The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, which has served as a vital step for today’s Verizon IndyCar Series drivers, announced a series of enhancements to its current program with an eye towards the future.
With the arrival of the new Mazda-powered Tatuus PM-18 in 2018, Series officials announced this week that the 2017 Pro Mazda calendar will be reduced to 14 races at six events to reduce budgets while still providing a proper mix of circuits for driver training with one oval, one street circuit and four road course events.
The new PM-18 will be made available to teams as early as June 1, providing an opportunity for a summer testing program with the new chassis in preparation for 2018. Andersen Promotions, which operates the series, will also offer teams a $5,000 discount on the PM-18 for each driver who commits to running the entire 2017 season in addition to its almost 20 percent full-season entry fee discount.
The Pro Mazda champion’s Mazda scholarship to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2018 will be increased from $590,300 to $790,300 next year bringing the total event and year end prizes to over $1.1 million. The Cooper Tires Pole Award will be increased to $1,500 per race. A new National Class prize package, for drivers 20 years of age and older competing in cars running in Pro Mazda specification and meeting the older Star Mazda technical requirements by SCCA FA Class competition rules, also will be introduced.
Additional enhancements include a one-day Indy Lights test for each of the top-three finishers in the championship, and a new Pro Mazda Rookie of the Year Mazda Car Award which features a new Mazda street car of choice to the winning driver.
With three venues remaining on the 2016 calendar, Andersen Promotions is offering extra financial incentives for drivers to gain valuable seat time in advance of next season.
An additional $52,500 has been allocated to the 2016 prize structure. Championship Class finishing positions of sixth through tenth will now earn an increased purse of $1,000 for each race. In the National Class, $17,500 has been added with $1,500 for a race win, $750 for second and $250 for a third-place finish.
For non-points entrants for the remainder of this season, race entry fees will be reduced by 50 percent for the Championship Class and will be free for all National Class entries. A team bonus in the form of a $500 credit off of 2017 team registration fees will be issued for each new car/driver added for one or more races in 2016 up to a total credit of $2500. Teams adding a new driver for all remaining events will also receive one free set of Cooper tires.
“All of us at Andersen Promotions, Mazda and Cooper Tires are fully committed to the Pro Mazda class and to securing the healthy grids we have seen the past few years,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “With the PM-18 making its competition debut in 2018, we felt the need for a fresh and strong commitment now and I have to thank our great partners in Mazda and Cooper Tires for their increased support.
“We believe the opportunity to reduce budgets with a shortened season next year combined with a summer testing program of the new car and an increased prize package and program incentives will open the door for more drivers to join the series. Our 2016 incentives are designed for drivers to have the opportunity to jump in now and compete at three great venues.”
Seven races remain on the 2016 calendar with doubleheader events on the streets of Toronto (July 16/17) and at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (July 30/31), and a tripleheader round at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca season finale (September 9-11).
“Mazda shares Dan Andersen’s enthusiasm for the Pro Mazda category, and we believe strongly in providing value to our entrants,” said John Doonan, Director of Motorsports for Mazda North American Operations. “A large increase in the champion’s scholarship amount, along with so many other enhancements - like a brand new Mazda for the Rookie of the Year - will add to the value of the entire Mazda Road to Indy ladder system. This is also good for our fans, as we strive to put a larger field of cars on the track while anticipating the new PM-18 chassis."