Notes: Mazda Road to Indy unveils Pro Mazda chassis for 2018

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The final piece of the equipment puzzle for the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires was put in place today with the unveiling of the Tatuus PM-18 chassis at the Performance Racing Industry trade show in Indianapolis.

The PM-18 will be put into use in the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, the middle rung of the INDYCAR-sanctioned developmental stepladder. Following introduction of the Dallara IL-15 chassis to Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires in 2015 and the pending debut of the Tatuus USF-17 chassis to the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda in 2017, it will complete the updated chassis infrastructure throughout all three MRTI levels.

The PM-18 was unveiled at the INDYCAR display at the PRI show. Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions that operates the Mazda Road to Indy series, was joined in the unveiling by John Doonan, director of motorsports for Mazda North American Operations, and Chris Pantani, director of event marketing and motorsports for Cooper Tires.

“With this car now, we’ve completed refurbishment of the ladder,” Andersen said. “We knew the Indy Lights car desperately needed a change so we attacked that first. We were a little slower on the next two levels because of the cost to teams; the teams on these levels are bit more financially stressed than an Indy Lights team.

“Now with this car in ’18, we’ll be essentially state of the art in all three levels. The cars are phenomenal.”

The PM-18 is based off the platform of the USF-17 chassis from Italian manufacturer Tatuus, allowing a seamless transition for teams and drivers wishing to advance from USF2000 to Pro Mazda or compete in both. They share the same carbon and aluminum honeycomb monocoque, and meet FIA safety standards including side-impact panels, front and rear impact structures, wheel tethers and front bulkhead structure for oval racing.

Enhancements for the PM-18 over the USF-17 include more sophisticated aerodynamics with an adjustable dual-element rear wing, single-plane carbon fiber front wing with adjustable flaps, Pro Mazda-specific front and rear wing endplates, larger wheels and Cooper Tires. On top of that, a 275-horsepower, 2.0-liter Mazda MZR-PM18A engine – a step up of 100 horses over the USF2000 powerplant – has been developed by Elite Engines.

“It’s a lot of race car,” Andersen said. “That engine is unbelievable. They’re getting basically an Atlantic level race car for a lot less money than an Atlantic car used to cost. It will be a great transition into Indy Lights, too. This car is going to be fast and nimble and will blow the track records away for Pro Mazda.”

Andersen said prototype testing of the PM-18 will begin in March with the first 15 cars delivered in June, allowing teams to test in the summer. The second car shipment will arrive in the fall. The PM-18 will be in use for at least five years.

“We talk about providing value for our teams and drivers, and the PM-18 is a wonderful example of an affordable race car that is safe and fast,” said Doonan. “We’ve already seen the huge interest in the new USF2000 car for next year and we expect much the same for Pro Mazda in 2018.”

Hunter-Reay, Rahal added to Shank Acura NSX lineup for Rolex 24

Verizon IndyCar Series stars Ryan Hunter-Reay and Graham Rahal were named today to compete in January’s Rolex 24 at Daytona endurance sports car race, driving for Michael Shank Racing’s Acura NSX GT3 lineup.

Hunter-Reay, the 2012 Verizon IndyCar Series champion and 2014 Indianapolis 500 winner for Andretti Autosport, and Rahal, a four-time race winner driving for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing in the Verizon IndyCar Series, join a formidable two-car Shank lineup that includes Andy Lally, Katherine Legge (a veteran of 39 Indy car starts), Oswaldo Negri Jr., Jeff Segal, Tom Dyer and Mark Wilkins. The Rolex 24 is the opening event on the 2017 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship schedule.

“We’re thrilled to have Graham and Ryan join the Michael Shank Racing effort at Daytona,” said Art St. Cyr, president of Honda Performance Development, the racing arm for Acura in North America.  “The debut of the NSX GT3 at the prestigious Rolex 24 will mark the return of the Acura brand to IMSA sports car competition. The addition of Graham and Ryan to an already excellent driver lineup, coupled with the experience provided by Michael Shank and his team, will make the NSX GT3 a serious contender for the GTD class victory at Daytona.”

Hunter-Reay and Rahal are scheduled to take part in a two-day open test next week on the Daytona International Speedway road course, as well as the “Roar Before the 24,” the final open test Jan. 6-8.

Mann helps form Team Empower for developing female racers

Pippa Mann is joining forces with karting standout Abby McLaughlin, Top Kart and Top Kart USA to form Team Empower, an Indianapolis-based karting team focused on showcasing and developing young female talent in karting. Team Empower's goal will be to provide a platform and resources to empower young female racers and help equip them with the skill sets required on and off the track.

Pippa, a former European and World Championship Formula A karting competitor, has gone on to race in 14 Verizon IndyCar Series races, including six Indianapolis 500s. She is currently the second-fastest female qualifier in Indianapolis Motor Speedway history.

“Since moving to the U.S. in 2009 to race in Indy Lights, becoming more connected to the female racing scene has been increasingly important to me,” Mann said, “and over the past few years I have been trying to find an opportunity where I would be able to help, give back and hopefully be the person I wished I had had when I was growing up."

Team Empower will utilize the latest World Championship Top Kart chassis in each of the senior, junior and cadet classes with support from Top Kart and Top Kart USA.

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