Anthony Martin is preparing to take center stage in an all-important season for the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires.
The 20-year-old from Kalgoorlie, Australia, is the only driver competing in the series for Cape Motorsports and will see stiff competition in the form of a trio of drivers at Team Pelfrey (TJ Fischer, Carlos Cunha, Nikita Lastochkin), winner of the last two Pro Mazda titles (2015 with Santiago Urrutia, 2016 with Aaron Telitz).
Martin will pilot the No. 8 car for Cape Motorsports and will feature the familiar Soul Red paint scheme run by Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires scholarship winners. Martin earned his Soul Red honor for winning last year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda, the first rung on the three-step development series ladder sanctioned by INDYCAR.
Testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway’s 2.21-mile road course last week offered the first taste of what could be on display when the Pro Mazda season starts on the Streets of St. Petersburg this weekend. Martin clocked the fastest lap in two of the six sessions, setting the fastest lap overall (1 minute, 23.6329 seconds/95.130 mph). Team Pelfrey drivers set the pace in the other four sessions.
“Obviously, with three of them against myself it is always going to be difficult,” Martin said. “I think a good plan to have is to try and be in front of them.
“But we all know it is going to be extremely tough, as they are all great drivers. I know I have a well-prepared car under me, so it is a matter of me doing the job and giving everything I have against my competitors.”
Martin added that it is important to start the season strong and make a statement from the drop of the green flag.
“I think the biggest thing is setting an example to your competitors, and I believe this is the perfect time for me to do it,” said Martin. “Being the first race of the season is not only important, but gaining valuable points is everything. However, it also sets the stage for you to show your rivals how you and your team operate.”
After two years of driving in USF2000, Martin believes perhaps the most challenging task comes with moving up to the Pro Mazda car.
“I think understanding the car will be the biggest learning curve,” he said. “The Pro Mazda is a different car to drive and adjustment to your driving style is needed. This isn’t something that happens overnight, so it will be a process to get completely comfortable with the car.”
What is at stake for the Aussie is a chance to win back-to-back Mazda Road to Indy championships, something fellow countryman and 2016 Indianapolis 500 rookie Matt Brabham managed to accomplish in 2012-13 in USF2000 and Pro Mazda.
Although a title would earn another Mazda scholarship and elevate him to Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires in 2018, Martin understands that his future will be decided by how he attacks the grueling 12 races ahead.
“The championship is extremely important to not only myself, but everyone involved in Cape Motorsports – my sponsors and of course my friends and family who have supported me,” said Martin. “To take another title would really mean everything. It’s a lot of money and to be able to take that money to an Indy Lights program would be something that I have only dreamt of.”
Pro Mazda opens its season with a doubleheader race weekend at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. Practice and Race 1 qualifying take place Friday, Race 2 qualifying and Race 1 on Saturday and Race 2 is set for Sunday.