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.

Lessons learned in three rounds of Extreme E pay huge dividends in the Copper X Prix for Tanner Foust

Foust Copper X Prix
McLaren Racing
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To paraphrase the Grateful Dead, what a long, unique trip it’s been for Tanner Foust in his first season with the Extreme E series as he took his early season lessons to Chile to compete in the Copper X Prix. And he’s learned his lessons well.

In February, McLaren announced they would expand their motorsports program with an Extreme E entry. They signed two talented rally drivers in Foust and Emma Gilmour – and paired them for the opening round in Neom, Saudi Arabia with just a few days of testing under their belts. Baked by the Arabian desert sun, it was trial by fire.

The duo performed well in their debut, advancing into the final round and finishing fifth. As Extreme E headed to another desert halfway across the globe for Round 4, it was a good time to catch up with Foust and ask about McLaren’s progress. The Copper X Prix was held this past weekend in one of the most extreme regions in the world: the Atacama Desert.

MORE: McLaren considering Kyle Busch for Indy 500

“The shock going into the first race was the speed,” Foust told NBC Sports. “It was much higher than we had tested. We spent a lot of time around 100 miles per hour [in race trim] and our testing speeds were more in the 60 to 70-mile range. Then, once we sort of got around that, the car got updated so you can drive it even faster.”

In rally racing, some incidents are out of a driver’s control. Even peeking around another car can be dangerous because of potholes that have recently been gouged in the ground or large bushes that seem to sprout up between laps. A couple of rollovers brought Foust back to earth – but the pace was there and that was important.

“We had some challenges this season,” Foust said prior to the Copper X Prix. “We had a good start; made the final, which is a difficult thing to do in this series. I had two rolls in the first three events, but I have improved each time. Now we come into Round 4 in Chile in a pretty strong position. We have competitive times as a team. We are communicating really well and have our heads around this Odyssey vehicle.”

Foust’s words proved to be prophetic.

He won the Crazy Race – Extreme E’s version of a Last Chance Qualifier – and did so after passing the field. It was the same manner in which he qualified for Saudi Arabia’s finale, but this time things would be better. There were those hard-earned lessons on which to lean – and Foust had reps under his belt. He was not going to be caught off guard by any random obstacles.

Tanner Foust passed Sebastien Loeb heading to the Switch Zone in the Copper X Prix. (Photo by Sam Bagnall / LAT Images)

In the Copper X Prix finale, he pressured one of the best rally drivers in the history of the sport.

Pitching sideways through a tight left-hander late in his stint, Foust put his McLaren Extreme E Odyssey at the head of the pack in front of Sebastien Loeb as they headed to the Switch Zone. There, he would turn the car over to his co-driver Gilmour.

The Extreme E series pairs male and female drivers with both taking a turn behind the wheel.

After the driver change, Gilmour lost the lead momentarily to Loeb’s teammate Cristina Gutierrez, but as they charged toward the finish line, she surged ahead and crossed under the checkers first.

“What an improvement for the team over this year,” Foust said after the race. “We have struggled through some of the events, being in our first year in competition. We showed true pace this weekend; overtaking Sebastien Loeb was a highlight.

“Emma put in a great run in the Final. I was fortunate to go from last to first in the Crazy Race and then first in the Final but with some flag penalties, we had 20 seconds added to our time, which put us into fifth. It was a great feeling crossing the line first, I love this wide style track and the NEOM McLaren Odyssey was fantastic here.

“Hopefully we can continue that momentum into Uruguay.”

Loeb and Gutierrez were elevated to the top of the podium, but no one can take away the feeling of crossing under the checkers first.


Racing Responsibly

Since cars were first invented, racing has played a socially responsible role by improving safety. As Earth reaches a tipping point with climate change, racing needs to adapt to these new needs and requirements, which is where Extreme E’s unique strategy becomes increasingly important.

The Extreme E experience is more than simple racing. Each race is accompanied by a legacy program designed to offset damage done by climate change and to erase the footprint caused by the events.

Foust, a biology major from the University of Colorado, was given the chance to rekindle his interest and give back to the environment ahead of the Copper X Prix.

The Atacama is the oldest desert in the world at 150 million years. It is the driest place on earth and has the highest degree of ultraviolet light. And yet somehow life perseveres through underground rivers with oases dating back to Incan times. Foust participated in preparing a local habitat for the reintroduction of a critically endangered water frog to Chile’s longest river, the Loa, which snakes its way through the desert.

“I’m loving the experience,” Foust said. “I’m putting on a lot of Chapstick, a lot of sunscreen. What a fascinating part of the world. I never would have come here otherwise.

“I honestly am very honored to be a part of this sport. I am a huge believer in the fact that motorsports has done us good in the last 100 years. I think we benefit every single time we put our seatbelts on and drive down the road to the lessons learned in racing since the turn of the century. And I really hope motorsports continues that tradition.

“I think that motorsports like [Extreme E] does it in a responsible way, a gender-neutral way and a carbon-neutral way.”