Franzoni, Martin Continue their Tussle for Pro Mazda Honors
 July 25, 2017| 
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Crucial Weekend at Mid-Ohio Beckons for Mazda Road to Indy Racers

[Learn more about the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires on the new website – RoadToIndy.lnfo

PALMETTO, Fla. – All three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires – the world’s most effective open-wheel development ladder – will be in action this weekend at the scenic Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course situated near Lexington, Ohio. Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda are all nearing the climax of their seasons, with Mazda Scholarships up for grabs in all series to assist each of the champions in their quest to progress closer to their goal of a career in the Verizon IndyCar Series.

For the Indy Lights and USF2000 drivers, this weekend will mark the third different genre of race track they have encountered within the past month – competing firstly on the high-banked Iowa Speedway oval, then the sinuous, concrete wall-lined temporary road course within easy reach of bustling downtown Toronto, and now on the more forgiving but no less challenging 2.258-mile, 13-turn permanent road circuit in rural Ohio. Both series will host a pair of races, while the Pro Mazda campaigners – in action for the first time since Road America last month – will enjoy a triple-header event, all in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series.

The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, which is in the midst of a transition prior to the introduction of a brand-new, Mazda-powered Tatuus PM-18 engine-chassis combination for 2018, is only at the halfway stage. Six races are yet to be run. The chase for a Mazda Scholarship worth nearly $800,000 to assist the champion in the progression to Indy Lights, the top step of the Mazda Road to Indy, in 2018 is finely poised with Brazilian Victor Franzoni (Juncos Racing) and Australian Anthony Martin (Cape Motorsports) separated by just seven points.

Martin, who swept all three races at Mid-Ohio last year en route to winning the USF2000 championship and a Mazda Scholarship to progress into Pro Mazda, began his campaign by winning twice on the streets of St. Petersburg, but then at the Indianapolis Grand Prix had to play second fiddle to Franzoni who won both races handily. Franzoni was poised to do likewise last month at Road America, only to be caught out in qualifying for the second race, which meant he had to start from the back.

The 21-year-old from Sao Paulo, Brazil, charged all the way through to second place but was unable to find a way past Martin, and had to settle for the runner-up placing.

Their respective teams have both enjoyed success at Mid-Ohio in recent years, with Garett Grist claiming pole for both races with Juncos Racing in 2015 and Nico Jamin sweeping last year’s double-header for Cape Motorsports.

“It is going to be extremely difficult to finish ahead of Victor but I think going into Mid-Ohio I have a lot of confidence going off my results from last year in USF2000,” says Martin, 22, from Perth, Australia, as he seeks to emulate Matthew Brabham, who claimed successive USF2000 and Pro Mazda championship crowns in 2012 and 2013. “The Cape Motorsports boys obviously had some success last year in the Soul Red Pro Mazda, so I’m hoping to duplicate that result. My biggest goal is to close the gap or pass Victor for the championship hunt as this is really the ‘make or break’ weekend for us both. It will be tough and I am expecting some exciting racing once again from both of us.”

Californian TJ Fischer lies third in the title-chase and will be looking to rebound from a very promising but ultimately fruitless weekend at Road America where he led for the first time for Team Pelfrey and posted the fastest lap of the race before being ousted by a mechanical problem. Team Pelfrey, which has guided current Indy Lights drivers Santi Urrutia and Aaron Telitz to successive Pro Mazda championships in 2015 and 2016, also will field cars for Brazilian Carlos Cunha and Los Angeles-based Russian Nikita Lastochkin, who, for the first time, secured a pair of podium finishes at Road America.

The battle for the National Class is even closer than for the overall honors, with Kevin Davis, Charles Finelli and Brendan Puderbach separated by just one point. Davis, however, will be unable to make the trip to Mid-Ohio, leaving the FatBoy Racing! teammates to chase the honors, although veteran Bob Kaminsky will be looking to insert himself in the frame. Kaminsky, from Homer Glen, Ill., missed the opening two races of the season in his self-run car but has won two of the four races he has contested since then and lies only 11 points adrift of Finelli and Puderbach.

Competitors in the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products start their week with a pair of 40-minute test sessions on Thursday, July 27, followed by 30 minutes of official practice later in the afternoon. Qualifying for the first of three races will take place at 9:25 a.m. EDT on Friday, followed by Race One at 3:35 p.m. The grid for the final two races will be set during a separate qualifying session at 8:35 a.m. on Saturday with the green flag for Race Two set for 1:05 p.m. The grid for Race Three, at 10:20 a.m. on Sunday, July 30, will be set according to the second fastest lap posted by each driver in the second period of qualifying.

Coverage of the Mazda Road to Indy can be found on a series of platforms including Road to Indy TV, the Road to Indy TV App and dedicated broadcast channels on demand via Apple TV, Amazon Fire and Roku and, most recently, the Xbox One Official App as well as live streaming and live timing on the series’ respective websites and indycar.com. Indy Lights is also featured on the Advance Auto Parts INDYCAR Radio Network broadcasts on Sirius 214, XM 209, IndyCar.com, indycarradio.com and on the INDYCAR Mobile app.

 
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