First Step of the Mazda Road to Indy Poised for Continued Growth in 2018
 January 11, 2018| 
  • Series News
PALMETTO Fla. – With two months remaining until the new Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season kicks off on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., all indications are pointing toward another thrilling season for the first step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.

A handful of drivers have already put pen to paper or are in advanced negotiations, and the majority of teams are deep into extensive test programs in preparation for the new campaign. The brand-new, state-of-the-art Tatuus USF-17 brought a fresh focus onto the series last season and resulted in some thrilling – and lap record-breaking – competition. Now, as many of the top contenders already have made clear their intention of graduating onto the next step of the ladder, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, the window of opportunity seems to be wide open for a new star to follow in the footsteps of Oliver Askew. Up for grabs is a $325,000 Mazda Scholarship to assist in the progression to Pro Mazda in 2019.

Ireland’s Keith Donegan thrust his name into the equation in early December by emulating Askew and winning the second annual Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 $200k Scholarship Shootout. The 20-year-old from Dublin has already tested a USF2000 car and is in talks with a variety of teams.

Newman Wachs Racing has already confirmed the signature of two young drivers, Darren Keane and Oscar DeLuzuriaga, to carry its distinctive orange and white colors in 2018. Keane, 18, from Boca Raton, Fla., who finished 11th in the 2017 points table despite running only a partial campaign, has already laid down a marker by topping the times during the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October. DeLuzuriaga, 18, who was born in the United Kingdom and raised in Singapore, will be entering his first full season of professional racing and has displayed impressive progress during recent tests.

Earlier this week, 19-year-old Brazilian Lucas Kohl confirmed that he will remain with Pabst Racing for the 2018 season. Kohl finished seventh in the 2017 title-chase with a best finish of third at Pabst Racing’s home track, Road America.

Julian van der Watt, from Cape Town, South Africa, a dominant winner of last year’s South African Formula Ford Championship with 13 victories from 14 starts, also has committed to USF2000 after signing with Team Pelfrey. In addition, 15-year-old Colombian Mathias Soler-Obel, who raced in last year’s F4 Unites States Championship, has confirmed a commitment to move onto the Mazda Road to Indy and is exploring the option of setting up a new team to complete the transition.

RJB Motorsports, which fielded cars for Michai Stephens and Clint McMahon in 2016, is poised for a return to USF2000 in partnership with Swan Motorsports. The new organization, which plans to field as many as three Tatuus cars in 2018 under the Swan-RJB Motorsports banner, tested USF2000 veteran Dakota Dickerson, reigning F4 United States Champion Kyle Kirkwood, fellow F4 regular Jacob Loomis and Robert Bulloch before Christmas at Motorsport Ranch in Cresson, Texas, with former USF2000 and IndyCar racer Alex Barron on hand as a driver coach.

BN Racing, Exclusive Autosport, John Cummiskey Racing and Team BENIK also have been in discussions with a variety of drivers and hope to finalize their plans in the coming weeks.
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