Archive for the ‘Pro Mazda’ Category

Why third-gen Brabham could be next-gen IndyCar star

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

12.10.13 (via RACER.com) – It took far too long, but at Fontana in October, I finally met Geoff Brabham, albeit briefly, just before the press conference announcing his son's graduation to the Indy Lights series next year. My colleague Marshall Pruett kindly introduced us and I was about to tell Mr. B. that he'd been a hero of mine, but I restrained myself because 1) it's a bit tragic to be saying stuff like that at my age; 2) I didn't want to embarrass the man himself who, at 61, seems as self-effacing as ever; and 3) it isn'tquite as true as it should be…

You see, Geoff, eldest son of the great Sir Jack Brabham, has become a hero of mine only in retrospect. At the time when he was dominating the IMSA Camel GT Championship driving the Electramotive Nissans, he was actually more of an anti-hero for this pimply-faced youth. I couldn't get my head around how the legendary Porsche 962s and the beautiful Tony Southgate-designed Jaguar XJRs could have their asses kicked so regularly and so comprehensively by a car that looked like it was styled by a 10-year-old with a cardboard box and a blunt knife.

By 1991, on the back of Brabham's fourth straight Camel GT title, I'd come to accept that the Electramotive/Lola design was as effective as its engine was powerful…and that the dude doing the driving was pretty damn special. While Geoff modestly said at the time, “There are a lot of drivers who could win in the Nissan,” eventual two-time Indy 500 winner Arie Luyendyk wasn't so sure. After sampling the Nissan in 1989, the Dutchman remarked: “It's a lot harder to drive this car to the maximum than Geoff appears to make it….” Surely the sign of a true artist.

With two Sebring 12 Hours wins and a Le Mans 24 Hour win (with Peugeot in 1993), Brabham will be remembered as a sports car ace worldwide; but it's the four straight IMSA titles, that has earned him truly legendary status in U.S. sports car racing. A big question for me, and I suspect countless others – including maybe Geoff himself – is whether he could have become a star in Indy cars, too? He certainly starred in them on occasion, but that's not the same thing.

Part of the problem he encountered in his six years running full time in the CART series was his past. At the time Brabham was trying to make it in this rarefied branch of the sport, the CART series was split around 50/50 between road racing and ovals, with any bias tending toward the latter. That hardly worked in Geoff's favor, for after leaving his native Australia in 1976 as domestic Formula 2 champion, he headed to Britain for two years. After then moving to America in '78, he put his heart and soul into Super Vee, both the short-lived USAC-sanctioned Mini-Indy Series and the more significant and prestigious Bosch/Valvoline series, winning the latter title in '79. That gave him his first oval starts in low-powered open-wheelers, but he then returned to his road racing roots, spending two years in Can-Am. That ultimately proved successful, too, as he took the 1981 championship…but added nothing to his minimal oval experience.

That '81 season, Geoff had simultaneously become an Indy car rookie and, driving for Dan Gurney's All American Racers, he stunned the series regulars with pole at his second race, Riverside, and second on the grid for his third race, in Mexico City. We're talking about a pretty remarkable talent, then. Yet his debut Indy car race had been the season opener at Phoenix, and that was his first taste of an oval while having more than 200hp at his back…and he now had 900-plus.

Could Brabham have succeeded, actually got to the point where he could say he'd masteredoval racing? Almost certainly. Ultimately, it comes down to application and willingness to learn. And just as Rick Mears had forced himself to become a strong road racer, progress only stymied by his horrendous leg injuries incurred at Sanair in '84, there's no reason to believe Brabham's skill set couldn't have expanded in the opposite direction, given more time. Time, however, was not on Geoff's side. Aged 29 when he made his Indy car debut, he was always going to be playing catch-up with the kids for whom oval races had been ingrained since the first time they could turn a wheel.

Although curiously adept at both the Pocono tri-oval and the Michigan superspeedway, and twice finishing top-five in the Indy 500, the fact remains that of the 10 podium finishes Brabham achieved in his 92 Indy car starts, eight came on tracks requiring right turns as well as left. By the end of 1987, despite taking eighth in the CART points standings (for the third time), he was out of a ride. Team owner Rick Galles was going to be running a one-car outfit in 1988, and he had his sights set on a driver 10 years Geoff's junior, a superstar in the making by the name of Al Unser Jr.

