Motorsport: Allure of US trip calls bold Kiwis
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Opportunity for young driver to kick start their overseas racing career
One young New Zealand racing driver will soon have the chance to emulate IndyCar star Scott Dixon.
The NZ Formula Ford Championship has launched ‘‘Mazda Road to Indy’’ — an initiative that will see its 2015-16 champion launched into an international shootout to kickstart their overseas racing career.
The prize: a $200,000 fully funded drive in the American Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship.
“We’re very excited about this opportunity for Formula Ford drivers in New Zealand,” said Ford series convener Steve Edwards.
“Single-seater racing at this level is so important for young drivers looking for a motorsport career. It’s a natural progression from kart sport, and now the Mazda Road to Indy opens a door to an under-25-year-old Kiwi driver to not just further their career in the States, but also give them great international exposure and a snapshot of racing in America.”
The programme encompasses the four levels of open-wheel racing in North America. The USF2000 Series is the beginning of the ladder. From there competitors move to the second-tier Pro Mazda Championship, then the Indy Lights Series.
Although similar to Formula Ford, the USF2000 Championship provides racers the opportunity to experience wings and slicks racing, which can only be found in New Zealand in the Toyota Racing Series.
Widely regarded as the final stepping stone to IndyCars, the Indy Lights Series has launched many champions into the top level of American open-wheel racing. New Zealand’s Dixon won the Indy Lights Series in 2000 and made the step into CART racing before winning the 2003 Indycar Series in his debut year.
Dixon’s career has included one Indianapolis 500 victory and four IndyCar titles, the most recent coming just one month ago at Sonoma Raceway. With no intentions of slowing down, Dixon could soon find himself with another young Kiwi on his heels.
Jamie Conroy. Picture/ Simon Chapman
The allure of the Formula 1 circus has meant many young New Zealanders avoid the American open-wheel scene. Formula Ford winners Nick Cassidy, Mitch Evans and Richie Stanaway have competed successfully in European-based Formula championships. However, the new initiative attracts many young Kiwis to a career in North America.
Jamie Conroy, the 2014 Formula Ford champion and Toyota Racing Series driver, recently voiced his desire to compete in America. On a recent trip the youngster attended several IndyCar races and tested a USF2000 at Putnam Park Road Course. He isn’t the only New Zealander to attempt to break into the American ranks.
New Zealand Indy Lights 100 racing car driver Wade Cunningham. Picture/Supplied.
Wade Cunningham burst onto the scene in 2005 taking the Indy Lights Series on debut. Cunningham couldn’t emulate that same success despite more wins in 2006 and 2007. He managed five races in the 2011 and 2012 IndyCar Series but he couldn’t secure a full-time drive.
The six-round 2015-16 New Zealand Formula Ford Championship gets under way at Timaru International Raceway on November 15, racing alongside the Toyota Racing Series at selected rounds.