Mazda Road to Indy Drivers Set for Spring Training in Alabama
 March 2, 2016| 
  • Series News
Cosmopolitan Field will Converge in Birmingham for Final Pre-Season Test

PALMETTO, Fla. – Almost 50 up-and-coming race car drivers representing no fewer than 18 nations will converge this week on Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala., for the official Mazda Road to Indy Spring Training Test – the final opportunity for teams to prepare for the following week’s season-opening races on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla.

All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy will be in attendance, with Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competitors taking to the scenic 2.3-mile road course on Saturday, March 5, and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda fields sharing track time on Sunday and Monday, March 6-7.

The Mazda Road to Indy provides a clear path for teams and drivers with scholarship prizes at every level to assist in their progression from karting through USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights to the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. More than $3.6 million will be up for grabs during the season which begins with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 11-13 and continues through to the finale for all three series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif., on September 9-11.

Indy Lights Enjoys Significant Boost for 2016
The top level of the unique driver development ladder, Indy Lights, benefits from a substantial surge of interest this year following the successful adoption of an exciting and brand-new Dallara-Mazda equipment package in 2015. A strong field of 16 cars is expected at Barber, representing a 25 percent increase over the average field last season.

The quality is impressive, too, with reigning FIA European Formula 3 Champion and two-time Macau Grand Prix winner Felix Rosenqvist, from Sweden, former FIA Formula 2 Champion and GP3 Series runner-up Dean Stoneman, from England, and 2015 Pro Mazda champion Santiago Urrutia, from Uruguay, joining an intriguing mix of veterans and rookies.

Defending Team Championship winner Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian will return with another stellar line-up comprising 2015 race winner RC Enerson, from New Port Richey, Fla., Urrutia, who makes the step with help from a substantial Mazda Scholarship after winning the Pro Mazda title, Brazilian Andre Negrao, a veteran of the GP2 Series in recent years, and Korean Heamin Choi.

Enerson, who will celebrate his 19th birthday on Sunday, set the fastest time in a one-day test session last week on the Phoenix International Raceway oval in Arizona.

Belardi Auto Racing, which guided Gabby Chaves to the 2014 championship, also has high expectations after Rosenqvist topped the times in an earlier test session at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida. The highly rated Swede will benefit from the experience of 21-year-old Ohioan Zach Veach, who will make his return to Indy Lights after finishing third in the 2014 title-chase.

After winning the 2015 driver championship with Spencer Pigot, who will achieve one of his life goals by graduating to the Verizon IndyCar Series at St. Petersburg, Juncos Racing will look to Pigot’s teammate from last year, Californian teenager Kyle Kaiser, to continue the good work. Kaiser will be joined by Canadian rookie Zachary Claman De Melo.

European open-wheel powerhouse team Carlin burst onto the North American scene in 2015 by winning its first three Indy Lights races, and Dubai-based Englishman Ed Jones will be looking to repeat that feat – and more – during his sophomore campaign. Carlin has expanded its operation from two to three cars with the addition of Puerto Rican Felix Serralles, who won at Milwaukee last year, and rookie Neil Alberico, who has finished second in both the Pro Mazda and USF2000 championships over the past three years.

Andretti Autosport also will field a strong three-car team for Tennessean Shelby Blackstock, who claimed a podium finish last year at Mid-Ohio, Pro Mazda graduate Dalton Kellett, from Toronto, Canada, and rising English star Stoneman, who also has an offshore powerboat championship on his resume.

Team Pelfrey will complete the field with two cars for series veteran Juan Piedrahita, from Colombia, and Canadian Scott Hargrove, the 2013 USF2000 champion who also finished second to Pigot in the 2014 Pro Mazda standings.

The Mazda Road to Indy Spring Training test will commence with a pair of sessions for Indy Lights on Saturday, March 5, from 9:00-12:00 p.m. and 1:30-5:00 p.m., then continue with the Pro Mazda and USF2000 teams taking over with three sessions apiece on Sunday and Monday. Live timing for all on-track sessions will be carried on the respective series websites – indylights.com, promazda.com and usf2000.com.
 
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