The Mazda Road to Indy
In 2010 Andersen Promotions launched the “Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires” program as the official Verizon INDYCAR driver development series. The program shares the commonality of the Mazda MZR engine architecture and Cooper Tires and has been very successful as 23 of the 33 starters in the 2016 Indianapolis 500-mile race came from the “Mazda Road to Indy” (MRTI). MRTI was highly publicized at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show in Indianapolis Indiana.
The three-step program begins with the USF2000 series which uses the new for 2017 Tatuus USF-17 full carbon monocoque chassis. The rolling chassis which sells for $55,800 includes a Cosworth full electronics and data logging system, Performance Friction 4-piston caliper brake system, carbon fiber bodywork, integrated steering wheel with shift paddles and stainless steel exhaust system. Fitted with custom American Racing Technomesh wheels and Cooper Tires the USF-17’s estimated top speed is 140 Miles per hour (MPH).
The 2.0 liter (122 cubic inch) Mazda MZR (Mazda Responsive) 4-cylinder engine with aluminum block with cast iron cylinder liners and double overhead camshafts is prepared by Elite Engines of West Bend Wisconsin to produce 175 horsepower. The distributor Carl Hass Inc. advertises that the engine, management system and installation kit cost teams $22,500.
The USF2000 series will compete on eight racing weekends during 2017 with a total of 14 races in conjunction with the Verizon INDYCAR series. The season opener will be in St. Petersburg Florida on March 11 followed by stops at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course, the Iowa Speedway oval, and road courses at Watkins Glen New York and Mid-Ohio in Steam Corners Ohio. Andersen Promotions estimates the cost for a season of USF2000 racing at $275,000 to $375,000.
Australian Anthony Martin won the 2016 Mazda Road to Indy USF2000 Championship and a scholarship from Mazda for $363,850 to race in the Pro Mazda class for 2017.
The next step up the driver development ladder on the MRTI is the Pro Mazda championship presented by Cooper Tires. For 2018, the series will use the all-new Tatuus PM-18 chassis which debuted at the PRI show.
The PM-18 features a Cosworth full electronics and data logging system, six-speed paddle gearbox, Performance Friction 4-piston caliper brake system, carbon fiber bodywork, and LCD steering wheel with shift paddles The PM-18 and USF-17 share the same full carbon monocoque chassis and will race fitted with custom American Racing Technomesh wheels and Cooper Tires.
The PM-18 features more sophisticated aerodynamics with a dual element rear win and front wings with adjustable flaps. The powerplant for the PM-18 will use the same basic 2.0 liter (122 cubic inch) Mazda MZR (Mazda Responsive) 4-cylinder engine as the USF2000 series but will be tuned to produce 275 horsepower which will allow a top speed estimated at over 160 MPH.
For the 2017 season, Pro Mazda teams will use the same Elan chassis in use since 2004 for its 12-race schedule with two-race stops at St. Petersburg, Indianapolis, Road America, Mid-Ohio, and Watkins Glen. The Pro Mazda series will make its only oval appearance at the Gateway Motorsport Park near St Louis on the weekend August 25-26 2017 with the Verizon INDYCAR series inaugural ‘Gateway 500.’
The 2016 Pro Mazda series champion Aaron Telitz from Wisconsin who won four consecutive races earned a $601,700 scholarship to compete in the Indy Lights series in 2017.
The top rung of the “Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires” program is the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires which enters 2017 using the Dallara IL-15 full carbon fiber chassis for the third season. The 1400 pound chassis manufactured by Dallara Automobili, provides the drivers with full aerodynamic tuning capability, six-speed paddle shifters, and a “push-to-pass” feature for high speed overtaking. Straight-line speed for the IL-15 can reach 210 MPH.
The 2.0-liter Mazda MZR-R engine developed in conjunction with Advanced Engine Research (AER) is turbocharged to produce 450 horsepower with additional 50 horsepower in the “push-to-pass” mode and according the Andersen Promotions is capable of running an entire season without a rebuild. The cost for the full 16-race 2017 Indy Lights season which includes the crown jewel “Freedom 100” on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2-1/2 mile oval is estimated to be between $1 million and $2 million.
The 2016 Indy Lights champion Ed Jones from Dubai won the first three races of the season and earned a $1 million scholarship to advance to the INDYCAR series. Jones recently announced that he will drive full-time for Dale Coyne Racing in the 2017 Verizon INDYCAR series in the #18 Honda powered Dallara DW12.
All the 2017 Mazda Road to Indy races will be shown in live streaming at indycar.com, indylights.com, and the RoadtoIndy.TV App on Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku.
All photos by the author