Brabham was gutted at having to leave Galles Racing, especially with brilliant race engineer Tony Cicale now on board to help turn the squad into winners. But the Florida-domiciled Aussie had too much pride to hang around just to be part of the Indy car scene, and so avoided the mistake so many drivers in their mid-30s make when their best opportunity slips away. Instead of spending a few bitter years licking his wounds while driving an inferior car, Geoff changed disciplines, started over…and became the best sports car racer in the country.

There's little chance of Geoff's son Matt needing to make that career switch. Right now this American of Australian descent is hot property because he's not only seriously fast but also because, in or out of the cockpit, he displays maturity that belies his 18 years.

A karting hotshot in Australia, Matt then showed his potential in Australian Formula Ford where, despite competing in only nine of the 23 races in the 2011 FF championship, he won two of them and finished runner-up in two more. His first experience of slicks and wings came this side of the Pacific in USF2000…and he promptly won the 2012 championship.

Now, to be fair, another very talented American, Spencer Pigot, who was his teammate at Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing, won eight races to Brabham's four that season. But it's difficult to emphasize enough how much these junior formulas are about learning on the job at a huge rate – and Pigot was in his second year in the category. Also, by the time Pigot dominated the final event, the double-header at Virginia International Raceway, Brabham had only to nurse a healthy lead in the championship, which he did adequately with cautious runs to fourth and eighth that weekend.

None of this is a slight against Spencer who, unfairly under the radar, is one of the most accomplished open-wheel racers on the Mazda Road to Indy system. But it does highlight the fact that young Brabham, in only his second full season racing cars, could drive with his brains in the manner of a wily veteran in order to seal the deal.

 

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Grist to auction Andretti-signed helmet at PRI for SickKids Foundation

Monday, December 9th, 2013

12.9.13 – Bell Racing USA LLC, the world’s premier auto racing Helmet Company, is partnering with Garett Grist to auction a special custom painted helmet at the 2013 PRI Trade Show. The helmet was worn by Garett Grist in the 2013 Toronto Cooper Tires USF2000 race and is signed by Grist’s teammates and IndyCar drivers as well as Andretti Autosport® team owner Michael Andretti. All proceeds from the auction will be donated directly to SickKids Foundation – a Toronto-based organization that the 18-year-old Grimsby, Ontario native has supported throughout his racing career.

The helmet will be on display at Bell Racing USA booth 917 at the 2013 Performance Racing Industry Trade Show in Indianapolis, Indiana. Attendees at the show will have an opportunity to bid on the helmet via silent auction during show hours from December 12-14..

The SickKids Foundation, established in 1972, raises funds on behalf of The Hospital for Sick Children. Fundraising is driven by the belief that improving the health and well-being of children is one of the most powerful ways to improve society. In the fiscal year that ended March 31, 2013, the SickKids Foundation invested $61.3 million in child health research, learning and care. The organization’s mission is to inspire communities to invest in health and scientific advances to improve the lives of children and their families in Canada and around the world.

“The opportunity for Bell to partner with Garett Grist to support SickKids and raise money to help advance their mission of creating healthier children and a better world is very exciting and rewarding, said Kyle Kietzmann, President, Bell Racing USA LLC. We appreciate the support of Garett and his teammates to allow Bell to provide racers attending the PRI trade show with the chance to own this collectible racing helmet with all proceeds going to a fantastic cause.”

Garett Grist

Garett Grist, from Grimsby, Ontario, spent 10 years racing karts, before moving onto Formula Ford in 2011, competing in both Ontario and Quebec, where he set a new track record at Canadian Motorsports Park. Garett made his US racing debut with Bryan Herta Autosport in the F1600 Formula F Series in 2012 and was selected as a Team Canada Racing scholarship winner that same year. In 2013, the 18-year-old joined Andretti Autosport® to campaign in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Series presented by Mazda Championship, part of the Mazda Road to Indy.

Outside of the track, Grist devotes much of his racing effort supporting SickKids Hospital in Toronto. For the past three seasons, GG has worked with Bell Racing and the hospital’s patients to create helmet drawings which are used as inspiration for the final helmet design.  

Bell Racing USA LLC

Bell helmets have been worn and trusted by more champions, in all forms of racing, than any other helmet brand. The Bell name is synonymous with quality, innovation, safety, performance and engineering excellence. Bell auto racing helmets are sold to professional and amateur drivers through a network of specialty safety equipment dealers and distributors, as well as individual retail customers. Bell Racing USA is located in Champaign, Illinois.  

