MURRAY & CO REACH MRTI SHOOTOUT FINAL; ASKEW WINS


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Askew, Murray and friends all performed admirably in the final 30 minute race to decide the winner – Photo: Mazda Road To Indy

The inaugural USF2000 Mazda Road To Indy $200,000 Scholarship Shootout came to a close yesterday at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, with a selection of drivers that competed in both this year's Avon Tyres Formula Ford 1600 National Championship and Formula Ford Festival making the final 6.

Across Tuesday and Wednesday, 18 drivers from across the globe were assessed in 4 separate groups across 4 individual on-track sessions per group. After this, the judging panel convened to decide the final 6 that would go forwards into the final assesment – a 15 minute qualifying session followed by a 30 minute simulated race on track between them. Of those 6 finalists, Avon Tyres Formula Ford 1600 National champion and Formula Ford Festival winner Niall Murray was one of the lucky few to be chosen, while he was joined by 3 drivers who also competed at this year's Festival – Oliver White, who was also the representative from the Mountney Super Series, and both of this year's Team USA Scholarship drivers in Oliver Askew and Kyle Kirkwood.

In the end, the final result would see Florida's Askew walk away with the incredible prize of a cheque for $200,000 which will now enable him to tackle next year's USF2000 championship in a bid to progress his racing career further. Speaking to the USF2000 website, after his victory, a speechless Askew eventually said "I prepared extremely hard for this opportunity and it’s a dream come true. I can’t thank everyone enough who is involved in this program: Mazda especially, Cooper Tires, Lucas Oil School of Racing, the judges – there are SO many people that got together to make this happen. It’s great event and I’d also like to thank my family, all of my personal supporters and my competitors for making it extremely tough. That was one of the best races I’ve ever had in car racing. I had a blast and I’m really looking forward to the future."

While he was disappointed to miss out on the ultimate prize, Niall Murray was still upbeat and optimistic about his racing future. In a post via his Facebook page, Niall wrote "Massive congratulations to Oliver on winning the Shootout. Unfortunately, after doing the same times as Oliver yesterday in the same car while being one of the few to learn the track, today I really struggled! In the race we were all within a couple of tenths but in the end Oliver was fastest so congrats and well deserved. I learned so much over the last two days and if the Mazda Motorsports and Road to Indy guys run their race weekends anything like they ran this Shootout, I can see why they're so popular! I would love to come back and try compete in the USF2000 Series for 2017, just have to try find budget now! Thanks so much for everyone's support from back home, I could see on the live videos all the comments and it means so much to me."

From all of us at the BRSCC, we say a very warm congratulations to Oliver, Niall, Oliver and Kyle for reaching the final, as well as the same to Scottish champion Neil MacLennan who was also fortunate enough to reach the Shootout, but ultimately was unable to reach the final despite his best efforts. You've all done us proud and we're really looking forward to seeing your next steps on your racing journeys take you!

Scott Woodwiss (Sources: USF2000.com; Niall Murray Racing)