Two Australian racing drivers hoping to make a name for themselves in the IndyCar Series in the future have spoken of how Will Power has been an inspiration for them whilst growing up.
Cameron Shields and Hunter McElrea, both a part of the Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires programme this year, have claimed in a recent interview that the reigning Indianapolis 500 champion and former series champion, Power, has been a major influence in their careers and that they wish to emulate his success in the future.
For eighteen-year-old Shields, Power’s influence has not just come from being a fellow Australian. In fact, Shields is from the same town as Power. Cameron is a native of Toowoomba in Queensland and, as a result, looks to Power as proof that he can make it in motorsports if he works hard enough.
“To see that another boy from a small town like Toowoomba has made it all this way and just recently winning the Indy 500 as well is absolutely incredible and really inspiring for myself,” Shields said in a recent interview, “I know I can make it if I work as hard as he did.”
Shields switched from racing motocross to Go Karts and went on to graduate to single seaters later in his career. Having moved from Formula Ford to Formula 4, Shields continued his rise into the Australian Formula 3 championship, earning himself a runner-up spot in the championship last year after seven race victories.
In September last year, Shields took part in the annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he sampled an Indy Pro 2000 car. He then took part in a USF-17 test at Homestead-Miami Speedway in December and set the second-fastest lap of the test. Cameron is now hoping that his efforts will lead to a race seat on the Road to Indy championship ladder this year.
Shields’ fellow Australian, Hunter McElrea is in a similar position heading into 2019. The reigning Australian Formula Ford champion took part in the two USF2000 tests at Indianapolis and Homestead and set the best lap-times at both events. In December, the nineteen-year-old, also from Queensland, took part in and won the Mazda $200K Scholarship shootout which has secured him a spot on the USF2000 grid for 2019. However, he has yet to confirm which team he will drive for.
After his USF2000 test, McElrea stated how much he enjoyed driving the new car and went on to mention how drivers from his side of the world had inspired him to pursue his racing career when he was younger.
“These cars are so cool, so different from what I’m used to,” said McElrea in December.
“I’ve always wanted to come to America and race [in] INDYCAR,” Hunter added. “To win the Indianapolis 500 and become INDYCAR champion would be my ultimate goal, so guys like Will Power, Scott Dixon [that] I always looked up to, guys who have done that and for sure I would love to repeat that.”
Both drivers would also go on to voice their support for the potential return of an IndyCar race at Surfers Paradise. A potential 2020 race date is still on the table between IndyCar and the government in Queensland and a decision is expected within the next two months.
Cameron and Hunter both spoke about how they had previously seen IndyCars on the streets of Surfers Paradise during the mid-2000s when the championship still raced there.
“I did go down to the Gold Coast and watch the Indy there,” Shields said. “Seeing [Will Power] put it on pole there for the years I went [2006 and 2007], that was incredible. Unfortunately, his luck didn’t follow throughout the races, but that was really good and that’s where it started.”
McElrea, on the other hand, does not have as vivid memories of his previous visit to see IndyCar at Surfers Paradise. Instead, Hunter wishes to make some new memories should the championship return in the future.
“I vaguely remember how cool and loud [the cars] were and how many people were there and how much the city changed when it was there,” Hunter said. “I was quite young, but it was cool memories. It’d be awesome for them to be back there, for sure.”
The championships comprising the Road to Indy program will get underway as support events for the IndyCar season-opener, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10. Both Shields and McElrea will hope to be on the grid at St. Pete to try and get one step closer to emulating their heroes.