Bell’s products are designed and built to exceed industry specifications for helmets including standards developed and published by Snell, SFI and the FIA. 

 

 

Zach Veach nabs community service award

Thursday, October 31st, 2013

10.31.13 – RePLAY XD driver Zach Veach has been selected as the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights KeyBank Community Leader for being the driver who "best displays a passion for community service and community outreach." The 18-year-old is active in many public outreach campaigns and continues to pour his energy into philanthropy all throughout the year. Just in 2013, Veach was involved with organizations such as STEM, Racing for Kids, Racing for Cancer, No Bull (anti-bullying campaign), Miles Ahead and much, much more. Along with the honors of being a leader in the community, the Ohio native will receive a check for $3,000 for his efforts. Veach will return to Andretti Autosport for his sophomore season of Indy Lights in 2014.

United Fiber & Data Announces 2014 Sponsorship Plans

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

10.19.2013 – Current sponsor United Fiber & Data (UFD) announced today that they will expand their current associate sponsorship role with the reigning champions by becoming the primary sponsor on the No. 27 IndyCar driven by James Hinchcliffe as well as Indy Lights driver Matthew Brabham for 2014.

IZOD IndyCar Series multiple race winner James Hinchcliffe will return to the team with which he captured his first career victory. The reigning series champions, Andretti Autosport, confirmed today that the Canadian fan favorite will pilot the No. 27 machine which will don the colors of UFD, a tech company, founded by three members of the multi-platinum rock band LIVE and their Think Loud Development company.

UFD will also serve as a major associate on the No. 25 and No. 28 cars piloted by Marco Andretti and Ryan Hunter-Reay, respectively. In addition, Andretti announced earlier today that the company will serve as the primary sponsor for Pro Mazda Champion Matthew Brabham as he transitions to Indy Lights in 2014. The third-generation racer will also showcase the colors of UFD.

Based in York, Penn., United Fiber & Data offers a complete suite of all-fiber networking and broadband solutions and also served as a major associate sponsor of the No. 25 machine of Marco Andretti for the 2013 season.

United Fiber & Data will feature a 400-mile fiber optic line running between New York and Virginia and will operate out of different data centers across Pennsylvania (Allentown, Lancaster, Reading and York).

 

 

Viso carries Venezuelan flag through program

Monday, October 14th, 2013

10.14.13 (via INDYCAR.com) – E.J. Viso makes it a priority to watch a portion of both Pro Mazda Championship races at Houston, frequently checking the lap monitor in the Andretti Autosport pit to gauge the progress of a particular driver.

Viso, who also competed on the 1.634-mile, 10-turn circuit at Reliant Park in the two 90-lap IZOD IndyCar Series races, is carrying the banner for protégé Diego Ferreira through Team Viso Venezuela. The initiative, loosely started about seven years ago and solidified in the past two years, promotes bringing young talent to compete in the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system with the aid of Venezuelan supporters.

“I come from a beautiful country and to give back energy and to help talent coming from there, to help someone be the next generation star is a dream,” says Viso with a nod to National Hispanic Heritage Month.

Sebastian Saavedra of Colombia and Oriol Servia of Spain are other Hispanics competing in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

“We’ve been through many political, financial difficulties, but I’ve never let go of the love for my country and I’m a big supporter,” continues Viso, who drives the Team Venezuela/PDVSA/CITGO car for Andretti Autosport. “I am a lover of my country and, in a way, I think that my country feels that and that’s the way it thinks back at me. This is why my career will be 23 years of consecutive racing. This is saying that we’ve been doing something right.”

Ferreira, 19, finished second in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires standings for Juncos Racing. Viso also is representing countrymen Camilo Schmidt and Bruno Palli, both of whom competed in Pro Mazda in 2012, in addition to Diego Borelli and Sebastian Fernandez, who are competing in karting in Europe. There’s also an indirect association with Jorge Goncalvez, who is sixth in the Firestone Indy Lights standings heading into the season finale Oct. 19 at Auto Club Speedway.

“In a way, I’m even doing this more for my country than the kids,” Viso says. “Don’t get me wrong, they are youngsters coming up who love racing. I see it differently as the future of my country and I see my country as the place that I love. I see giving back to my country will be through them, so I want to teach them the fundamentals and give them all the coaching and ideas I can. I’m pretty sure they’ll go further.”

