Mazda Road to Indy Season Begins at St. Petersburg
 March 24, 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.

Local Teams Highlight Pro Mazda Field
An impressive mix of accomplished veterans and impressive rookies characterize a strong 18-car entry for this weekend’s pair of Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires races which will comprise the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Local race fans will have plenty of favorites from which to choose, with two of the more prominent teams, Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing and Team Pelfrey, based within a few miles of the downtown street circuit.

St. Petersburg-based Cape Motorsports, run by brothers Dominic and Nicholas Cape, will field three cars for Californian Neil Alberico, who recorded four podium finishes en route to third place in the championship standings during his rookie campaign in 2014; Frenchman Florian Latorre, who is stepping up to Pro Mazda after winning last year’s USF2000 championship and claiming a MAZDASPEED Driver Development Scholarship; and Canadian Daniel Burkett, who dominated the 2014 Atlantic Championship Series in addition to earning several top-five finishes in USF2000.

Team Pelfrey will make the short trip from its base in Palmetto with a pair of cars for Mexico’s Patricio “Pato” O’Ward and Uruguay’s Santiago “Santi” Urrutia. O’Ward is the youngest driver in the field at age 15 but impressed last year by winning a round of the French F4 Championship during a partial campaign, then proving fastest of all in a Mazda Road to Indy test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course.

Other potent protagonists will include Juncos Racing, Andretti Autosport and JDC MotorSports. The lineup for last year’s championship-winning team, Juncos Racing, will include 2014 race winners Garett Grist, from Grimsby, Ont., Canada and Jose Gutierrez, from Monterrey, Mexico, as well as promising rookies Will Owen, from Castle Rock, Colo., a USF2000 race winner last year, and Frenchman Timothé Buret. The Andretti Autosport challenge will stem from Malaysian Weiron Tan, who recently won two Cooper Tires Winterfest preseason races, and Canadian Dalton Kellett, while JDC’s stable will include Kyle Connery, from Vero Beach, Fla., Englishman Raoul Owens and the inspirational Michael Johnson, 22, from Flint, Mich., who drives a car equipped with hand controls after being paralyzed following a motor cycle racing accident at age 12.

The first of two races for the Allied Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will start at 1:30 pm ET on Saturday. The green flag for Race Two will fly at 9:50 am on Sunday, March 29. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available at promazda.com.
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