Mazda Road to Indy Season Begins at St. Petersburg
 March 27, 2015| 
  • Series News
PALMETTO, Fla. – The future stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series will display their talents this weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., as all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder will commence their 2015 seasons. The race weekend also will mark the debut of the exciting new Dallara IL-15, powered by a 450 HP, 2.0-liter turbocharged Mazda MZR-R engine, heralding the dawn of a new era for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

The Mazda Road to Indy is unique in the world of auto racing, offering scholarships at every stage to assist talented drivers in their progression from karting and the grassroots of the sport through the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires as they aspire to compete in the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

Competitors in all three series will contest a pair of races on the challenging 1.8-mile, downtown street circuit. As part of the learning experience, drivers will benefit from a Mazda Road to Indy “Summit” on Thursday before the start of on-track activities, which will include a media training seminar hosted by veteran broadcaster Bob Varsha.
 
Representatives from 10 Nations and Six States Among Global USF2000 Entry
The international appeal of the Mazda Road to Indy is exemplified by the entry list for the first two races of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda season as drivers from six different states and no fewer than 10 nationalities will battle for honors at the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Picking the likely winners is no easy task, although leading contenders will surely include a pair of talented young Americans, Jake Eidson and Aaron Telitz, along with Frenchman Nico Jamin and Brazilian Victor Franzoni.

Jamin, who hopes to follow in the footsteps of countryman Florian Latorre by winning a MAZDASPEED Scholarship and an opportunity to graduate to Pro Mazda in 2016, has already laid out his credentials by winning the recent five-race Cooper Tires USF2000 Winterfest. The 19-year-old from Rouen, France, is hoping to buck the trend and become the first driver in the five-year history of the Winterfest also to take top honors in the “regular season” championship. His team, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, is seeking to extend its remarkable streak of four consecutive championships with Petri Suvanto (2011), Matthew Brabham (2012), Scott Hargrove (2013) and Florian Latorre (2014).

Jamin will be joined at the St. Petersburg-based team by Wisconsin native Telitz, who claimed USF2000 Rookie of the Year honors in 2014.

Eidson, who finished third in USF2000 points during his rookie season, and Franzoni also enjoyed success at the Winterfest. Eidson, from Littleton, Colo., won twice for Pabst Racing and only lost the title due to an obscure mechanical failure in the final race, while Franzoni, who placed fifth in the 2014 title-chase, also notched two wins for Afterburner Autosport.

Other young chargers include Jordan Lloyd, who hails from the same small town in Queensland, Australia, as defending Verizon IndyCar Series champion Will Power, and countryman Anthony Martin, who will both drive for the team run by veteran IndyCar crew chief/team manager John Cummiskey. Another youngster from Western Australia, Luke Gabin, who will celebrate his 20th birthday on Friday, will carry the distinctive Soul Red MAZDASPEED scholarship livery on his Team Pelfrey Van Diemen-Mazda as a result of winning last year’s Skip Barber Racing Championship Shootout.

Gabin is joined at the Palmetto, Fla.-based Team Pelfrey by Norwegian Ayla Agren, who displayed her speed by winning last year’s F1600 Championship Series, Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin and Mechanicsburg, Pa.’s Garth Rickards. All three have graduated together with Team Pelfrey into USF2000, while the fourth member of that F1600 team, Arizona’s Augie Lerch, also graduates into USF2000 with another Palmetto-based team, JAY Motorsports.

Karting standout Parker Thompson (JDC MotorSports), from Red Deer, Alb., Canada – a protégé of 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice – and the youngest driver in the field, second-year racer and Naples resident Keyvan Andres Soori, from Cologne, Germany, who only celebrated his 15th birthday a couple of weeks ago, also will be worth watching.

The first of two races at the Cooper Tires Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will take place at 10:15 am ET on Saturday, March 27, with Race Two at 8:55 am on Sunday, March 29. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available at usf2000.com.
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