Pro Mazda kicks off 2013 season in Texas
The 2013 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will commence with a pair of races at the Circuit of The Americas in Austin, Texas, on March 1 and 2.
A mix of returning veterans and talented newcomers will convene at the challenging 3.41-mile, 20-turn road course.
Matthew Brabham, of Manalapan, Fla., must be regarded as one of the favorites for top honors. The grandson of three-time Formula 1 World Champion Sir Jack Brabham and son of sports car champion Geoff Brabham is looking to maintain the momentum that saw him win the 2012 USF2000 crown and earn a scholarship from Mazda to graduate into Pro Mazda competition.
"The track is fantastic," said Brabham, who set the pace during pre-season test sessions at Palm Beach International Raceway, Sebring International Raceway in Florida and Circuit of The Americas in the No. 83 Team Andretti Autosport entry. "It is definitely one of the best tracks I have driven on. It is incredibly smooth and has some great elevation changes that are so much fun to drive on.
"Pre-season testing has been going really well for us. We have sorted out the new Cooper tires quite quickly and I have gotten on really well with the guys at Andretti. We have had great speed all through testing and I don't see why we can't carry that into this weekend. I'm trying to keep an open mind going into the first race and not have too many expectations. However, we are in a good position going into the first race and my goal as always is to try and win."
Three other front-runners from last year's strong USF2000 field have moved up for 2013. Spencer Pigot, from Orlando, Fla., finished seven points adrift of Brabham, despite winning eight races, and has been snapped up by defending champion Team Pelfrey to join sophomore Pro Mazda racer Petri Suvanto, who placed fifth in 2012 with 10 top-five finishes after winning the USF2000 championship in 2011.
Scott Anderson, who won two USF2000 races in 2012, and Shelby Blackstock who finished eighth in last year's championship, will continue their progression with Juncos Racing and Andretti Autosport, respectively.
Returning Pro Mazda veterans include Diego Ferreira and Juan Piedrahita, who placed sixth and seventh, respectively, in 2012, and Zack Meyer, who finished 15th. Ferreira finished among the top five in each of the final five races. Piedrahita will remain with 2011 championship-winning team JDC MotorSports alongside teammate Meyer, who claimed four top-10 finishes last season.
Californian teenager Kyle Kaiser - the quickest in testing at COTA on Feb. 23 with World Speed Motorsports - and California-based Welshman Lloyd Read will graduate from the West Coast Formula Car Challenge, where they have excelled in almost identical Pro Mazda cars.
Others to watch include another couple of South Americans - Venezuela's Francisco Cerullo who won the 2012 LATAM F2000 Challenge Series and finished second in the Panam GP Series and Colombian National Karting Champion Juan Acosta, who also contested two Panam GP Series races last year, winning once.