The future of Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires was in evidence yesterday as 2011 Pro (Star) Mazda champion, 2012 Indy Lights champion and 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series Rookie of the Year Tristan Vautier put the brand-new AER turbo-powered Dallara IL-15 chassis through its paces for the first time during an exclusive test session at the 13-turn, 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.
The exciting new car which incorporates advanced electronic controls and all the very latest safety features, was shaken down briefly last week at Putnam Park Raceway, just west of Indianapolis, but yesterday marked its first full day of development testing. The car performed flawlessly, with Vautier taking advantage of perfect weather conditions to complete a total of 85 laps, including a best lap already a half-second faster than Jack Harvey’s pole time from the weekend’s Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Indy Lights double-header.
“The goal was to come here and do mileage, which we achieved,” said President and Founder of NZR Consulting Tony Cotman, who has been responsible for the bid and design process of the new car. “The car is obviously very fast, so that’s good. As I have said all along, it is important for us to get the car in a position that, when the teams get it, all the bugs are sorted out and we can give them a pretty good baseline. It was a lot of work to get the car put together the last couple of weeks and all the partners have done a fantastic job and given us a good starting point.”
“We are extremely satisfied with the very first official test for the IL-15,” added Stefano De Ponti, head of Dallara’s U.S. operations. “There’s a lot of happiness for the great job we have done as a group together with Dan Andersen, Tony Cotman, AER, everyone. The car seems to be working very well and the driver is happy. We are looking ahead now for more testing to develop the car to check for more reliability and more speed.”
The day began just a few minutes after 9:00 a.m. with Vautier completing several installation laps to confirm that an oil system glitch, which had created excessive back pressure and resulted in restricted running last week, had been rectified. Vautier then moved on to longer runs, including a series of 15-lap stints during the afternoon, by which time the ambient temperature had risen into the 80s.
“My first impressions are that the engine is great, the drivability is already right there and the gearbox is amazing,” said Vautier following his morning runs. “The brakes I think are the biggest step forward. They are really, really good. The balance was off at the start obviously, but we made a couple of small changes and the car came alive.
“A really good day,” he concluded following an extremely productive afternoon. “It went very smoothly. We didn’t have any major issues which is always good with a brand-new car, and we finished faster than the pole position that was set this past weekend with a 1:13.40. The car is a lot of fun to drive. It’s a blast. Everything about it is better than the old car. It’s a proper car that prepares drivers better for IndyCar as well. It has very similar characteristics in the way it responds on track – better braking, better acceleration, better everything. So, definitely a lot of potential.”
The Frenchman’s thoughts about the car echoed those of 2010 Pro Mazda champion, Indy Lights race winner and current GP2 Series competitor Conor Daly, who had been entrusted with the initial shakedown duties last week.
“I think it’s a massive step in the right direction for the series,” said Daly, who was on hand in the morning before having to leave for a sponsorship meeting. “It’s awesome to be honest. The experience I have got now over in Europe from racing basically all of the Dallaras that are on the market, it’s cool to experience this new one and I think it’s what the series needs. It’s big, it’s fast, it’s high-tech – it’s the future.”
The distinctive sound of the turbocharged, 2.0-liter, four-cylinder AER P63 engine attracted many positive comments, as did the fact that it ran flawlessly all day.
“I think the first test went exceptionally well for everyone involved – chassis, brakes, engine, transmission,” said AER Engineering Manager Andrew Saunders. “There were virtually no issues. All systems were working and there was no real attempt to fine tune the car. We were just trying to get miles on it which we achieved. I’m looking forward to Indianapolis and running a wide-open throttle on the Speedway.”
Testing will continue at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval on August 12 and 14 with a four-day test scheduled for the Speedway road course beginning August 18. Vautier and Daly will continue sharing driving duties.
“This really has been a tremendous day,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “The level of teamwork in this project has been exceptional and I have to congratulate Tony and all of our partners including Cooper Tires for a job well done. To see a brand-new car perform so well right out of the box bodes extremely well for the final product our teams will receive.”
