Griffis test provides glimpse at 2018 Mazda Road to Indy season

Updated: 

The Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires is set to show off its three series this weekend, with more than 40 drivers participating in the seventh annual Chris Griffis Memorial Test on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway infield road course.

The two-day event on Saturday and Sunday provides the public debut of the Tatuus PM-18 chassis (shown above) to be used by all competitors in the middle Mazda Road to Indy level, the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires. It also serves as a preview of what to expect for the 2018 season, including Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires – the top rung of the MRTI ladder.

Colton Herta is among the Indy Lights drivers returning, coming off a stellar rookie season with Andretti-Steinbrenner Racing when he finished third in the championship with two wins, seven podiums and a series-high seven poles in 16 races. The 2.439-mile, 14-turn IMS road course was the site of his toughest weekend this year, so the 17-year-old Californian is looking to make improvements for next season.

“I think the test is going to be interesting,” said Herta, driver of the No. 98 Deltro Energy Mazda Dallara IL-15. “Hopefully, the weather plays out nicely. You can switch up pretty quickly from cold to hot this time of year, and we hope to have weather on our side.

“Indy was a place where, I think, we struggled for race pace, so I’m looking forward to getting back and seeing what we can do. I’m super excited to get the testing going.”

The series will also feature the Indy Lights debut of Anthony Martin, who will test alongside Herta at Andretti Autosport as Martin aims for a spot on the team in 2018. Martin, the 22-year-old from Australia, finished second in the 2017 Pro Mazda championship with five wins and 11 podiums in 12 races.

“The time has finally come to jump into an Indy Lights car,” said Martin, the 2016 Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda champion. “I am so excited to be testing at Indianapolis with Andretti Autosport, and I am looking forward to working in a professional environment with everyone, eager and ready to learn more.”

Franzoni, this year’s Pro Mazda champion for Juncos Racing, returns to his team to test in an Indy Lights car. Carlos Cunha, who earned an Indy Lights test by finishing third in Pro Mazda this season, will drive a Juncos Racing entry alongside Franzoni, in addition to testing a Juncos car in Pro Mazda.

Nico Jamin, who drove this season for Andretti Autosport in Indy Lights, returns to his former team – Belardi Auto Racing – for the Griffis test this weekend.

Jamin ran for Belardi in seven races with during the 2014 season in USF2000, which included a podium in the opening race on the streets of St. Petersburg. The 21-year-old Frenchman scored three Indy Lights wins, five podiums and one pole en route to seventh in the championship with Andretti this season.

“I’m very excited to get back on track with Belardi Auto Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” said Jamin, the 2015 Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda champion. “I already know every member of the team since we worked together few years ago in USF2000 and I love the family atmosphere in this team. I also enjoy this road course a lot. I’ve had good success there in the past and I am looking forward to a strong test together.”

In Pro Mazda, 11 drivers from six teams are scheduled to test, including Oliver Askew, this year’s USF2000 champion who continues driving for Cape Motorsports. More than 20 drivers are expected to compete in USF2000 testing, as eight teams work to develop their driving lineups for 2018.

The test is named in honor of Chris Griffis, the longtime Sam Schmidt Motorsports manager of its Indy Lights program who died suddenly in 2011. Each series is scheduled to conduct eight 40-minute sessions over the course of the two days, running from 9 am.-6:30 p.m. ET each day. Live timing and scoring is available on RaceControl.IndyCar.com.

From the fans