Drivers in next week’s shootout for a USF2000 scholarship will be judged by a panel that includes current Mazda sportscar aces Joel Miller and Jonathan Bomarito, IndyCar rookie Spencer Pigot and Indy car race winner Scott Goodyear.
The 18 drivers representing nine countries (for full list, click here) will convene at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca to compete in the inaugural Mazda Road To Indy $200K Scholarship Shootout. A panel of seven judges is in place to select the inaugural winner, who will earn a seat in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda in 2017.
The 18 have been selected from an initial pool of 400 drivers across 20 junior open-wheel racing championships and karting series from around the world. While outright speed will be one factor in the judges’ decisions, other criteria is in place to select a candidate that will make a good overall Mazda and series representative.
The panel of judges will be led by Joel Miller, assisted by Spencer Pigot, Jonathan Bomarito, Andrew Carbonell (a Mazda factory driver in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge) and Scott Goodyear. Rounding out the panel will be Mazda Motorsports’ representatives Kyle Kimball, Operations Manager, and Jim Bowie, owner of Brandrenaline, Mazda Motorsports’ agency of record in the U.S. and Canada.
"The MRTI Shootout at Mazda Raceway will be the first of its kind taking champions from around the world and introducing them to the MRTI ladder,” said Miller. “The goal is to find the next driver who can win at each level of the ladder and move on to IndyCar. Mazda and its partners have put together a clear path which does not exist anywhere else and this Shootout is the first step.
“Each judge on the panel has been part of various shootouts in their own motorsport careers and thus know what is needed to find the best during the on-track sessions,”
Drivers will showcase their skills on the 2.238-mile road course in equally prepared cars from the Lucas Oil School of Racing which features Ray GR-RSC open-wheel cars on Cooper tires and powered by Elite Engines’ 2-liter 140hp powerplants and sequential gearboxes controlled by Pro Shift paddle shifter systems with rev-matching capability.
Shootout activities kick off on Monday, December 5, with an orientation day featuring an overview of the Lucas Oil School of Racing cars as well as car selections and driver fittings, followed by a driver’s meeting and an introduction to the judging panel.
Track activities will begin on Tuesday. Drivers will be divided into four groups, each receiving three on-track sessions interspersed with instructor feedback. Following an initial on-track session on Wednesday morning, the judging panel will be tasked with narrowing the field in the first elimination round. The continuing drivers will take part in a qualifying session followed by a 30-minute race after which judges will convene for a final time to select the winner.
Additional attendees will include representatives from Andersen Promotions – including COO Michelle Kish and USF2000/Pro Mazda Race Director Scot Elkins – Chris Pantani, Director of Event Marketing and Motorsports for Cooper Tires, and Lucas Oil Racing School founder Neil Enerson and COO Todd Snyder.