Pro Mazda 2016 season preview

Nico Jamin steps up. Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway, LLC Photography

The upshot of the increased Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires field is that the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires field loses a number of drivers this year. With fewer teams in the championship, there’s no way to sugarcoat it: it’s a sparse field.

Although there’s just eight full-season primary class cars confirmed – albeit with more possible – there’s still enough talent sprinkled in to where it doesn’t figure to be a runaway by any one driver. The three confirmed series veterans – Garett Grist, Weiron Tan and Will Owen – do figure to have an early edge over the five rookies in the three teams.

For purposes of this preview, we’ll be looking at the primary class entries. Jay Horak and Bobby Eberle also run in the National Class.

Team Pelfrey

Team Pelfrey has upgraded its presence in Pro Mazda, and has two confirmed new drivers for the year. Santiago Urrutia steps up to Indy Lights after winning last year’s title; and Pato O’Ward also tested at Barber.

  • 81-Weiron Tan: The Malaysian returns for his second season after winning four regular season races and two Winterfest rounds a year ago with Andretti Autosport. With greater consistency, should challenge for the title.
  • 82-Aaron Telitz: Don’t let Telitz’s humor and easygoing personality fool you; he’s intensely serious behind the wheel. Will be keen to emerge at the head of the “Nico-Aaron-Jake” logjam that dominated USF2000 last year.
  • 80-Pato O’Ward: The young Mexican has tested both in Pro Mazda and IMSA Mazda Prototype Lites this winter. If he returns for a full season, he’ll give Pelfrey another set of data and a bit of continuity.

Juncos Racing 

The four-car Juncos effort features two returnees and two newcomers. Purely on strength of numbers, Juncos has the best shot to win the title.

  • 5-Garett Grist: The 20-year-old Canadian is one of the preseason title favorites as he returns for his third year in Pro Mazda, with the sole purpose of securing the title. Came on strongly in second half last year and should be even better this season.
  • 23-Will Owen: Also 20, the series sophomore should win his first race and potentially vie for the title. Juggles his studies at TCU with racing; also raced down under in New Zealand in the Toyota Racing Series this winter.
  • 31-Nicolas Dapero: Argentine 17-year-old rookie graduates from F3 and karting into Pro Mazda. Should develop nicely as the year goes on.
  • 00-Jake Parsons: No word yet if he’ll garner the “Double 0” nickname to match his car number, but the 21-year-old Australian is an intriguing prospect, having raced primarily in Asia in Formula Masters and Formula BMW.

Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing

Cape’s been regarded as the team to beat in USF2000 but has come up short of Pro Mazda titles with Scott Hargrove and Neil Alberico the last two years. They’ll have two USF2000 graduates look to break the drought this year.

  • 2-Nico Jamin: Jamin, 20, dominated the USF2000 season and will win races in Pro Mazda. The question is how many and if he can get on enough of a roll to upend the few returning drivers in the series.
  • 3-Jake Eidson: Another 20-year-old, the young American fought valiantly against the Cape juggernaut in USF2000 last year and now rejoins the team as he steps into Pro Mazda this year. Wins are likely, but he needs to find that next-level killer instinct if he wants to contend for a title.

JDC Motorsports

John Church’s team continues with at least one full-season entrant and perhaps a National class car for Kevin Davis at selected rounds.

  • 19-Jorge Cevallos: The 21-year-old Mexican was a late add to the Barber test, and has raced formula cars primarily in his home country.

Cadillac confirms WEC driver lineup with Chip Ganassi Racing that will race Le Mans in 2023

Cadillac Ganassi Le Mans
Cadillac Racing

Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing announced their driver lineup for a 2023 entry in the FIA World Endurance Championship, the sports car series that includes the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

The Cadillac V-LMDh entry will be driven by Earl Bamber and Alex Lynn, who were teamed on the No. 02 Cadillac that competed in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship DPi class this season and won the Twelve Hours of Sebring. The third driver will be Richard Westbrook, who will return to Ganassi after helping the team to a GT class win at Le Mans in 2018.