Source: Indy Lights PR
Competing as Argentina’s first female driver to race in the United States, twenty-one-year-old Julia Ballario makes her debut this year in the 2014 Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires. In addition to paving the road for other Argentinian female drivers, Ballario also makes another “first” in becoming Juncos Racing’s first Argentinian driver.
Ballario first tested with Juncos Racing in the fall of 2012, where she participated in the Second Annual Chris Griffiths Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Open Test held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. During the two-day test, she proved her ability to learn the open-wheel car, she continued to log quicker lap times, and she placed 8th quick overall among fellow drivers. The following year, Ballario joined Juncos Racing again in the official series test held at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in May.
Ballario’s racing career took off in the early 2000s, where she competed in numerous karting races throughout South America. Down the road, she competed in the 2006 Argentine Championship in Santiago del Estero, earning podium finishes in both Provincial and Federal Championships. The year 2007 marked her switch to Formula Renault Plus racing, where she gained recognition as Best Woman Driver in Federados Amateur Class. Throughout the next several years, Ballario continued to compete in Formula Renault Plus. After continued success on the track, two top 5- and four top 6-finishes rounded out her 2012 season in the TC 2000. Ballario made her name known throughout South American racing.
“I’m very happy to have Julia committed for the full season in Pro Mazda,” mentioned team owner Ricardo Juncos. “She completed two races with us last season. Undeterred by insufficient time to practice beforehand, she managed to leave us with a strong impression of her capabilities on the track.” Alluding to her natural ability, Juncos added, “I foresee Julia showing persistent growth as the season progresses.”
Fellow Argentinian Ricardo Juncos also pointed out, “She will become the first ever woman from Argentina to race in the USA, and she is the first Argentinean driver on our team. I’m looking forward to working with her this season.”
The team kicks off the 2014 Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires at the end of March in St. Petersburg, Florida.
Source: Juncos Racing
Photo: Claudio Novoa
Juan Pablo Garcia has secured a seat with Team Moore Racing for the 2013 Indy Lights season. The 25 year old driver from Mexico will participate in his second consecutive season in the category. In 2012, he raced for Jeffrey Mark Motorsport. Moore has a lot of experience with latin-american drivers as the first win for the team was courtesy of chilean driver Pablo Donoso Prado at Sonoma Raceway in 2008. The Indianapolis based team also had colombian Gustavo Yacamán as driver in 2012, and they went on to a great season in which Yacamán finished third in the standings with two wins.
Juan Pablo Garcia‘s best result in 2012 was seventh, which he got at St. Petersburg and Long Beach. He finished ninth in the point standings, with 260 points, 201 adrift from champion Tristian Vautier from France.
“I am pleased to announce that in 2013 I will be racing in the Firestone Indy Lights series for Team Moore Racing, which has proven to be very competitive, to win races and consistently get good results. I hope to have a great year. The team is very happy with what I could show last year and I’m sure I will one hundred percent support to give me the weapons to fight for first place. This is not a pressure, but a motivation to show what they learned last year. In addition, for the first time we will have a second full season in the same category and that will be a great advantage, because I know the car and have walked and raced in all the tracks, except for the two new additions that are Pocono and Houston. So this is a big advantage, because I will be able to concentrate on tuning the car, instead of having to learn the track in the first practice. We will have the first practice on January 22 th and 23 th at Homestead-Miami Speedway and will be very important from the first session to good communication with my engineer, to be competitive from the first race. This challenge is very important to me and I am very happy to join this team. I want to thank my sponsors International, Mapfre, Euclid Chemical, TVC AutoShow More Latino TV and everyone who has supported me to continue my career as a driver in the Indy Lights Series and I am very grateful to all of them ” said Garcia.
From childhood, speed has been part of Jose Luis’ life. He follows closely the Mazda Road to Indy, GP2 Series and of course Formula 1, with special focus on latin-american drivers. He has collaborated with hispanic drivers involved in almost every major racing series in the world. You name a latin-american driver, he knows him or her.
Big, big news!! The newly-formed Pro Mazda Championship, the second step on the Mazda Road to Indy today announced its 2013 schedule which will feature 16 races at nine high-profile events. Drivers will have the opportunity to continue to hone their skills at three road course, four street circuit and two oval tracks, with five rounds held in conjunction with INDYCAR.