 

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Don’t Miss Out: Week of October 14, 2013

Monday, October 14th, 2013

10.14.13 – Want in on the action? This is the place to find where you can see the Andretti Autosport drivers in action OFF the track. Be sure to show us your photos by sending them to our Twitter – @FollowAndretti or Facebook. (All times are in PACIFIC Time Zone)
 

 

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16

E.J. Viso at Neiman Marcus
6550 Topanga Canyon Blvd,
Woodland Hills, 91303
@ 5 – 7 p.m.

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17

Marco Andretti at Albertson's
8850 Foothill Blvd,
Rancho Cucamonga, 91730
@ 4 – 6 p.m.

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 18

Zach Veach Q&A
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 3:15 p.m.

Zach Veach & Carlos Munoz
Firestone Indy Lights Autographs
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 3:30 – 4 p.m.

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 19

Ryan Hunter-Reay, E.J. Viso,
Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe
Chevy Q&A
Chevy Display in INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 12:45 p.m.

Ryan Hunter-Reay, E.J. Viso,
Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe
IZOD IndyCar Series Autographs
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 1 – 2 p.m.
 

Garett Grist: Canadian karting guru

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

10.2.13 – Andretti Autosport USF2000 driver Garett Grist has been keeping busy between his first career win at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in August and his fourth podium of the year clinched at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca earlier this month: The 18-year-old racer has gone back to his karting roots to coach a young racer, Gianfranco Mazzaferro, in the Rotax Max Junior class at the ASN Canada FIA Canadian National Karting Championships hosted at Goodwood Kartways just north of Toronto, Ontario Canada.

Garett, who holds the 2009 Canadian National Championship title in the Rotax Max Junior class, won at the very same facility where he coached Mazzaferro to victory. Both Gianfranco and Garett were rookies in the junior class when they each won the title in their respective championships at Goodwood.

“Goodwood means a lot to me because winning junior myself then coaching the winning driver in junior a few years later when the Canadian Nationals returned to Goodwood was a great feeling,” Grist said.

The USF2000 race winner and Mazzaferro will next head to New Orleans for the Rotax Max Challenge Grand Finals taking place in early November, the first time in the 14-year history of the event that it will be run on US soil. Grist knows a bit about being a rookie at the worldwide final – GG competed for the world title in Egypt (2009) and Italy (2010).

“It is the best of the best from Rotax Max Challenge series around the world, and it’s an event you can learn a lot from,” Garett noted. “As a rookie at the Grand Finals, I know how Gianfranco is going to feel, and I will be there to help him the whole time. I am really looking forward to his race, and I think he can achieve a great result.”

Before the Grimsby, Ontario native helps his young driver to another victory, Garett will head to Houston, TX for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda Championship doubleheader finale this weekend; Grist currently sits third in the championship points standings.

 

 

Zach Veach’s column: Learning the Texas way

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

10.2.13 (via RACER.com) – They say everything is bigger in Texas, but that's not the case for the Houston Grand Prix around Reliant Park! With it being a 1.7-mile, 10-turn course, it'll be one of our shortest courses we've ran on this year in Firestone Indy Lights. This means it going to be very physical; the straightaways are pretty much corners as well so you wont have too much time to catch your breath. And with the Houston heat of 90+ degrees it's going to make a great proving ground to see how conditioned drivers are.

It's been over a month since our last race at Baltimore, since then I have had a lot of time to look ahead for the next race. Baltimore was a tough weekend for me as whole, when our race was decided for us just after the start when the electrical coils on the right side of the engine failed exiting Turn 1 on lap 1. After a quick pit stop, the problem was fixed and I was sent back out, but by that time our day was pretty much over. That's racing though, sometimes you're just going to have a bad weekend, and once you take away what you learned from it, there is no sense dwelling on it for too long.

Leaving Baltimore, I knew that the next race on the schedule was Houston, and the one thing I've heard over and over about this place is how tough it can be with the heat and humidity. So I made it my biggest goal to train as much as possible in the heat to prepare myself for that. This idea ranged from hot yoga, sauna weight training, and long distant running during the hottest parts of the day. But with having a month off, the worry of becoming “rusty” in the car grew ever bigger.

So, I was very excited to hear that we had a test planned at MSR Houston only a week before our race. This was going to give me the perfect combination to test seeing how I was conditioning wise, and knock the cobwebs off too to be in top shape for the race.

