While St. Petersburg marks the beginning of the 2013 IZOD Indycar Series, the event marks the second race of the year for the Pro Mazda Championship racers. The second-highest rung on the Mazda Road to Indy development ladder has produced great racing and deserving champions throughout the years, with many drivers going on to achieve success at the highest levels of motorsport.
I tracked down as many of this year’s crop of Pro Mazda drivers as I could over the past two weeks to give fans new to the series an insight into their mindsets.
Q: How is the Pro Mazda car different from what you drove last year?
Juan Camilo Acosta — M1 Racing (2012 Colombian national karting champion): “Pro Mazda is a really big jump from go-karts, but I think it’s the place to be. It’s a very competitive series, and it has very talented drivers and engineers. A Pro Mazda car is like a big go-kart, but it’s faster and more difficult to drive. The most important thing is to trust the aero and grip it can provide you.”
Scott Anderson — Juncos Racing (3rd in 2012 USF2000): The Pro Mazda car, compared to the USF2000 car, is a decent increase in performance overall, the most noticeable difference being more power and better braking. The overall grip is also higher due to wider tires and more downforce. It’s a 6-speed sequential [gear shift], where the USF2000 car is a 4-speed H-pattern.
Matthew Brabham — Andretti Autosport (2012 USF2000 champion): “The Pro Mazda just has so much more power than the USF2000 car. It’s a lot more fun to drive. It’s just a step up. Everything’s just a little bit bigger and better now. You have to drive the car a lot differently. You can’t just get on the throttle halfway through the corner because the thing just slides up and sends you wide. You have to be a lot more patient with the throttle on these things. Everything is just a step up, so you really have to raise your game. I’m having a lot of fun so far.”
Spencer Pigot — Team Pelfrey (2nd in 2012 USF2000): “It’s obviously a much bigger, heavier car with a lot more downforce. It’s a lot of new things, but it’s a fun car with a lot of grip and a lot of power. I really enjoy driving it.”
Q: What are your goals for this year’s Pro Mazda Championship season?
Juan Camilo Acosta: “My goals for the 2013 season are to be competitive, fight for the championship, and grow as a driver. It’s my first complete season of pro racing, and I want to learn as much as possible.”
Scott Anderson: “My goals for the 2013 season are to push myself to learn this new car as quickly and effectively as possible, and push my technical knowledge and feedback as well. Like everyone else I want to win, but I need to be prepared better than everyone else for that to happen, especially being my rookie season. So, that’s where my focus is.”
Shelby Blackstock — Andretti Autosport (9th in USF2000): “I want to try to get as many points as possible, obviously, and try and get some wins in there. We had a bad start to the season, but hopefully we can come all the way back and be there in the points at the end.”
Matthew Brabham: “My goal so far, having been really good in testing and to be second in qualifying at the first race, I think we definitely have a chance at the championship. Whoever can stay up there at the top is going to have a great shot at the championship.”
Diego Ferreira — Juncos Racing (6th in 2012 Star Mazda Championship): “I ran the Star Mazda series last year and finished 6th. I won Most Improved Driver, and I hope this is my year. This is my only year. My only goal is to go for the championship, and then hopefully go up to Indy Lights.”
Spencer Pigot: “Well, obviously we want to win. Everyone on the team is really competitive, and the goal is to be running up front and competing for wins. But this first weekend, we want to be sure to come home with no problems and at least a couple of podium finishes.”
Lloyd Read — JDC Motorsports (two Star Mazda races in 2012): “My goal is to finish top 5 in every race and top 5 in the championship at the end of the season.”
If the racing at St. Petersburg is anything like it was at Circuit of the Americas, fans should be in for a treat. Be on the lookout for much more Pro Mazda content throughout the season here at MoreFrontWing.com.