Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

USF2000 candidates set for MRTI scholarship shootout

Leave a comment

From Dec. 6-7, the $200,000 shootout to win a Mazda scholarship into the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda will take place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.

A release on the candidates is below:

A total of 18 drivers will congregate next week at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., to contest the inaugural Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200K Scholarship Shootout. The unprecedented event brings together talent from around the globe with the winner receiving a $200,000 prize from Mazda to assist in graduation to the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. USF2000 represents the first step on the acclaimed Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires which offers scholarships for talented young drivers to progress all the way from the grassroots of the sport to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

The Shootout was designed this year to include the champions of select junior level open-wheel and karting series. In total, 20 championships were granted Shootout “entry tickets” to award their champions, with an eligibility requirement that drivers be between the ages of 14 and 25 on September 30, 2016. Three drivers were unable to attend due to prior commitments.

The final slot on the driver roster was clinched this past weekend at the famed Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit in Victoria, Australia, where Will Brown, 18, from Toowoomba, Queensland (the same hometown as 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power) finished a close second in the Australian Formula Ford Championship. Brown had been obliged to miss the opening three races, allowing veteran Leanne Tander, who began her FF career one year before Brown was born, to establish a 56-point advantage, but the youngster fought back to finish just 12 points in arrears after sweeping the final three races. Brown also clinched this year’s CAMS Jayco Australian Formula 4 Championship Certified by FIA.

Australian Formula Ford is among a variety of feeder series from five different continents – Asia, Australia and Europe as well as North and South America – who will send representatives to the two-day Shootout.

Other recent nominees include Oliver White, 23, from Bath, England, who earned his place via the Mountney SuperSeries for Formula Ford 1600 in the UK; Team USA Scholarship winners Oliver Askew, 19, and Kyle Kirkwood, 18, both from Jupiter, Fla.; Skip Barber Race Series champion Timo Reger, 20, from Houston, Texas; U.S. Open Rotax Senior class winner Austin Garrison, 18, from Davie, Fla.; and Jonathan Sugianto, 20, of Alhambra, Calif., through the Formula Car Challenge Presented by Goodyear.

The competitors, representing nine different nations, will range in age from 14-year-old Marcel Coletta, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, who earned his nomination via a karting shootout in Brazil, to Matt Machiko, from Pittsburgh, Pa., who celebrated his 25th birthday just a few days after clinching the Formula Mazda championship at the 53rd annual SCCA Runoffs Presented by Garmin VIRB at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

The full list of scholarship Shootout contestants (with age and hometown) and their affiliation:

Oliver Askew, 19, Jupiter, Fla. – Team USA Scholarship
Will Brown, 18, Toowoomba, Australia – Australian Formula Ford Championship
Marcel Coletta, 14, Sao Paulo, Brazil – Seletiva de Kart Petrobras (Brazil)
Tim de Silva, 20, Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. – Pacific F2000 Championship
Trenton Estep, 16, San Antonio, Texas – Formula Tour 1600 (Canada)
Austin Garrison, 18, Davie, Fla. – U.S. Rotax MAX Challenge (U.S. Open Rotax Senior class)
Kyle Kirkwood, 18, Jupiter, Fla. – Team USA Scholarship
Matt Machiko, 25, Pittsburgh, Pa. – SCCA National Championship Runoffs (FM)
Neil Maclennan, 18, Inverness, Scotland – Beatson’s Scottish FF1600 Championship
Axel Matus, 18, Guadalajara, Mexico – Formula Panam
Niall Murray, 21, Dublin, Ireland – BRSCC Avon Tires FF1600 Championship
Peter Portante, 20, Plainville, Conn. – F1600 Formula F Championship Series
Timo Reger, 20, Houston, Texas – Skip Barber Race Series
Nigel Saurino, 21, Tulsa, Okla. – SCCA National Championship Runoffs (FC)
Michael Scott, 21, Te Puke, New Zealand – New Zealand Formula Ford Championship
Jonathan Sugianto, 20, Alhambra, Calif. – Formula Car Challenge Presented by Goodyear
Karthik Tharani, 22, Chennai, India – MMSC MRF F1600 Indian Championship
Oliver White, 23, Bath, England – Mountney SuperSeries for Formula Ford 1600

Full details of the judging panel, Shootout format and cars will be announced later this week as well as the schedule of events which includes an orientation day on December 5, followed by on-track activities on December 6/7.

