New Indy Lights Car Debut Highlights Mazda Road to Indy Openers at St. Petersburg
 March 27, 2015| 
  • Series News

PALMETTO, Fla. – The future stars of the Verizon IndyCar Series will display their talents this weekend on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., as all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder will commence their 2015 seasons. The race weekend also will mark the debut of the exciting new Dallara IL-15, powered by a 450 HP, 2.0-liter turbocharged Mazda MZR-R engine, heralding the dawn of a new era for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires.

The Mazda Road to Indy is unique in the world of auto racing, offering scholarships at every stage to assist talented drivers in their progression from karting and the grassroots of the sport through the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires as they aspire to compete in the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

Competitors in all three series will contest a pair of races on the challenging 1.8-mile, downtown street circuit. As part of the learning experience, drivers will benefit from a Mazda Road to Indy “Summit” on Thursday before the start of on-track activities, which will include a media training seminar hosted by veteran broadcaster Bob Varsha.

Englishman Harvey Leads Strong Field into a New Era of Indy Lights
As the final step on the ladder toward the pinnacle of open-wheel racing in North America, Indy Lights can trace its roots back to 1986 and the launch of what was originally called the American Racing Series. Former series champions Paul Tracy, Tony Kanaan, Cristiano da Matta and Scott Dixon have all gone on to win IndyCar titles, and three of the past four champions – Josef Newgarden (2011), Sage Karam (2013) and Gabby Chaves (2014) – have their sights set firmly on emulating that feat as they take to the grid for this weekend’s IndyCar season-opener.

The Mazda-powered new Dallara IL-15 has drawn excellent reviews during its development process and off-season testing, and has attracted a high-quality entry from around the world for its official race debut at the Mazda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Presented by Peninsula Pipeline. The weekend will comprise a 40-minute “sprint” race starting at 2:25 pm ET on Saturday, March 28, and a 60-minute “feature” for which the green flag will fly at 11:45 am on Sunday, March 29.

Englishman Jack Harvey will start as one of the preseason favorites after finishing tied on points with last year’s champion, Chaves, in his rookie campaign in North America. Harvey only lost the title on a count-back of second-place finishes. The former British Formula 3 champion will remain with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian which has won four of the last five Indy Lights crowns.

Opposition will stem from multiple sources, including series veteran Matthew Brabham, the winner of consecutive USF2000 and Pro Mazda championship crowns in 2012 and 2013, with Andretti Autosport, and Briton Max Chilton, who has raced in the FIA Formula 1 World Championship the past two years and is looking to assist European open-wheel powerhouse team Carlin in its preparations for a future assault on the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Carlin teammate and 2013 European F3 Open champion Ed Jones also has shone in preseason testing, as have 2014 Pro Mazda champion Spencer Pigot, from Orlando, Fla., Juncos Racing teammate Kyle Kaiser and 2013 USF2000 champion Scott Hargrove, who finished a close second to Pigot in the 2014 Pro Mazda title-chase and has joined accomplished sports car team 8Star Motorsports. Potential front-runners also include 18-year-old RC Enerson (Schmidt Peterson), from nearby New Port Richey, Fla., who took second in the 2014 USF2000 championship, winning a series-high five races, including one in St. Petersburg, USF2000 and Pro Mazda veteran Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport) and Puerto Rico’s Felix Serralles, who has returned to North America after a successful foray in Europe to join defending champion team Belardi Auto Racing.

In addition to live timing and commentary on the series website – indylights.com – the race will be carried live on the IMS Radio Network to Sirius XM Satellite Radio, indycar.com, indycarradio.com and the INDYCAR app from Verizon. Practice and qualifying will also be streamed on the INDYCAR YouTube channel www.youtube.com/indycar and RaceControl.IndyCar.com. The race will air on NBCSN on Sunday, April 5 at 4:30 pm ET. Behind-the-scenes action on all three series can be found at RoadToIndy.TV.
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