“Since we announced the new series in December, we have obviously been scrambling in a number of areas,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, the series promoter. “I have to thank all of the track promoters for acting so quickly to allow us to finalize and announce our schedule. I am excited about our events for 2013. It is a good mix which will benefit our drivers as they continue up the ranks, and returning drivers and USF2000 graduates will both be exposed to new venues. In addition, the Mazda Road to Indy Summit program will continue to provide invaluable training to drivers in areas outside of the race car as well as race craft.”
Pro Mazda will make its debut at the Circuit of the Americas with a pair of races in support of GRAND-AM on March 1/2. The 3.4-mile road course and world-class facility located in Austin, Texas, received accolades from competitors and fans after holding its first Formula 1 Grand Prix in November.
The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires season will conclude with two street course races at Reliant Park in Houston, Texas, in support of INDYCAR. The event will also be the site of the series’ season-ending awards banquet where the champion will be presented with a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Firestone Indy Lights competition in 2014.
Nine test days are on offer prior to the start of the season in addition to private team testing, and competitors will have the opportunity to participate in three test days at the Circuit of the Americas before the season-opening race. Additional testing sessions will be held during the season at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, Lucas Oil Raceway, The Milwaukee Mile and Canadian Tire Motorsports Park. The annual Oval Clinic a seminar on the intricacies of oval racing will be held on May 10 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Mazda Road to Indy Summit program will take place during the St. Petersburg and Lucas Oil Raceway events. Activities include Mazda’s Business of Motorsports seminar, formal media training, a social media and marketing class, fitness and wellness training, team owner meet-and-greets and shop tours. Competitors also will have the opportunity to participate in events around the Indianapolis 500 and the winner of the “Night Before the 500” will pace the Freedom 100 Firestone Indy Lights race at the famed Brickyard and be introduced before the start of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
March 1/2 – Races 1/2
Circuit of the Americas
Road Course With GRAND-AM
March 23/24 – Races 3/4
Streets of St. Petersburg
Street Circuit With INDYCAR
May 25 – Race 5
Lucas Oil Raceway Oval With USAC
June 15 – Race 6
The Milwaukee Mile Oval With INDYCAR
July 13/14 – Races 7/8
Streets of Toronto Street Circuit With INDYCAR
July 20/21 – Races 9/10
Canadian Tire Motorsports Park (Mosport)
Road Course With ALMS
August 3/4 – Races 11/12
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Road Course With INDYCAR
August 10/11 – Races 13/14
Street Circuit With NASCAR Canada
October 5/6 – Races 15/16
Reliant Park Houston
Street Circuit With INDYCAR
February 9/10 – Official Series Test
Palm Beach International Raceway
February 11/12 – Optional Series Test
Sebring International Raceway
February 23/24 – Official Series Test
Circuit of the Americas
February 28 – Optional Promoter Test Day
Circuit of the Americas
May 9 – Official Series Test
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
May 10 – Oval Clinic
Indianapolis Motor Speedway
May 11 – Official Series Test
Lucas Oil Raceway
May 12 – Rain Date
Lucas Oil Raceway
May 24 – Optional Promoter Test Day
Lucas Oil Raceway
May 29 – Official Series Test Day
The Milwaukee Mile
May 30 – Rain Date
The Milwaukee Mile
July 18 – Optional Promoter Test Day
Canadian Tire Motorsports Park
August 1 – Optional Promoter Test Day
Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course
Photo: Juncos Racing
Big news for the Mazda Road To Indy. We have a plan for a ladder series!! Yeah, that cool. It’s an engine plan: The Pro Mazda Championship has contracted the services of SpeedSource Race Engineering as the official engine builder and technical consultant of the newly formed Pro Mazda Championship series which fills the opening vacated by Star Mazda. The Florida based company will begin the re-manufacturing of all Mazda Renesis rotary engines currently used in the championship to 2013 specifications and also provide internal modifications to ensure parity between engines and greater longevity of a season or more.
