigne