Considering he didn’t even have a ride a week before the 2017 season started, Victor Franzoni is seizing the most of his opportunity in the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires.
Competing in the second rung of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires ladder, sanctioned by INDYCAR, the affable 21-year-old Brazilian is coming off a victory sweep last month on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway road course. The Pro Mazda rookie sits atop standings by six points over Anthony Martin heading to this weekend’s doubleheader at Road America.
“It was really important for us in what we did,” Franzoni said of his Indy wins. “We don’t have any more tests planned, so it’s going to be difficult from here till the end of the season. But I think here we found a different way to work. This was my second race (weekend) with Juncos Racing, so we understand each other better and we need this for the championship.
“I think now it’s going to be easier for them to understand what I need in the car, and also what they ask of the driver. So, I hope I can have more weekends like this.”
Franzoni wasn’t sure if he’d have race weekends of any kind shortly before the season began. After finishing third in the 2016 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda with three race wins and 11 podium finishes, Franzoni looked to move up to Pro Mazda this year.
He was originally set for a one-off return with ArmsUp Motorsports in the season-opening USF2000 round at St. Petersburg in March. When that ride fell through, Franzoni’s path was unclear until he found a home with Juncos Racing, the two-time Pro Mazda champion.
“It was really difficult,” said Franzoni, a five-time USF2000 race winner over three seasons. “Until three weeks before St. Pete, I didn’t have a ride. And then two weeks before St. Pete, I was driving USF2000. And then one week before St. Pete, I went to Pro Mazda. So I went three steps in three weeks.”
Despite the lack of time prior to the season, Franzoni managed a pair of second-place finishes in the No. 23 Juncos Racing Mazda at St. Petersburg. The learning process began then and there.
“Now we understand each other better, so I think this is going to make our lives a little bit easier for the championship, because now it’s time to work really hard,” Franzoni said. “After St. Pete, you work a lot with the engineers and all the Juncos staff to make a good car for me, that fits for me and works.”
The enormity of this opportunity is not lost on Franzoni. He is looking to replicate the success of Spencer Pigot with Juncos in 2014-15, when Pigot drove to consecutive championships in Pro Mazda and Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, lighting his path to the Verizon IndyCar Series.
“I have no words for that because now I can see a really good road to Indy,” Franzoni said. “If I win this championship, I stay with Juncos and go to Indy Lights, and then they have the Indy car already. So it’s really good to be with them for that also and because I’m learning a lot with them.
“They know a lot. They have so many engineers there, they teach us a lot of things, so I’m learning a lot as a driver.”
All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy are competing at Road America this week, with doubleheader races slated for each series. Pro Mazda and USF2000 each have a race scheduled for Friday and Saturday, while Indy Lights races will be Saturday and Sunday. Visit RaceControl.IndyCar.com for live streaming.