Tatuus named new car chassis partner for new USF2000, Pro Mazda car

Photo: Andersen Promotions
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A new chassis provider has been selected for the first two rungs on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder. See the below release for more:

Andersen Promotions today announced that Tatuus has been chosen to design and manufacture the next generation of chassis for the first two levels of the Mazda Road to Indy – the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires. The new Tatuus USF-17 and Tatuus PM-18 chassis will make their competition debut in 2017 and 2018 respectively.

Headquartered in Concorezzo, Italy, Tatuus has been designing and manufacturing race-winning cars since 1980. The company, managed by Gianfranco De Bellis and Artico Sandonà, has produced more than 1,700 chassis in the past 15 years which have competed on a worldwide stage. Tatuus are leaders in the production of the FIA F4 race car as well as the Formula Renault 2.0 chassis amongst others.

“Since we first met almost 20 years ago, I have known Gianfranco De Bellis and the Tatuus brand of cars and have the highest respect for their product and performance,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “To enter into this new venture with them as partners is exciting and I know they will deliver a very high quality, safe and fast race car – a car that career-minded drivers from around the world will see as a real step up from other open-wheel series cars. The Mazda Road to Indy trains drivers well, and this new race car will only enhance that training for the future.”

The Request for Proposals (RFP) and selection process was led by motorsports veteran Scot Elkins, race director for the USF2000 and Pro Mazda series as well as the founder of TEG Motorsports Consulting and COO of the Motorsports Safety Foundation.

“Gianfranco and the entire Tatuus team really went above and beyond in the RFP process to earn this bid,” said Elkins. “The attention to detail in their proposal and easy acceptance of existing Andersen Promotions’ partners really give us high expectations for these cars and we are ecstatic to have them as partners for many years to come.”

The Tatuus USF-17 is a significant technology leap over the current Van Diemen USF2000 chassis. The USF-17 is a full carbon monocoque chassis built to the latest FIA F3 test specifications utilizing the current Mazda MZR 2.0-liter naturally aspirated engine with additional safety features to meet the specific needs of racing in the United States. These features include full Zylon side intrusion panels and reinforced bulkheads to strengthen the chassis for racing on oval circuits. The USF-17 will also feature other upgrades such as a six-speed paddle shift gearbox, four-way adjustable dampers, specific design aluminum American Racing wheels, Cosworth data system, LCD steering wheel and ECU, four piston caliper PFC brakes and IndyCar-specific quick jack and roll hoop attachments.

Uniquely, the PM-18 will use the USF-17 as the base car to help control the operational costs for teams who wish to move up. The PM-18 adds more power over the USF-17 from a Mazda SKYACTIV engine, more sophisticated aerodynamics with a revised underbody and diffuser, a three-element rear wing and a front wing with adjustable composite wing flaps. The PM-18 also adds a higher level Cosworth data system to help train the next level of drivers and engineers in the Mazda Road to Indy.

“All of us at Mazda will be thrilled to see and hear the next generation USF2000 and Pro Mazda cars,” said John Doonan, director of Mazda Motorsports in North America. “As it has been from the start, our primary goal with the Mazda Road to Indy has been to train drivers and see their skills develop through all the steps of the program – all the way to the Indy 500. These next generation cars provide all of the technology, safety and reliable Mazda powerplants that allows young talent to focus on their driving. The Mazda brand is all about driving and the joy that comes from driving a well-engineered car. I am confident there will be many happy and smiling drivers behind the wheel of these new machines.”

The new USF2000 chassis will be unveiled at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 next May. Prototype testing is expected to begin in June with car deliveries taking place in the fall. A similar schedule will follow for Pro Mazda.

“With the recent launch of the new IL-15 Indy Lights cars, Dan Andersen has replicated his model for success with these two new cars,” stated Chris Pantani, Cooper Tires’ Director of Motorsports. “Cooper Tire has been grateful to be part of the driver development since the inception of the Road to Indy program. Now, Dan has taken the vehicle development to the next level with state-of-the-art cars for the next two rungs of the Road to Indy, solidifying its place as the one true path to Indianapolis.”

Renderings of the new USF-17 and PM-18 will be unveiled in the coming weeks.

“All of us at Tatuus are very happy and very motivated to have been chosen as partners by Dan Andersen and his team at Andersen Promotions to develop the new Pro Mazda and USF2000 cars,” said Gianfranco De Bellis, CEO of Tatuus. “Dan and I first collaborated back in the late ‘90s, our company’s first experience in the United States, and I have fantastic memories. We will work very hard to offer all of the teams a great product. This is a tremendous opportunity for us in a country with a deep history in motorsports and we are very honored.

