Team USA Scholarship winner Michai Stephens has joined start-up USF2000 squad RJB for the 2016 season in what he described as "the chance of a lifetime".
The 23-year-old American, who starred in the Walter Hayes Trophy and Formula Ford Festival events at Silverstone and Brands Hatch respectively both in 2014 and ’15, was confirmed as a 2016 USF2000 rookie at the Performance Racing Industry show today.
He told Motorsport.com: “I’ve been at every race I could attend on the Mazda Road To Indy over the past 12 months and gotten to know people. Now I’ve got this chance, I have to make sure they remember me.”
Stephens, who is nursing a broken thumb from being T-boned by a rival during the Walter Hayes Trophy race, said: “As long as the doctors clear me – and it is getting better every day – I should be cleared to test by mid-January. I’ve got 90 percent mobility back in the thumb, so I can’t wait to drive this car.”
Clint McMahan, 2014 SCCA F600 Challenge champion, has already been announced as Stephens’ teammate in the squad founded by Ryan Barth in 2011 as an F600 outfit. The team made its exploratory USF2000 debut at the Mid-Ohio rounds last August.
“Already Clint and I are getting along well,” said Stephens. “He’s a slightly older guy and that maturity is so helpful. We’ve all lived long enough to form our outlooks on life, but we’re still young enough to be both jumping at this fairytale opportunity. And even our comments on car dynamics are very similar.
“Overall, I’d just say that everyone involved is very positive but also, because we’re all new to these cars, very open to taking on this challenge.”
Fred Edwards, CEO of RJB's principal backer Metalloid Corporation, added: “Michai is the type of individual we want to help grow within the racing community.
“Based on his short racing career so far, he has clearly been blessed with natural talent and a burning desire to become a champion. We feel Michai will be a great ambassador in and out of the car for RJB Motorsports and Metalloid Corporation.”
Stephens says he harbors hopes that his partnership with RJB is a long-lasting one. He remarked: “It hasn’t even been discussed whether we may continue, but the overall picture is a positive one and it could go further. We’ve got to start somewhere and, until you start, you don’t know where it’s going to end.”