MRTI: Andersen announces USF2000, Pro Mazda set for car shakeup in 2017, 2018

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One of the big talking points about the Mazda Road to Indy this season has been the introduction of the new Dallara IL15-Mazda to the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires series.

Now, within the next few years, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda are set for their own car shakeup.

Andersen Promotions, the operating entity for the entire Mazda Road to Indy, has announced Monday that USF2000 will get a new car in 2017 and Pro Mazda in 2018.

What that will be exactly is to be determined, but RFPs are out and the series will go from there.

The full release is below:

The first two levels of the highly successful Mazda Road to Indy – the unique driver development program providing a clear, scholarship-funded path for drivers to follow toward the pinnacle of the sport – are set for a revitalization as Andersen Promotions today announced plans to introduce a new chassis in each series.

Request for Proposals (RFP) have been circulated to constructors for a new car in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in 2017 and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2018. Andersen Promotions debuted the track record-shattering Dallara IL-15 in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition, the third step on the ladder system, to rave reviews this season.

The new carbon composite chassis will be a “common chassis” between USF2000 and Pro Mazda with specific elements defining both visual and performance differences in the two series including variations in horsepower and aerodynamics. It will be designed to the latest FIA specifications with added safety enhancements to accommodate U.S. road, street and oval circuits and a more modern appearance, and will share many of the current F4 specifications but with improved performance designs and increased horsepower.

The new chassis will be powered by a 2.0-liter Mazda MZR engine producing approximately 170 horsepower in USF2000 and 270 horsepower in Pro Mazda. All chassis will run on Cooper tires. Other applicable Mazda Road to Indy partner components will also be used. There will be tightly controlled car and spare costs. Current USF2000 cars will still be eligible for the recently announced “B Class” in 2017.

“The current USF2000 race car has served us very well for a long time and is still a terrific training vehicle, but the time has come to provide our teams and drivers with more current technology and upgraded safety,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “This new car will take many features from the worldwide F4 car, but will be built with important safety enhancements, higher performance and more driver tools. We believe it will be an even better trainer for the future stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

“The Pro Mazda version, which will roll out a year later, will offer more horsepower and other aero improvements to effect the higher level of training that defines Pro Mazda as the next step in the Mazda Road to Indy. We have been thinking about producing new chassis for quite some time and we feel the time is right. This is a game changer and we are excited to announce these plans.”

The new USF2000 chassis will be unveiled at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 next May with prototype testing expected to begin in June. Car deliveries will take place in the fall and a similar schedule will follow for Pro Mazda.

“The Mazda Road to Indy has a firm foundation in driver development and has been gaining more notoriety around the globe,” said John Doonan, Director of Mazda Motorsports in North America. “This future chassis and powertrain strategy that Dan and his team at Andersen Promotions have now put in place further solidifies this program and should get even more attention by young talent. Mazda is all about bringing the latest technology to the marketplace in our road cars. These new chassis platforms will be exactly that for the open-wheel stars of the future. We could not be more proud of our place in the Mazda Road to Indy and our partnership with Andersen Promotions.”

An announcement regarding the new USF2000/Pro Mazda chassis constructor will be made in October.

“This is great news for the Mazda Road to Indy Series as the current USF2000 and Pro Mazda cars have served the drivers and teams well,” said Chris Pantani, Director of Motorsports for Cooper Tires. “However, these new platforms will better prepare the drivers for the demands and expectations of progressing in the Mazda Road to Indy and eventually driving the new Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 car. These changes continue to solidify everyone’s expectations that the Mazda Road to Indy is the one true ladder system in open-wheel racing; there is no substitution.”

The ultra-competitive 2015 Mazda Road to Indy season will wrap up at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on September 10-13 with title-deciding, double-header rounds remaining for all three series. Over $2.3M in scholarships and awards are on offer including a scholarship package to the Indy Lights champion that features three Verizon IndyCar Series races in 2016 including the Indianapolis 500.

Rolex 24 at Hour 8: Acuras, Cadillacs look strong in GTP; tough times for Tower in LMP2

Rolex 24 at Daytona
James Gilbert/Getty Images
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The premier hybrid prototype era of the Rolex 24 at Daytona began with a relatively smooth start Saturday through the Hour 8 mark.

Though two of the new Grand Touring Prototype cars fell out of contention within the first six hours, seven cars representing four big-money manufacturers were setting the pace (albeit conservatively at times) after eight of 24 hours in the endurance race classic.

The Cadillacs of Alex Lynn (No. 02, Chip Ganassi Racing) and Jack Aitken (No. 31 of Action Express) held the top two spots with a third of the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship completed.

RUNNING ORDER: Standings through eight hours l By class

Brendon Hartley was running third in the No. 10 Wayne Taylor Racing Acura, followed by Nick Tandy in the No. 6 Porsche Penske Motorsport 963, Renger van der Zande in the No. 1 Chip Ganassi Racing Cadillac and Tom Blomqvist in the No. 60 Meyer Shank Racing Acura.

