Meet the Contenders: Santi Urrutia
 August 5, 2016| 
  • Series News

Santi Urrutia is one of six drivers in contention for the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires championship crown in a hotly contested season with only two events and three races remaining. 

PALMETTO, Fla. – As Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires reached the season midway point at Road America, Santiago “Santi” Urrutia sat fifth in the championship standings, 46 points in arrears of series leader Ed Jones. But with a victory that weekend and a sweep last time out at Mid-Ohio, the young Uruguayan has taken the lead in the title chase and has his eyes firmly on the goal: winning the championship and Mazda scholarship to advance to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2017.

Urrutia, 19, knows that the stakes are even higher than those he faced last year, when he earned the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title. Leading Dubai’s Ed Jones by 16 points and Brit Dean Stoneman by 25, Urrutia’s focus is on the three remaining races this season, including the finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca – a venue that holds a great deal of significance to Urrutia and his fellow countrymen.

Beginning his racing career riding motocross events at the age of 4, Urrutia won the Latin American Motocross Championship for children aged 4-6. He progressed into karts, earning five karting championships in eight years, including the 2010 Uruguayan Master Category Karting Championship. Switching to cars, Urrutia raced for two years in the Italian-based Formula Abarth Championship, followed by single seasons in Formula 3 and, in 2014, the GP3 Series in support of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship.

“When I started racing, it was just for fun,” said Urrutia. “Then, when I understood the racing and how hard it was, I had the motivation. At 13 years old, I went to Italy by myself to fulfill my dreams. It was hard in the beginning, being away from all my friends and family, but I’ve always wanted to be a professional race car driver – and I’m still working for that.”

Heading to the United States in 2015, Urrutia quickly served notice that he was a contender for the Pro Mazda championship. With a podium in his first race and victory in his third, Urrutia went on to score three wins and a total of 10 podiums in 16 races on his way to the championship title – and the privilege to carry the Soul Red colors as the Mazda scholarship winner on his Schmidt-Peterson Motorsports w/Curb-Agajanian Dallara-Mazda.

“Winning the Pro Mazda title gave me the chance, with Mazda and Cooper Tires, to be in Indy Lights this year. Now, I want to win the Indy Lights championship and, as a team, we are working hard toward that goal. I can’t afford to make any mistakes. I made a lot of mistakes in the beginning of the season that cost us a lot of points. Ed Jones is very consistent, he’s always there so I have to be in a position to take points away from him.

“There is so much at stake here – if I win the championship, I will be in IndyCar next year. There are only three races left, so every race is a like a finale, and we must finish on the podium. We can’t look at what anyone else is doing, we have to focus on our car and our championship.”

Urrutia came to the season finale at Mazda Raceway last year with thoughts of his countryman, Gonzalo Rodriguez, on his mind. Rodriguez was driving his second race weekend with Penske Racing in the CART FedEx Championship Series when he was killed in a crash during practice on September 11, 1999. Urrutia honored his hero with a special helmet that melded both his and Rodriguez’s designs.

“I have so many good memories from Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. As a Uruguayan, it was very special for me to go there. We lost our greatest driver, Gonzalo Rodriquez, at Mazda Raceway in 1999. Last year, I raced with a helmet in tribute to him. He is a hero in Uruguay. He’s my hero, too. I am grateful for everything he did for the sport in Uruguay. We are only three million people and he worked hard to get to IndyCar. I gave the helmet to his foundation in Uruguay and I hope to one day be the second driver from Uruguay to race in IndyCar. 

“There were so many fans there from Uruguay last year – I hope they all come again this year.”

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