In addition to a long and notable history of racing under the Mazda banner, SpeedSource is the exclusive engine supplier of rotary engines to Mazda-powered GRAND-AM Rolex GT teams and is currently developing the Mazda SKYACTIV-D compound turbo diesel motorsports engine for the 2013 GRAND-AM GX class. Founded and led by accomplished driver and team owner Sylvain Tremblay in 1995 to provide full-service race services and custom components to club level and professional drivers, the company operates out of a 50,000 square foot facility that houses both development and racing applications.
The Mazda Renesis rotary engine used in Pro Mazda is capable of producing 260 horsepower – providing an additional 90 horsepower over the Mazda MZR powerplant utilized in USF2000, the first step on the Mazda Road to Indy. The internationally award-winning engine also powers the Mazda RX-8 passenger car. SpeedSource will begin the remanufacturing process on Pro Mazda engines this month. The program will be fully implemented by May 1. Pro Mazda Series succeeds Star Mazda Series, that was sold to Andersen by founder Gary Rodrígues.
“I am very pleased to add SpeedSource to our list of high-quality partners,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions, the Pro Mazda Series promoter. “Although I have not had prior dealings with SpeedSource, it is clear to me that they not only have an impressive resume and reputation but also have put together a great new Pro Mazda engine program. I am very confident that this will result in a better championship for our competing teams.”
“We are very proud to have been chosen as the engine supplier for the Pro Mazda Series,” said Sylvain Tremblay. “The series itself has a great standing and we look forward to continuing the fantastic reputation of Mazda’s Renesis rotary engine. Andersen Promotions has been great to work with and it is easy to see why they are the primary resource for Mazda’s ladder program.”
The IZOD IndyCar Series had some great news a couple weeks back, when they announced that Firestone will remain being sole tire supplier for the series through 2018. Firestone threatened to leave IndyCar at the end of the 2011 season, but efforts from Randy Bernard kept them in the series for 2012, under a new contract that added more costs for the teams. That’s why Bernard started searching for new, cheaper partners in terms of tires (like for example, Continental, who negotiated with Bernard). This wasn’t liked by Bernard’s opponents inside the paddock, especially drivers and teams that trust Firestone’s remarkable safety record in the last few years. That was one of the problems that set up Bernard and finally got him fired from the CEO position in IndyCar. Today, the new interim CEO of the series is Jeff Belskus, who is also President of Hulman & Company, owners of IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. He recently added Mark Miles to the team, as CEO of Hulman & Company. Firestone extension is a massive win for Bernard’s detractors and Belskus and Miles.
“Firestone performance and safety have been synonymous with IndyCar racing for more than 100 years,” said Al Speyer, executive director from Firestone Racing. “We are excited about the opportunity to continue the ongoing success of this series by extending the Firestone brand’s history in the sport through the 2018 season. We treasure the relationships we have fostered with the league, drivers, owners and various other partners involved with the sport through the years, and look forward to continuing our legacy of high performance for which Firestone tires are known.”
Firestone has supplied tires to the IZOD IndyCar Series since the league began in 1996, and this announcement confirms the Firestone brand’s participation in the 100th running of the prestigious Indianapolis 500-Mile Race in 2016. As part of the partnership extension, the Firestone brand will increase its commitment to and investments in the series to help maximize the growth potential of the series.
“The Firestone brand’s significant contributions to IZOD IndyCar Series racing are the result of more than 100 years of experience competing in this sport, most recently as part of a continuous 22-year partnership,” said Jeff Belskus, interim president and CEO of IndyCar. “The agreement expands our opportunity to continue working together to provide on-track excitement for our fans and grow the sport through coordinated and consistent off-track promotions. This is an important relationship for both Firestone and INDYCAR and we are very pleased to continue the association.”
The expanded agreement begins in 2014, and includes tires and technical support, investments in advertising, event promotions, at-track signage, hospitality, race title sponsorships and other programs. Specific details of the agreement and relationship will be announced next year. The title sponsorship and official tire status of the Firestone Indy Lights series will run through 2013.
