A two-day test in the USA is on offer to one of the young hopefuls on the Formula Ford grid. Photo:

Formula Ford drivers looking to progress their track careers in the USA are to benefit from a fresh link with the renowned Mazda Road to Indy programme. Successfully trialled in 2012, the incentive scheme will see a driver from the Dunlop MSA Formula Ford Championship of Great Britain selected to win an all-expenses-paid trip to the USA to take a free full-day test in a USF2000 single-seater, as well as a further full day’s testing in a Pro Mazda (formerly Star Mazda) car.

The Mazda Road to Indy Formula Ford Driver of the Year will be chosen by a panel of experts comprising Jason Penix, INDYCAR director of the Mazda Road to Indy, Dan Andersen, owner of USF2000 and Pro Mazda, Chris Harfield and Joe Williams from WH Sports Group, and Sam Roach, director of Formula Ford championship promoter RacingLine.

“We are all very excited about the opportunity to once again be part of such a well-regarded driver development programme,” said Sam Roach. “Drivers who cut their teeth in Formula Ford have gone on to stellar careers in Formula 1 – Jenson Button being our most recent World Champion – and also in INDYCAR, with Josef Newgarden the latest to join the grid. We very much hope that our renewed link with Mazda Road to Indy will give all our drivers new options to explore for the furtherance of their careers.

“The reigning Formula Ford Champion, Antti Buri, won the Road To Indy scholarship prize in 2012 and I know that his trip to the USA to test at Indianapolis was the highlight of his season, and a major boost for his profile and career.”

Jason Penix, INDYCAR, added: “We are excited to once again offer the top Formula Ford driver a scholarship package to come to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and test the USF2000 and Pro Mazda cars. The Mazda Road to Indy is a programme unlike any other in motorsports and we want to attract the best drivers our sport has to offer. Formula Ford does a great job of preparing these young drivers and the Road to Indy is in place to ensure they have a clear, defined path up to the IZOD IndyCar Series with the chance of securing scholarships at each level along the way.”

Mazda Road to Indy representatives will attend Formula Ford rounds this season to meet drivers and their families to explain the programme and how to become involved. They will also host a special event for Formula Ford drivers and their families at the Toronto Grand Prix (July 13/14), in order to meet team principals and watch all four of the Road to Indy series first-hand.

The programme is part of INDYCAR’s development ladder system aimed at helping drivers graduate to the next level. This year’s USF2000 champion wins a fully funded scholarship to compete in the Pro Mazda Championship; the Pro Mazda champion wins a fully funded scholarship to race in Firestone Indy Lights; and the Indy Lights champion receives up to a $1 million scholarship to race in the IZOD IndyCar Series.

There are several Formula Ford graduates currently bidding to follow in the wheeltracks of Josef Newgarden into the IZOD IndyCar Series. Contesting USF2000 this season are Neil Alberico and Jeroen Slaghekke, while Ireland’s Peter Dempsey is a frontrunner in Indy Lights. Formula Ford GB 2009 vice-champion Newgarden went on to win the 2011 Indy Lights title, earning himself a seat in IndyCar. Now into his second IndyCar season, Josef competes against fellow ex-Formula Ford drivers Mike Conway and Charlie Kimball.


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