Open Wheel Racing: Star Mazda Champ Will Get Indy Lights Test

Ever since the “unification” of American open wheel racing a few years back the many feeder series in existance have been scrambling to find a way to fit in to the new order.  Recently, thanks to many sanctioning bodies working together the biggest feeder series:  USF2000 powered by Mazda, Star Mazda, and Indy Lights) have finally established a definied “road to Indy”.  The newest rung in the latter was just annouced by Star Mazda a few days back.  This year’s Star Mazda Champ will get a Indy Lights Test which is a huge chance to impress not only an Indy Lights team but possibly get themselves on the radars of a few Indy Car Series teams as well.  Check out the full press release below.

Press Release:

The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and Performance Friction Company announced an expansion of the Indy Racing League’s ‘Road to Indy’ program with the Series champion guaranteed a test with a top Firestone Indy Lights team.

2009 Star Mazda champion Adam Christodoulou will test with Andersen Racing’s Indy Lights team later this month, and the champion of the upcoming 2010 season will also get a test as part of his or her prize package. Those prizes now include, in addition to the Indy Lights test, $100,000 in cash and a scholarship from the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder. Drivers will also be competing for the VISIT FLORIDA Cup, a 7-race championship-within-a-championship; the grand prize for the top-finishing driver in those events is a custom-designed dream vacation in Florida courtesy of VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s official tourism marketing corporation and sponsor of the 2010 Star Mazda Championship television package. In total, drivers in the 2010 Star Mazda Championship will be competing for prizes valued in excess of $1.5 million.

“Our goal has always been to provide our drivers with the most competitive, cost-effective and comprehensive opportunity to advance their career,” says Star Mazda Championship founder and CEO Gary Rodrigues. “This is another step forward in creating a clearly-defined path for Road to Indy drivers whose goal is the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indy 500. We’d like to thank Performance Friction Company and Andersen Racing for their support in making this possible.”

Performance Friction is the exclusive brake pad and disc supplier to both the Star Mazda Championship and the newly-announced Cooper Tires Presents USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda, and is the overwhelming brake component choice for teams competing in the Firestone Indy Lights. All three series are part of the Indy Racing League’s ‘Road to Indy’ program. PFC also supplies a variety of open-wheel series in Europe, Japan, Australia as well as NASCAR, IZOD IndyCar Series, ALMS, FIA, ACO, JGTC, V8 Supercar and Grand-Am just to name a few.

“The Star Mazda Championship is a terrific series that produces some of the top racing talent in the sport today,” says Don Burgoon, President of Performance Friction. “Open-wheel racing is in our company DNA and we’re doing all we can to support these rising stars as they climb the motorsports ladder. It is our goal to support the Road to Indy program at every level and provide these drivers with the very best equipment on the way up.”

The Indy Racing League ‘Road to Indy’ program is designed to bridge the gap between the premier open-wheel racing divisions and the entry level open-wheel series by creating a clear career path for aspiring racing drivers; it includes Firestone Indy Lights, The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda.

“With Andersen Racing’s involvement in all steps on the Road to Indy ladder, we are delighted to work with PFC and Star Mazda in making this exciting test program a reality,” says Andersen Racing co-owner Dan Andersen. “My long term relationship with the folks at PFC, coupled with our involvement in and support of the Star Mazda Championship for the past six years, makes this an easy decision. So many Star Mazda drivers in recent years have successfully transitioned into Indy Lights, and now with the support of PFC, more drivers can sample the next step properly. We look forward to testing Adam in the next few weeks.”

Firestone Indy Lights is the premier ladder series for drivers and teams striving to compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500. Run in conjunction with the IZOD IndyCar Series, the Firestone Indy Lights’ 13-race schedule features eight races on road courses/street circuits and five races on ovals, including the famed 2.5-mile circuit at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Teams compete for nearly $4 million in prize money in cars that are second only in speed to the IZOD IndyCar Series at most tracks they visits.

“The Star Mazda race car is just the right vehicle, with the right horsepower and driving characteristics, to produce drivers ready to hit the ground running in Firestone Indy Lights,” says Roger Bailey, Executive Director of Firestone Indy Lights. “And this test for the Star Mazda Champion is just the sort of opportunity that the Road to Indy was designed to create, both for the driver in the car and the company sponsoring the test. This is the first of many more such things to come for the Road to Indy program.”

The first Star Mazda Championship winner to take advantage of the Road to Indy/Performance Friction/Andersen Racing Indy Lights test will be 2009 champion Adam Christodoulou, the English racer who also won the 2008 Formula Renault U.K. championship. He has already tested in the Team Stargate Worlds Atlantic Championship car and is looking forward to experiencing the additional power and speed of the Indy Lights car.

“I’ve already had a taste of testing the Indy lights car towards the end of last year, but it’s a great car to drive and I’m eager to get behind the wheel again,” says Christodoulou. “I’ve been in quite a variety of cars recently and each car I get in adds to my racing knowledge… and to the level of experience I can bring to my next team. The opportunities that arise from being part of the Star Mazda Championship, the Road to Indy and the MAZDASPEED Ladder are much greater than anything that exists in Europe. These programs have provided a huge boost to my career and I would recommend them to any driver who is serious about advancing their ambitions in open-wheel racing.”

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