Jenson Button joins NASCAR Garage 56 at Le Mans with Jimmie Johnson, Rockenfeller

Jenson Button NASCAR Le Mans
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The NASCAR Garage 56 entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans will be driven by champions of three major-league series — Jenson Button, Jimmie Johnson and Mike Rockenfeller.

The lineup of the Hendrick Motorsports-prepared Next Gen Camaro was announced Saturday before the Rolex 24 at Daytona.

NASCAR’s Garage 56 project was announced in March 2022 as a joint effort by NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear. It marks the return of a NASCAR team to Le Mans for the first time in nearly 50 years with Hendrick fielding a Camaro ZL1 as the “Garage 56” entry in the 100th edition of the sports car classic.

It’s long been expected the car would include Johnson, the seven-time Cup Series champion who is returning to NASCAR’s premier series as a driver-owner in 2023. Rockenfeller, the 2013 DTM champion and 2010 Le Mans overall winner, has attended every NASCAR Garage 56 test since last year while racking up simulator testing hours.

The surprise was Button, the 2009 Formula One champion who has become a popular commentator. Rick Hendrick initially said wanted four-time Cup champion and current Hendrick Motorsports COO Jeff Gordon to drive the car, and Gordon had raced a sports car at Indianapolis last year to test his race shape.

GARAGE 56 ANSWERS, ANALYSISMore on the NASCAR-Hendrick entry for the 24 Hours of Le Mans

“Since the beginning of the Garage 56 project, it has been our goal to partner with the top racers in the world to represent us in Le Mans,” NASCAR chairman and CEO Jim France said in a release. “The lineup of Jimmie, ‘Rocky’ and Jenson is everything we could have dreamed of – three elite drivers who have won at the highest levels of motorsports worldwide. As we celebrate the 75th anniversary of NASCAR, we are honored to have these world-class champions help bring the sights and sounds of a NASCAR race car to fans in Le Mans, and across the world.”

Button had one of the most prolific careers in F1 history finishing with 15 wins and 50 podiums on top of his 2009 World Championship and is widely considered one of the top British drivers of all time.

“As a lifelong racing fan, I have always dreamed of racing certain cars, with and against certain drivers and competing in certain events,” Button said in a release. “In June, a number of those dreams will come true in one event when I get to bring NASCAR to the world stage alongside my pals Jimmie and ‘Rocky’ for the 100th anniversary of the most prestigious race in the world. I’m really looking forward to sharing this journey with NASCAR, Hendrick Motorsports, Chevrolet and Goodyear, and current and future NASCAR fans from around the world.”

Johnson will make his 24 Hours of Le Mans debut a year after starting his first Indy 500. He has 83 victories in the Cup Series, where he will return for the Daytona 500 next month with his Legacy Motor Club team.

He also has been involved with testing the Garage 56 Camaro.

“I’m super thrilled – it’s been at the top of my bucket list to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans someday,” Johnson said. “To have this opportunity come – and to partner with everybody and this driver lineup – is truly an incredible opportunity and one that I am thankful to be a part of.”

Rockenfeller teamed with Johnson on the No. 48 Ally Cadillac in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in 2021-22. The German driver has been the lead test driver for Garage 56 and has driven during every on-track test.

“It has been a great journey so far with the whole team and project,” Rockenfeller said. “To be involved as a driver from day one until now was already a great honor, and to now have Jimmie and Jenson alongside me as teammates in Le Mans is unbelievable.”

The car will continue testing with all three drivers next week at the Daytona International Speedway road course. Rolex 24 and four-time IMSA champion Jordan Taylor, who drives for Corvette Racing, will be the team’s backup driver and coach. Taylor also won the GTE Pro class in 2015 at Le Mans, where he has four podium finishes.

The project also is being supported by IMSA GTP team Action Express, whose general manager is former NASCAR executive and Daytona 500-winning crew chief Gary Nelson. Action Express built the first test car for the Garage 56 but since has handed off the project to Hendrick, where it’s being over seen by vice president of competition Chad Knaus (the crew chief for Johnson’s seven championships).

“Action Express got it going and built the mule car, and then Hendrick joined the program, took it from where we had it, and they’re doing a major percentage of the work,” Nelson told NBC Sports. “We just did a test a couple months ago on a wet track. We’ve done a couple of other tests as they were ramping their program up. Now their car is good, tested and running. We’re still involved and here to help. The Hendrick guys have taken the reins, and Rick Hendrick and Chad Knaus are a thrill to work with and doing a much better job. It’s more NASCAR than prototype racing.”