FIA grants Gene Haas Formula 1 entry

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The FIA has granted Gene Haas’ proposed Formula 1 team an entry into the sport for 2015.

Following the governing body’s decision to open up a tender for a 12th team to join the grid, Haas made his intentions clear to try and enter an American team for 2015.

After meeting with the FIA earlier this year and going through a careful selection process, the co-owner of the Stewart-Haas NASCAR team has received the green light for his project to go ahead.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone had said that he expected Haas’ project to be approved, fighting off competition from rival proposals from Colin Kolles and Zoran Stefanovic. However, it was not until today that formal confirmation has been given by the FIA.

“The FIA has launched a selection procedure for an additional F1 team(s), and applications of a high standard have been received. In close consultation with the CRH, the FIA has accepted the candidature of Haas Formula LLC and are in the process of conducting further investigations for Forza Rossa”, a statement from the FIA read.

“We’re extremely pleased to have been granted a Formula 1 licence by the FIA,” Haas said following the news.

“It’s an exciting time for me, Haas Automation and anyone who wanted to see an American team return to Formula 1.

“Now, the really hard work begins. It’s a challenge we embrace as we work to put cars on the grid. I want to thank the FIA for this opportunity and the diligence everyone put forth to see our licence application come to fruition.”

Ecclestone did suggest earlier this week that there could be a 13th team on the grid, suggesting that Colin Kolles Romanian-backed project could still go ahead relying everything is in place.

The last time an American Formula 1 team was proposed saw US F1 fail to make the grid despite a great deal of fanfare and planning. However, the difference this time around is that Haas has a successful racing team and automation business in place already.

Haas is thought to be looking to use a Dallara built chassis and Ferrari engines, with a European base being located in Italy not too far from the prancing horse’s home in Maranello to work in tandem with operations in the United States.

From what he has said though, it is clear that Haas is aware of the steep challenge that awaits him and his team. Many Formula 1 teams have secured a place on the grid only to never actually make it work, but often they have been privateer projects without enough backing or a racing team in place.

It is likely that there will also be a push for an American driver to become involved in the team. Caterham reserve Alexander Rossi is currently the only US driver to hold an FIA superlicense to race in Formula, but fellow GP2 racer Conor Daly is also a bright prospect that could be an option for the team. Should either driver line up on the grid, they would become the first American to race in Formula 1 since Scott Speed in 2007.

Should the team fail to get ready in time to make the grid in 2015, it is likely that the FIA would be willing to hold the spot until 2016 to give Haas and co. more of a chance to prepare.

The arrival of Haas’ team may not bump the number of teams up to 12 should an existing team leave the sport. Caterham owner Tony Fernandes has suggested that without an upturn in fortunes for his team, he would consider walking away from the sport, whilst Marussia has recently changed hands following the collapse of the motor company.

There is also still a push for a second race in the United States to complement the grand prix at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. The proposed “Grand Prix of America” in New Jersey has been postponed twice, but still has a place on the calendar for 2015. Ecclestone is also keen on taking Formula 1 back to Long Beach after 30 years away.

With the possibility of there being two races, an American team and an American driver, the future is very bright for Formula 1 in the United States.

Hunter McElrea wins Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Scholarship

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Hunter McElrea bested 18 competitors to win the third annual Road to Indy USF2000 $200,000 Scholarship Shootout on Sunday at Bondurant Racing School in Chandler, Ariz.

The two-day contest featured on-track competition in Formula Mazda cars as well as interview sessions and assessment from a panel of judges.

“I can’t believe it,” McElrea said at IndyCar.com. “This is definitely the most exciting opportunity that I have had in my racing career. I cannot thank Mazda and everyone enough for making this possible for me. The fact that I am going to be on the grid next year thanks to them is a dream come true.

“They have given me the opportunity to prove myself in such a high level that I never even thought I would be able to reach. I have to thank Andersen Promotions, Cooper tires, all of the judges, everyone from Mazda, the Bondurant Racing School and the other competitors, who literally pushed me to the limit.

“I am just so happy. It is still sinking in, but I just can’t wait to get next year started, and I’ll be representing Mazda in that nice Soul Red USF2000 car.”

MORE: Michael Carter wins Mazda Road to 24 shootout

The 19-year-old McElrea was born in California, but reared in Australia.

As a result of winning the award, McElrea will compete in the 2019 season of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the first rung of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder.

McElrea won the Australian Formula Ford Championship this year on the strength of 13 victories in 21 races.

Early competition resulted in a final field of six drivers that included Jake Craig, Michael Eastwell, Braden Eves, Flinn Lazier and Ross Martin. They competed in a qualification session and 30-minute simulated race. McElrea won that race.

“Today was an incredible day,” said Tom Long, Mazda Motorsports factory driver and one of the judges. “There was so much talent here for the shootout. Hunter McElrea just rose to the top when it was time to shine, but our decision was very, very difficult.

“In the end, given all of the circumstances, we were able to make a pretty good decision and we are really, really proud of not only Hunter but our whole team here with Mazda to be able to grant this $200,000 scholarship for his opportunity in USF2000 next year.”