“This is the next step in the worldwide growth of the Mazda Road to Indy,” said Kyle Kimball, Operations Manager at Mazda Motorsports. “It allows young drivers from around the world to see a direct path to the program, beginning with championships in their own country. Our hope is to continue to see the finest young drivers in the world choose the Mazda Road to Indy, and to represent their country on a path to the top rungs of open-wheel racing.”

Michael Andretti looking forward to new Australian Supercars venture

Getty Images
Leave a comment

If it seems like Michael Andretti is out to conquer the world, he is – kind of.

The former IndyCar star turned prolific team owner has won three of the last four Indianapolis 500s and five overall, second only to Roger Penske’s 16 Indy 500 triumphs.

Along the way, in addition to expanding his own IndyCar and Indy Lights operation, the son of Mario Andretti and the primary shareholder of Andretti Autosport has also branched out into Global RallyCross and Formula E racing in recent years.

And now, Andretti has further expanded his brand internationally, following Penske to the world down under — as in the world of Australian V8 Supercars.

Andretti has teamed with Supercars team owner Ryan Walkinshaw, along with veteran motorsports marketer and executive director of McLaren Technology Group and United Autosports owner and chairman, Zak Brown.

Together, the three have formed Walkinshaw Andretti United, based in suburban Melbourne, Australia. The new team kicks off the new season with the Adelaide 500 from March 1-4.

“It’s just extending our brand and putting it out there,” Andretti told NBC Sports. “The Supercars are such a great series.

“It all started with Zach Brown calling me and said ‘You have to talk to Ryan Walkinshaw. He’s got something interesting to talk to you about.’

“We talked and literally in like a half-hour, we said, ‘Let’s figure out how we’re going to make this work.’ And then Zack was like, ‘Hey, what about me?’ And then Zack came in as a partner and it’s cool now that we have the Walkinshaw Andretti United team.

“I’m really excited about that program, the guys at the shop are excited about it, we’ve been doing a lot of things to try and help it because it’s such a cool series and the cars are so cool.

“I went down there to Bathurst, which was to me one of the coolest tracks in the world. I wish I could have driven it, I really do. It looks like a blast.

“It’s amazing how big that series is when you go down there. It’s one of the biggest sports in Australia. It was just a great opportunity for us to extend our portfolio.”

Admittedly, Andretti had some extra incentive to want to get involved in the Supercars world: Penske joined forces with legendary Dick Johnson Racing in September 2014.

The organization came together quickly and the rebranded DJR Team Penske went on to win the 2017 V8 Supercars championship.

“Roger was down there the last few years,” Andretti said, adding that fact as incentive to get his own organization into the series. “So it’s cool to go race head-to-head with Roger. That was also in the back of our minds.”

This is no start-up venture for Andretti. The roots of the new venture began in 1990 as the Holden Racing Team, which went on to become one of the most successful organizations in Australian V8 Supercar racing, having won the drivers’ championship six times and the Virgin Australia Supercars Championship’s top race, the Bathurst 1000 (essentially Australia’s version of the Indy 500), seven times.

Last season, Holden Racing team morphed into Triple Eight Race Engineering and was renamed Mobil 1 HSV Racing.

And now the company has been renamed once again for the 2018 campaign under the Walkinshaw Andretti United banner.

The team will be composed of two Holden ZB Commodores with drivers James Courtney and Scott Pye, as well as a Porsche 911 GT3-R in the Australian GT championship.

What’s next for Andretti’s motorsports portfolio? Right now, it’s pretty full, but you can bet running for championships from Australia (Supercars) to globally (GRC) to Indianapolis (Indy 500) to the U.S. (Verizon IndyCar Series) are at the top of this year’s list.