“Our partnership with the IZOD IndyCar Series is based on mutual respect and benefit to all parties. Our agreement to move forward together is a manifestation of the business value we both realize from this partnership as well as the legacy of safety and performance that we have built together over a century of experience,” said Speyer. “We are proud to continue our tradition of exceptional support for the IndyCar Series. One of our future aims is to help grow interest, so we look forward to welcoming a new generation of fans to the sport while at the same time energizing the existing loyal fan base. Fans are the true end customer for both IndyCar and Firestone, and their engagement is fundamental to our mutual future success.”
Juncos Racing announced last week that the experienced american engineer Lee Dykstra will join the team as Race Engineer for the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights season. Dykstra’s successful background will provide a high level of knowledge and experience to Juncos Racing’s second season in the Firestone Indy Lights series.
Lee Dykstra, former Race Engineer to current IndyCar drivers James Hinchcliffe and Graham Rahal, brings a high level of experience to Juncos Racing, from argentinian owner Ricardo Juncos. During Dykstra’s previous five seasons as Race Engineer he helped claim a championship, three runner-up championships, 17 wins and 14 poles within the Firestone Indy Lights and Formula Atlantic series. Dykstra’s extensive resume also includes a period being Director of Technology in Champ Car World Series.
“Juncos Racing is a young, vibrant team. I am looking forward to working with them and bringing my experience to their Indy Lights team, the final step in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder series to IndyCar for aspiring drivers from around the world.” said Dykstra.
Ricardo Juncos, from Argentina and team owner of the Indianapolis based team, said in a press release that he is extremely excited for the opportunity to work with Dykstra and looks forward to contending for race wins and the championship. Juncos Racing will compete in their second Firestone Indy Lights season along with their fifth season in the Pro Mazda Championship (formerly known as the Star Mazda Championship).
“I’m extremely happy to have an Indy Lights engineer and a person with so much experience in motor-racing as Lee Dykstra,” said Juncos. “All I have is positive words to describe Lee and all of the achievements he has made as an engineer and race car designer through his racing career. I’m so proud that Juncos Racing, as a new team this past season in the Indy Lights series will have the privilege to work with Lee. He is the piece of the puzzle that I have been looking for to have a very competitive Indy Lights team. I don’t have any doubt we will be on top of the list in the 2013 season.”
James Hinchcliffe, who finished second in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights championship and now races for Andretti Autosport in the IndyCar Series, had huge praise for Dykstra: “Lee will be a great addition to the Juncos Racing team. I have worked with Lee during two different seasons and he is without a doubt one of the strongest engineers I have worked with. His desire to win is as strong as any driver I’ve met and he will be a great asset to the team” added Hinchcliffe.
After finishing in second place in his first two seasons of Firestone Indy Lights, argentinian driver Esteban Guerrieri will return to his home. Guerrieri announced last week that he had signed a contract with Oil Competición to race the full season of Turismo Carretera. Oil is the same team that hired José María “Pechito” López after he failed to secure a Formula 1 drive when the project USF1 folded.
The 27 year old driver ends an international career of 13 years. He left Argentina after winning the 2000 season of the Fórmula Renault championship and went to Europe, where he would get wins in Italia, also in Formula Renault. Then he would move over to World Series by Renault where he wasn’t able to get the championship even after beating drivers like Daniel Ricciardo and Jean-Eric Vergne. In 2011 he decided to move over the pond, back to America, but not to Argentina, to the United States where he signed with Sam Schmidt Motorsports to race the Lucas Oil entry in the Firestone Indy Lights Series. He failed to beat team-mates Josef Newgarden in 2011 and Tristan Vautier in 2012 for the title, so he couldn’t get the bugdet needed to make the desired jump to IndyCar. The only shot for him to go back to the States is to win in Turismo Carretera and reach awareness betweeen possible sponsors. That’s his plan, at least.
Esteban thanked his new sponsors in this change, that will see him for the first time racing cars with roof for a living. He only raced as a co-driver in some endurance argentinian TC2000 races last seasons: “I take with great pride to come back to race in my country with help of Oil Competición, one of the most important teams in Argentina. And do it in Turismo Carretera, too. I want to thank Oil Combustibles for taking the ride with me in my career” he said.
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