Six Nationalities Involved in Pro Mazda Championship Battle
 July 29, 2015| 
  • Series News
PALMETTO, Fla. – A hectic weekend lies in store at the famed Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course which will host double-header events for Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires and the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires as well as a triple-header event for the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda on July 31-August 2. All seven Mazda Road to Indy events will be held in support of the Verizon IndyCar Series headliner and are likely to prove pivotal in the chase for three championship titles and over $2.3 million in MAZDASPEED scholarships and other end-of-season prizes and awards aimed at assisting young drivers in their pursuit of a career in the Verizon IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis 500.

For proof of the global appeal of the Mazda Road to Indy, look no further than the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, in which a Uruguayan (Santi Urrutia), a Malaysian (Weiron Tan), an American (Neil Alberico), a Frenchman (Timothé Buret), a Mexican (Pato O’Ward) and a Canadian (Garett Grist) are separated by just 46 points with four races remaining this season. Their quest to win a MAZDASPEED scholarship worth $568,700 to assist in graduation to Indy Lights, the top level of the Mazda Road to Indy, in 2016 will continue this weekend with two races which will comprise the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio.

Only O’Ward (Team Pelfrey), the youngest driver in the field at 16, has yet to win a race, although perhaps that milestone is just around the corner given his recent string of three podium finishes in as many starts. In fact, O’Ward has scored more points than anyone else during that period of time.

O’Ward’s teammate, Urrutia, holds a healthy 27-point lead in the standings following an impressively consistent first-ever season in North America after learning the tools of his trade in Europe over the past four years. Tan, too, has crossed the Pond after competing in the German Formula 3 series in 2014. The Malaysian has won four times with Andretti Autosport – more than anyone else – including a romp to victory last time out at Iowa Speedway.

Alberico (Cape Motorsports with Wayne Taylor Racing), from Los Gatos, Calif., and Grist (Juncos Racing), from Grimsby, Ont., are the only non-rookies among the top eight in the point standings. Alberico, who finished third in the 2014 title-chase, has struggled to match the form that brought victory in the first two races of the season, while Grist, who struggled in the early races, has found some speed of late after winning his home race in Toronto, Canada, then setting a blistering pace during a subsequent series test at Mid-Ohio.

Buret (Juncos Racing), from Montpellier, France also is in the thick of the points battle with one win and five additional podium finishes to his credit, while countryman Florian Latorre (Cape Motorsports), who won last year at Mid-Ohio en route to the USF2000 championship and a MAZDASPEED scholarship prize to graduate into Pro Mazda, has won once this year.

Mid-Ohio also will see the return of Michael Johnson (JDC MotorSports). The only paralyzed racer on the Mazda Road to Indy was injured in a heavy crash at St. Petersburg, Fla., earlier in the season but the native of Flint, Mich., has been working hard to prepare for his comeback and showed well during the recent open test.

The Pro Mazda teams will continue their preparations for the weekend with three test sessions on Thursday, July 30, followed by another 30-minute practice on Friday and a single qualifying session later in the afternoon. Race One will start at 1:00 PM on Saturday, August 1, and Race Two at 8:50 AM on Sunday. Live timing and commentary for all sessions will be available on the new Mazda Road to Indy App and at promazda.com with live streaming at racecontrol.indycar.com. Special features can be found at RoadToIndy.TV.
 
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