Caterham F1 Team announces it will race in Abu Dhabi

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Despite entering administration last month and missing the last two races, Caterham F1 Team has today announced that it will be racing at the season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.

Following a dispute between former owner Tony Fernandes and potential buyers Engavest, the team fell into the hands of administrator Finbarr O’Connell last month. O’Connell was tasked with finding fresh investment that would save the operation at Leafield.

In a bid to raise funds, Caterham launched a controversial crowdfunding campaign with a target of $3.7m from fan donations. With a few hours remaining, the team is 20% short of its target.

However, in a statement today, O’Connell has said that the team will be racing at the final race of the year in Abu Dhabi, and was quick to thank fans for all of their support.

“We set ourselves a major challenge, but it’s definitely been worth it,” O’Connell said. “In only a week the fans have made the impossible, possible. We knew that the best way to keep this team alive and attract possible buyers was to show that it’s still a racing team and be in Abu Dhabi for the finale, and there aren’t enough words to say how grateful we are to all the fans that have made this possible.

“We now head to Abu Dhabi ready to show what a hard-working and positive group of people this is and to hopefully secure a future for the team. During the past few days the interest of many potential buyers has increased massively and by racing in Abu Dhabi the team will be showcasing itself as a live and functioning team that deserves to continue into 2015 and beyond.

“It has hard-working people, team spirit and experience and now it only needs a secure financial future which I’m very hopeful we can achieve. Once again, I’d like to reiterate that we are racing in Abu Dhabi thanks to all the fans out there – an achievement that will go down in F1 history and one that we can all be very proud of.

“We still need to raise a bit more cash so please do keep an eye on the Crowdcube website. Let’s go racing!”

Caterham is now in line for a $40m windfall by moving above Marussia in the constructors’ championship by virtue of the Anglo-Russian team’s closure ahead of the Brazilian Grand Prix.

Questions about the team’s potential driver line-up for the race do remain, though. Regular driver Marcus Ericsson cut all ties with the Leafield operation earlier this week ahead of his move to Sauber for 2015, and given the financial nature of this attempt to make the grid, it would most probably be a case of the seat going to the highest bidder. Kamui Kobayashi does remain contracted to the team, though.

After appearing to have no kind of future just one week ago, Caterham now looks set to make a sensational return to Formula 1 in Abu Dhabi next weekend.

UPDATE 11:15a ET – Caterham has also extended the deadline for making donations to its crowdfunding project.

“The Caterham F1 Team is delighted to announce that it will be racing at the final Formula 1 Grand Prix of the season in Abu Dhabi on 23rd November thanks to the support of the fans, who have helped the team raise enough money,” a statement on the crowdfunding page reads. “But you can still support the team and get involved. The deadline has been extended to midnight (GMT) Sunday 23rd November.”

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.”