The team also will compete in the Rolex 24 at Daytona in the rebranded Grand Touring Prototype premier category, which is designed for crossover between the top prototypes in IMSA and WEC. Ganassi will field a second entry at Daytona with its No. 01 Cadillac that will compete full time in IMSA with Sebastien Bourdais and Renger van der Zande.

A Ganassi spokesman said the team hopes to run its second entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans but only its WEC team is confirmed (an AOC invitation would be required for the IMSA team). The team also is exploring options but currently plans to have the WEC’s team base of operations in Indianapolis.

Ganassi is the first American-based prototype team to confirm its entry in the 2023 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s expected that Team Penske, which raced this year’s Le Mans with a full-time WEC entry in LMP2, also will race Le Mans with Porsche’s new LMDh car that is set for IMSA, but the manufacturer has yet to confirm its driver and team lineup.

Next year will mark the return of Cadillac to Le Mans for the first time since 2002.

Before joining Ganassi last year, Lynn made 28 WEC starts since 2016, winning the LMGTE Pro class at Le Mans in 2020.

“I’m absolutely thrilled to continue with Cadillac and Chip Ganassi Racing,” Lynn said in a release. “It’s a huge honor to drive for Chip in any capacity but certainly on a full factory sports car program, it’s seriously cool. Cadillac has so much heritage as a luxury North American sports car brand, so to be able to represent them is a huge privilege. I’ve had a lot of fun in my first year doing it and to continue that onto the World Endurance Championship stage is fantastic.

“For me, returning to WEC is sort of what I’ve always known and it’s a bit like going into my wheelhouse. This year in IMSA was a bit different with getting to know all-new circuits and a new style of racing so 2023 will be filled with a bit more of what I’m used to with more of a European focus. I think what’s significant about WEC is without a doubt Le Mans. As a sports car race, Le Mans is the crown jewel and everything that we want to win. To be able to take Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac back to Le Mans to fight for overall honors is a huge honor and that’s something that I’m going to work tirelessly to make sure we achieve.”

Bamber won the Le Mans overall in 2015 and ’17 with Porsche teams and also was a 2019 GTLM champion in IMSA.

“I am really happy to continue at Chip Ganassi Racing and Cadillac,” Bamber said in a release. “I’ve loved my first season in DPi and now to continue over into the LMDh era and WEC is super exciting. Looking forward to fighting for a world championship and another Le Mans victory.

“The World Endurance Championships gives us the opportunity to race at the world’s biggest race, which is Le Mans, the crown jewel of sports car racing. I’ve been lucky enough to win it before and it’s obviously a huge goal for Cadillac and everyone at Chip Ganassi Racing. To have that goal in sight is really exciting. It’s been great to have Alex as a teammate in 2022. We’ve been able to learn and grow together in the DPi, and we have a really good partnership going into WEC. We know each other really well and believe adding Richard will be a seamless transition.”

Said Westbrook: “After four really good years at Chip Ganassi Racing, I’ve got so many friends there and I’ve always dreamt to come back one day. It just worked so well between 2016 and 2019, and I’m delighted we found a route to come together again. I can’t wait, it’s an exciting era in sports car racing right now.

“I feel like I know Alex and Earl really well. I did Le Mans with Alex in 2020 and I’ve known him for years. It feels like I’m going back with an ex-teammate and exactly the same with Earl. Although I’ve never shared a car with Earl, we’ve always done the same sort of racing be it in WEC or in IMSA. We’ve had lots of battles, including this year in our dueling Cadillacs. We’ve always gotten along quite well, and I can say we’re going to have a great year together.”

The seven-race WEC season, which also includes a stop at Spa, will begin March 17 with the 1,000 Miles of Sebring at Sebring International Raceway in Florida.