The No. 24 BMW M Team RLL BMW M Hybrid V8 ’s No. 24  was the first GTP car a lap down, but in better shape than its sister. The No. 25 BMW pulled off track for major repairs near the end of the first hour and was classified 133 laps down in 59th in 61 cars.

Misfortune also befell the No. 7 Porsche Penske Motorsport, which was forced into the garage for a battery change with 18 hours and five minutes remaining. The 963 was 19 laps down in 22nd.

But all things considered, the debut of the GTPs had belied the hand-wringing and doomsayer predictions that had hung over Daytona the past two weeks. Cadillac Racing’s three V-LMDh cars had avoided mechanical problems (needing only typical body repairs for the front end of the No. 01 and rear end of the No. 31 for minor collisions in heavy traffic throughout the 61-car field).

Its stiffest competition seemed to be the Acura ARX-06s, which led more than 100 laps in the first eight hours.

Pole-sitter Tom Blomqvist built a sizeable lead in the No. 60 (which won last year’s Rolex 24) while leading the first 60 laps around the 12-turn, 3.56-mile road course.

“That was my longest time in the car since we got it,” said Blomqvist, who led the car to the IMSA premier championship last season. “We’re driving it into the unknown now. We’ve done everything we can. We know it’s a strong, fast car, but there are so many things to learn it almost feels like we’re winging it. It’s a constant learning curve, for both me as a driver but for the whole team. We’ve had a good start to the race, but there’s a lot of race to go and anything can happen.”

The No. 60 lost positions when Helio Castroneves spun just short of seven hours remaining but later soldiered back into the lead with Blomqvist.

“That was a wild ride,” Castroneves said. “I just got caught up in the moment and I’m not sure what happened. It locked the rear so unexpectedly. Certainly, the car is fast. There’s a lot of traffic. It was very, very difficult. The Acura has good pace so far, and we are learning a lot in a short time.”

Two days after predicting the race would be an “old-school endurance race” with conservative driving and setups, Simon Pagenaud said his forecast has been realized.

“Totally,” the Meyer Shank Racing said after completing his first turn behind the wheel of the No. 60 shortly before Castroneves’ incident. “It’s been rare that I’ve been saving equipment this much here. In any of my experience in sports car racing, I’ve rarely driven this cool, basically trying to protect everything. It’s what we’ve got to do. And we’ve got the advantage having pace with the Acura.

“So for us, this time of the race, we’ve just got to build the foundation of our race. There’s really no need to dive into the Bus Stop on somebody right now. Six hours to go is a whole different story. If we’re there, there’s no problem. We’ll do it. We have the capacity to do that, which is honestly such a luxury. But at this point to me, we’re just going to save the equipment, get there and see where we are because the car is extremely fast.”

Pagenaud was involved in one when he was warned by IMSA stewards for “incident responsibility” on a spin involving the No. 8 Tower Motorsports LMP2 that is being co-driven by Josef Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin (two of the 10 active IndyCar drivers in the 2023 Rolex 24).

Tower driver-owner John Farano was in the car at the time, but Pagenaud joked he thought it was Newgarden, his former IndyCar teammate at Team Penske.

“I thought the Tower car, that must be Newgarden,” Pagenaud cracked. “Was it him? Don’t tell me. I know it was him. Doesn’t matter. Let me just take it. I’m going to say it’s him. Please tell him I said that when you see him.

The 2019 Indy 500 winner and 2016 IndyCar champion chalked up the run-in with Farano as “a misunderstanding. He hesitated passing the car ahead of him and gave me the left side, so I dove in on the outside, and he basically released the brake and hit my rear. So you could say it’s on me. You could say it’s on him. Honestly, I was confused as to what happened because I just saw him spin in the mirror. I don’t think we had contact.”

It already was a long day for the No. 8 Tower, which had to pull off the track on the first lap. A water bottle fitting leaked onto the ORECA LMP2 07’s electronic control unit, which malfunctioned. The team lost 10 laps while being towed to the pits and repaired as the first yellow flag flew less than five minutes into the race for the incident.

By the time Newgarden handed off the car to McLaughlin, the No. 8 still was nine laps down with eight hours to go.

Last year’s Rolex 24 at Daytona LMP2 winner, which also featured two IndyCar stars in Colton Herta and Pato O’Ward, rallied from five laps down, but Newgarden lamented missing three opportunities to regain a lap under yellow.

“We’re trying to chip away at it; it’s just difficult,” the two-time IndyCar champion said. “I feel solid, and it’s very fun to be in the mix the first time. Very special to be out there in the action. Just wish we were on the lead lap. Our pace was solid. We were strongest on track, but that’s going to change in the later hours with the hot shoes in the car. It’s not going to be easy to pull laps back on this field. It’s a very stacked contingent. They’re all good teams, lot of good drivers. Put ourselves in a hole not a good situation to be in, keep fighting at it. Felt like our pace was good.

“It’s not looking good now. You get toward the end of race, you won’t gain laps back on pace. There are too many good teams and drivers. … We need 8 or 9 yellows to go our way. It just doesn’t look good. But never say never. What if all the GTPs just blow up? I don’t know what’s going to happen. They look really good right now. This is not what everyone predicted. Let’s see. You just never know in racing.”