 

Read more…

 

 

 

Don’t Miss Out: Week of September 30, 2013

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

10.1.13 – Want in on the action? This is the place to find where you can see the Andretti Autosport drivers in action OFF the track. Be sure to show us your photos by sending them to our Twitter – @FollowAndretti or Facebook. (All times are in CENTRAL Time Zone)
 
 
WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 2
 
E.J. Viso appearance
Neiman Marcus
2600 Post Oak Blvd, 77056
@ 6 – 8 p.m.
 
 
THURSDAY, OCTOBER 3
 
Ryan Hunter-Reay AutoNation appearance
Chevrolet Gulf Freeway Store
13800 Gulf Freeway, 77034
@ 1 – 2:30 p.m.
 
E.J. Viso appearance
CITGO
Location TBA
@ 2 – 4 p.m.
 
Marco Andretti appearance 
Kroger
5150 Buffalo Speedway, 77005
@ 4 – 6 p.m.
 
Ryan Hunter-Reay hosting
The Yellow Party at Reliant Center
E.J. Viso, Marco Andretti
& James Hinchcliffe attending
Reliant Park Stn NB, 77054
@ 7 – 10 p.m.
 
 
FRIDAY, OCTOBER 4
 
Zach Veach Q&A
INDYCAR Fan Village Stage
@ 11:45 a.m. – 12 p.m.
 
Zach Veach & Carlos Munoz
Firestone Indy Lights Autographs
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 12 – 12:30 p.m.
 
Garett Grist, Shelby Blackstock, Matthew Brabham
USF2000/Pro Mazda Autographs
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 2:30 – 3 p.m.
 
Ryan Hunter-Reay, E.J. Viso,
Marco Andretti, James Hinchcliffe
IZOD IndyCar Series Autographs
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 5:45 – 6:45 p.m.
 
 
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 6
 
Matthew Brabham & Shelby Blackstock Q&A
INDYCAR Fan Village
@ 11 – 11:15 a.m.
 

A Roundtable with the Andretti stable

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

10.1.13 (via INDYCAR Nation) - No team supports the Mazda Road to Indy like Andretti Autosport. Not content to seek glory in the IZOD IndyCar Series, they are also involved in each rung of the open wheel ladder, from USF2000 through Firestone Indy Lights.

With that in mind, we asked some of Andretti’s up-and-coming drivers from each level of the ladder to give their thoughts on the IndyCar title hunt, the season finale, and their favorite memory of the year so far. We were joined by Zach Veach (Firestone Indy Lights), Matthew Brabham and Shelby Blackstock (Pro Mazda Championship), and Garett Grist (Cooper Tires USF2000) for a quick Q&A on these topics:

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Question 1: Which driver do you predict will win this year’s IZOD IndyCar Series championship?

Zach Veach, Firestone Indy Lights: Personally I would like to see Marco Andretti be able to take home his first IndyCar Championship. He's worked extremely hard this year, and I feel like he deserves to definitely be in the fight for it!

Matthew Brabham, Pro Mazda: I predict that Helio Castroneves will win the championship. He has a great advantage in the points over everyone at the moment, and I think he can pretty much taste being the IndyCar champion. So I think he is extremely motivated to push hard in the next three races and clinch his first title.

Shelby Blackstock, Pro Mazda: I think Helio Castroneves will win this year's IZOD IndyCar Series Championship.

Garett Grist, USF2000: I think Helio Castroneves will win the championship, but I wish it was Scott Dixon or one of the Andretti Autosport drivers.

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Question #2: Which driver do you think will triumph at Fontana?

Veach: I think we'll see all of the Andretti cars towards the front, but I have to say I think Ryan Hunter-Reay will be one of the strongest at Fontana. Andretti has fast cars on the super speedway, and Ryan showed his pace well last year being able to fight until the end to win the championship.

Brabham: Ryan Hunter-Reay is my pick to win at Fontana. I feel like he’s just out of range of the championship at the moment but has something to prove to everyone being the defending IndyCar champion. I believe at Fontana he will be the one to put it all out on the line and leave nothing on the table. He will be able to take advantage of those thinking too much about their championship; it’s all or nothing for him at the moment.

Blackstock: I think Ryan Hunter-Reay will do very well at Fontana

Grist: I think it’s RHR with the triumph in Fontana.

For the final question and their answers, read more here.