WATKINS GLEN, New York – Coming into the weekend with a two-point lead in the Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tires championship, Victor Franzoni had one goal: stay in front of second-place Anthony Martin.
Franzoni did even better. The Brazilian kept the entire field behind him by winning from pole in both Pro Mazda races this weekend at Watkins Glen International. Today’s win in the second race clinched the series championship for the 21-year-old.
Franzoni led wire to wire in wet conditions this morning, winning by 1.5903 seconds over Team Pelfrey’s Carlos Cunha. Martin moved from fifth on the starting grid to finish third but never seriously challenged for the lead.
“I am so happy,” an emotional Franzoni said, “but there are so many things in my mind right now. It’s unbelievable. So many people helped me to get into Pro Mazda this season. I grew up five or 10 years in my career this season.”
In March, Franzoni didn’t have a full-time ride in the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, but a late call to join Jeff Green at Juncos Racing a week before the Pro Mazda season opener at St. Petersburg opened the door. for Franzoni, and he delivered. By finishing in the top two in all 12 races, Franzoni held off Martin, the 2016 Cooper Tires USF2000 powered by Mazda champion, by 18 points in the final tally.
“The difference for me was Juncos Racing this year. They gave me such a great car,” Franzoni said.
“The fight with Anthony was incredible. He’s really, really good. I had to push so hard to stay with him. We were so close in every single race and pushed to the limit all the time. This was the hardest season of my life because I knew I could not make a mistake. We both did a great job and I think we both deserve to move forward.”
With a Mazda scholarship worth nearly $800,000, Franzoni will move up in 2018 to Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, the top rung of the MRTI development ladder to develop future Verizon IndyCar Series drivers.
“It’s crazy, watching the Indy Lights is really nice, and to think I’m going to be driving next year is even nicer,” Franzoni said. “I’m really excited to start all the tests and start the season, because I want to drive those cars.”
For Martin, of Cape Motorsports, the season came to a disappointing end.
“I was pushing 150 percent out there with the championship on the line,” said the 22-year-old Aussie. “It sucks to be the first loser, as I call it, but I gave it my all. I didn’t leave anything out there. I’m very disappointed not to take the championship, but I had a great time this year.”