[Source: Afterburner Autosport press release]
MINNEAPOLIS, MIN. (January 21, 2014) – Afterburner Autosport is excited to announce the first three drivers in its quest for Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda supremacy in 2014. Brazilians Victor Franzoni and Gustavo Myasava will make their North American debut, and will be joined under the awning by Dutch second-year racer Jeroen Slaghekke. As part of a multi-car effort, the skilled trio are poised to build on what was a race-winning effort by the Minnesota-based outfit last season.
The USF2000 Championship – the first rung on the renowned Mazda Road to Indy driver development program – attracts top up-and-coming drivers from all over the world, and in 2014 Afterburner Autosport will once again have three such racers behind the wheel. With the addition of Franzoni, Myasava, and Slaghekke, as well as a soon to be announced fourth racer, the two-time SCCA National Championship winning team is set to build on its two late season USF2000 wins, and challenge for the series title in its third year of series competition.
“As a team we built tremendous momentum in 2013, and we are looking for that to continue throughout out 2014,” stated Team principal Tim Walsh. “This year we are excited to have partnered with some really talented young drivers such as returning driver Jeroen Slaghekke, and newcomers Victor Franzoni and Gustavo Myasava. Were also working to secure a fourth racer as a teammate to this exciting trio. Our goal is to be the best, and with that come results. It should be an exciting year!”
“I am very excited for the beginning of the season,” said Franzoni. “It will be my first year of racing in the USA, and my first time in the USF2000 series. I am very happy to be part of the Afterburner team. I think we can do a great job together. We did well in the winter test, and I am sure that it will be an excellent partnership. I hope good results will come.”
Franzoni enters the Mazda to Road Indy program with Afterburner Autosport having recently showcased his talents in Europe. The 18 year-old Brazilian competed in both the Eurocup Formula Renault 2.0 and Formula Renault 2.0 ALPS series over the past two years, highlighted by a pair of pole positions. Prior to making the move to Europe, Franzoni was a Formula Future Fiat race winner in his homeland.
“Afterburner Autosport is one of the best in the USF2000 Championship, and we are excited to joining them in 2014,” stated Myasava. “We choose to race in the USF2000 series as many of our contacts said that it is the perfect way to work our way up to IndyCar.”
A native of Brazil, Myasava enters the highly-competitive USF2000 Championship having impressed in his brief junior formula car career. Making his debut in late 2012, Myasava contested two Campeonato Formula 3 Sudamericana races prior to taking part in the inaugural India-based MRG Challenge. The 17 year-old, having showcased natural talent, took the next step forward this past season, contesting the entire 18-race Campeonato Formula 3 Sudamericana, earning 10 visits to the post-race podium en route to third in the title fight.
“It’s a huge relief that I’ll be back on the grid for the 2014 USF2000 Championship,” commented Slaghekke. “It’s been hard work to get a seat, and I’m very grateful to my investors and Afterburner Autosport for the opportunity. I really enjoyed working with Afterburner last year, and they looked strong at the end of last season and also in the collective test. I can’t wait to start the season!”
Slaghekke reunites with Afterburner Autosport in 2014, ready to build on his North American debut with the Minnesota-based squad last season in the USF2000 Championship. Prior to racing on this side of ‘The Pond’, the Wassenaar, Netherlands native displayed his racing talents via a race-winning season in the 2012 Formula Renault 2.0 Northern European Cup, in which he finished fourth in the championship chase, and was a runner-up in the 2011 British Formula Ford Championship, having scored three wins.
Afterburner Autosport has quickly established a reputation for both developing drivers, and challenging for top honors. Making the transition to the USF2000 Championship in 2012, the Tim Walsh and Brian Tomasi led squad secured four top-10 results in its rookie season. Last season, the skilled squad built on that success, with two wins and four additional trips to the post-race podium celebrations. Afterburner Autosport further showcased its desire to continually improve and bring forth the best from its drivers during the annual year-end Chris Griffis Memorial Mazda Road to Indy Open Test, ending the two-day outing at Barber Motorsports Park in early December with the fastest overall lap.
The pursuit of top honors gets under way Afterburner Autosport’s Franzoni, Myasava, and Slaghekke via the tradition off-season Cooper Tires Winterfest series, which features three races at NOLA Motorsports Park in New Orleans, La., on February 21-22, and three races at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Ala., on February 25-26. The 2014 edition of the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda commences on March 29-30, with the opening two rounds on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., as part of the IZOD IndyCar Series season-opening event.
Prior to the upcoming racing action, Afterburner Autosport will continue its off-season program, with a the fourth member of the skilled driver line-up poised to join Franzoni, Myasava, and Slaghekke.