Say what you want about Mazda’s market share when it comes to SUVs, economy cars, etc. There is no denying that Mazda absolutely owns the motorsports game in this country. Their famous “More Mazdas are raced every weekend than any other brand” isn’t just marketing hyperbole, its the truth. It is also one of the reasons why I personally have a lot of respect for the brand. As a lover of motorsports Mazda has been championing bringing up more young drivers through their (now global) Mazdaspeed Motorsports ladder (also known as the “Mazda Road To Indy”). Its the best program for any young racer looking to move their way up and eventually end up in a major racing series such as Indy Car.
The tradition continued last weekend when 21 year old American Spencer Pigot with Juncos Racing won the Indy Lights Championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, earning the million dollar scholarship prize which entitles him to three Indy Car series races including the 2016 Indy 500. Despite there being an actual dollar amount attached to Spencer’s accomplishment, I’m sure knowing that he’ll have three shots to impress Indy Car teams in guaranteed rides including one of the most watched races on the planet, is priceless.
Spencer wasn’t the only winner over the weekend either. 19 year old Santiago Urruita of Uruguay won the Pro Mazda Series which earned him a trip to the next rung in the ladder: the Indy Lights Championship where he will have a shot at the same prize that Spencer won. The third championship winner of the weekend was Nico Jamin of France. Nico won the USF2000 series powered by Mazda and his prize gets him bumped up to the Pro Mazda series.
That’s three champions in one weekend! How awesome is that?! I am definitely looking forward to seeing how these three drivers perform in the next stages of their careers. If you want to follow, or even join the Mazdaspeed Motorsport ladder, check out their official website for details. You may just end up climbing it all the way to an Indy Car ride. For more info on the epic race weekend you can check out the official press release below.
Spencer Pigot Wins $1 Million Indy Lights ChampionshipMazda Road to Indy championships also won by Nico Jamin and Santiago UrrutiaIRVINE, Calif. (September 13, 2015) – Spencer Pigot of Juncos Racing won the 2015 Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires championship with two title-clinching race victories this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Pigot, a 21-year old Indianapolis resident, grabbed the title with a league-leading six race wins in 2015, and has earned a $1 million prize that assures him of entries in three races in the Verizon IndyCar Series next year, including the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500.The Mazda Road to Indy is a program that allows drivers to progress up through a well-defined racing ladder to the top open-wheel category in North America with scholarships provided by Mazda. Pigot is the first driver to win four full-season Mazda scholarships. His first scholarship came in 2009, when, at age 16, he won a full season drive in the Skip Barber National Series. After winning that championship in 2010, he earned a Mazda scholarship for the USF2000 Series. He twice finished second in that championship before moving up to the Pro Mazda category in 2014. Pigot won the Pro Mazda title last year, which earned him a ride in the Indy Lights series this season. Now, he will carry the Mazda Road to Indy banner into the IndyCar series.“What a year it’s been,” said Pigot after his second race win in two days. “The Juncos Racing guys have been outstanding for me. The Mazda Road to Indy has been a dream come true. I can say I’ve done all of the levels and had success. If it weren’t for this program, I wouldn’t be here. And I wouldn’t be looking to go into IndyCar next year. I’m very excited for the future to see what we can accomplish. It’s the best problem in the world to have: deciding what we’re going to do with the scholarship. It’s pretty cool. My first scholarship was back at Sebring when I was 16 years old, and we’ve had a few since then. You know, to be here in the Mazda scholarship car at Mazda Raceway on the top step of the Mazda Road to Indy is the perfect send-off for me. My whole career has been in the Mazda Road to Indy and it’s very special for me and something I’ll never forget.”“It’s very emotional for me to see Spencer win the championship,” said John Doonan, director of motorsports for Mazda in North America. “We develop close relationships with these drivers as we help them follow their dreams. Spencer is clearly the ultimate embodiment of what we’re trying to do – he’s the proof of concept for the Mazda Road to Indy. He’s been with Mazda since age 16, and we couldn’t be more proud and more pleased to see him win yet another title and move up to IndyCar. If you add up the scholarships we have provided for Spencer, it’s more than $1,750,000, and he’s earned every cent of that. I can’t even express how happy we are that he’ll have a chance to race in the Indianapolis 500 next year.“We believe deeply in promoting the superstars of the future, and we have two new names to add to our scholarship list. Nico Jamin was impressive this year to win the USF2000 championship. He’s very fast and consistent, so we’re thrilled that he will drive a Soul Red car next year in the Pro Mazda series. We’re also happy to support this year’s Pro Mazda champion Santiago Urrutia as he will race in the Indy Lights series with our backing in 2016. He’s really become a hero in his home country of Uruguay, and we love the passion and emotion of Santiago and his fans.”
Santiago Urrutia, Champion, Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires
Santiago “Santi” Urrutia, a 19-year old racer from Miguelete, Uruguay, clinched his first major motorsports championship this weekend at Mazda Raceway with two second-place finishes in the Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire series. Urrutia won three races this season, and had 10 podium finishes in 16 races. He had only one finish worse than seventh place. With the championship, Urrutia has earned the Mazda driver scholarship of nearly $600,000 for the 2016 Indy Lights season.
“It’s very special for me to win [the championship] here,” said Urrutia after securing the title Saturday, “because we lost the biggest driver from Uruguay here 16 years ago, Gonzalo Rodriguez. I was wearing a helmet like his this weekend and was so happy to win this championship. I am pretty sure Gonzalo was here, pushing me. I can’t explain how happy I am, I can’t believe it. This is not only the result of this year’s work, but past years. I appreciate all the hard work by everyone in Uruguay who helped me and everyone who came and pushed me to win the championship.”Nico Jamin, Champion, Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by MazdaNico Jamin, a 20-year old native of Rouen, France, won the Cooper Tires USF2000 Series powered by Mazda with a record-setting, dominant season. By claiming both race victories this weekend at Mazda Raceway, Jamin grabbed 10 race wins for the year. He set new series records for the most pole positions (14) and the most podium finishes in a season (15). His title with the Cape Motorsports w/Wayne Taylor Racing team earns him a Mazda scholarship of more than $380,000 to advance next season into the Pro Mazda series.“I was racing in Europe,” said Jamin, “and I knew the racing markets were very difficult for young drivers to get to the top step, which over there is Formula 1. It requires a lot of money and there’s really no help from [auto] factories like Mazda. In Europe, there’s nothing like that. So, I knew my chance could be in the USA. I had the opportunity with Cape Motorsports to drive a great car all year and to get the championship. And now, I’m very excited to work with Mazda and to drive a Soul Red Pro Mazda car next year.”Mazda MotorsportsMazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to Indy includes USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights racing categories with Mazda power. In sports car racing, a similar ladder system involves a number of racing series, culminating with the Mazda Prototype team which races in the top level of IMSA sports car racing in North America. In the grassroots categories, more Mazdas road race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer.