Mazda to end affiliation with Road to Indy program

by Jordan Groves

After eight years, Mazda announced yesterday that they would be pulling out of the Road to Indy program, consisting of the Indy LightsPro Mazda and USF2000 racing series. The Japanese manufacturer has supported the program, which aims to help drivers progress through the North American single-seater categories to eventually reach the Verizon IndyCar Series, since 2011 and will cease their affiliation at the end of this year’s championships.

In a statement made yesterday, the director of Mazda Motorsports North America, John Doohan, said that the decision to pull out of the program was made so that the manufacturer could focus on other areas of their involvement in motorsports.

“On behalf of Mazda, I’d like to thank Andersen Promotions [the series organizers for Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000] and everyone involved with the Road to Indy for a wonderful nine years,” said Doohan, “but the time has come for Mazda to focus our resources into other areas of our motorsports footprint.

“We have truly enjoyed our role in developing young racers into Indy 500 hopefuls, and we look forward to continuing our relationship with Andersen Promotions through the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup. The 2018 USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights champions will receive Mazda Advancement Scholarships for the 2019 season and the annual $200,000 Mazda Road to Indy Global shootout will also be held in December of this season.

“Motorsports is at the core of Mazda’s DNA and the company remains committed to its variety of motorsports programs in the coming years including our grassroots club racing initiatives, the Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich, the Mazda Road to 24, and Mazda Team Joest.”

Mazda has been an integral part of the Road to Indy program since getting involved eight years ago. The manufacturer has supplied engines to all three of the IndyCar feeder series and has helped fund young drivers’ careers through scholarships awarded to the champions of each series.

A huge number of drivers from across the globe have benefitted from the Road to Indy program over the years. Reigning IndyCar series champion, Josef Newgarden, became the first Road to Indy graduate to win the championship last year. Other notable drivers who have won scholarships during their career include the likes of Spencer PigotSage KaramTristian VautierMatthew Brabham and many more.

Reports indicate that Cooper Tyres, another affiliate of the Road to Indy program, will remain involved for at least the next season, with the tyre manufacturers’ director of Motorsports, Chris Pantani, stating that the company was excited about the upcoming 2019 championships.

“Mazda has been a great supporter of the Road to Indy and integral in the development of this program as the only true path to IndyCar,” said Pantani, “Their contribution will have a lasting positive effect on the series and drivers who have participated in the program.

“Cooper is looking forward to a successful culmination of the 2018 race season and an exciting 2019 season as we continue to work in concert with Andersen Promotions as the presenting sponsor for the Road to Indy program, developing the next generation of open-wheel talent for IndyCar.”

With the program looking likely to continue despite the loss of Mazda, we will have to wait and see whether another major manufacturer or company steps in to fill the void. IndyCar series officials released a statement yesterday stating that there was as yet unannounced plans for the program, before going on to thank Mazda for their massive efforts over the last few years.

The statement read: “The Road to Indy program has staged great racing over the years while developing teams and drivers for the Verizon IndyCar Series, and that will continue with plans soon to be announced. Mazda has been a transformative partner, and IndyCar is appreciative of its many contributions.”

The Indy Lights, Pro Mazda and USF2000 championships will conclude their current seasons during the IndyCar Grand Prix of Portland race weekend from September 1-2.

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