This week in race driver development news I have details on Mazda Motorsports’ MX-5 Shootout nominees in both Spec MX-5 and Mazda MX-5 Cup.
I also have details on the relaunch of Formula FARA, the new scholarships in American F4 and Formula Regional and the launch of the NASCAR Drivers Recruitment Program in Europe.
All this and much more in this week’s edition of the Driver Development Roundup on Motorsport Prospects.
The nominees for both the 2023 Spec MX-5 and Mazda MX-5 Cup shootouts have been announced.
For the MX-5 Cup Shootout, the nominees have a week to submit their applications to Mazda Motorsports. Drivers selected as finalists will be invited to participate in the MX-5 Cup Shootout. There, Mazda will not only name the winner of a $110,000 scholarship to compete in MX-5 Cup in 2024, but also a $75,000 scholarship for the runner-up and a $75,000 scholarship for the top female driver. The nominees can be found here.
“It’s encouraging to see the pool of talented Mazda racers grow year-after year,” Mazda Motorsports Senior Manager Jonathan Applegate said. “The response to this program continues to be impressive and even though that makes it very difficult to get down to 12 finalists, it is really encouraging to see the level of professionalism and raw talent that are interested in making the most of this opportunity. The MX-5 Cup Shootout has produced some very deserving winners and champions and we anticipate the same thing this year.”
The nominees for the 2023 Spec MX-5 Shootout will move on to the Shootout where two drivers will be selected as Mazda Club Racing factory drivers. The two drivers selected to be part of the Mazda Factory Team will get to compete at select SCCA Hoosier Super Tour events in the Spec MX-5 class, recently elevated to a SCCA National category. They will receive a full arrive-and-drive season that this year will include the SCCA Runoffs, plus testing and a racing school. All entry fees and consumables are covered, along with a travel budget, a car damage budget, and more. The nominees can be found here.
“The Spec MX-5 Shootout was created to give aspiring racers a viable path to a professional career,” Mazda Motorsports Business Development Manager Josh Smith said. “Many of these kids are so focused on open-wheel or stock car racing, they don’t realize the wealth of opportunities in sports car racing. Now that Spec MX-5 is a SCCA National Class, the path from karting to professional racing is clearer and we love helping talented up-and-comers achieve their dream.”
Last Wednesday in Magny-Cours, 16-year-old French driver Augustin Bernier was crowned as the 2023 winner of the FEED Racing competition started by Jacques Villeneuve and Patrick Lemarié. By winning, FRECA driver Victor Bernier’s little brother received an all-paid drive in the 2024 French F4 Championship. Feeder Series talked to him just after his win.
“I went to FEED without any objective. Of course, I wanted to win, but I was not expecting anything. I hadn’t done any competition for two years, I didn’t know what was my level. It was a super opportunity, an incredible quality for a price that is so low…To win FEED…I’m over the moon. Not only for the money, but also for the coaching that I will get from Patrick Lemarié, from Jacques Villeneuve, from all the FEED family next year.”
Formula Regional Americas Championship (FR Americas), Formula 4 United States Championship (F4 U.S.) and the newly-rebranded Ligier JS F4 Series have announced their 2024 schedules and some scholarship details.
The 2024 Ligier JS F4 Series Driver Champion will win a scholarship to compete in F4 U.S. the following season with the use of a JS F422 chassis and engine from Ligier, two sets of tires per event from Hankook and race entry fees from Parella Motorsports Holdings (PMH); the prize is valued at $133,600. Meanwhile, the 2024 F4 U.S. Driver Champion will be provided with a scholarship to compete in the 2025 season of FR Americas competition, including the use of a JS F3 chassis and engine from Ligier, two sets of tires per event from Hankook, and race entry fees from PMH for a total value of $212,000. The FR Americas Driver Champion will also be awarded a scholarship to assist in the next step of their career; details on that program are forthcoming.
In How to become a better racing driver with the Porsche Track Experience, Porsche profiles driver Fred Poordad, a world-renowned scientist in the field of liver disease who is also a successful racing driver and how the Porsche Track Experience helped him recover from a major injury.
“Then, in 2017, Fred suffered a major setback. He achieved one of his ambitions to drive in the legendary 12 Hours of Bathurst race in Australia – although this time, it was not in a Porsche. Unfortunately, Fred had a serious accident during the race in which he sustained multiple fractures and suffered a collapsed lung. He ended up in intensive care and it would take a whole year to recover. It was then that a friend – racing team owner John Wright – advised him to take part in the Porsche Track Experience to get back into shape.”
Monterey County Weekly profiles top amateur racing driver, Mark Kvamme on how tough it is for an amateur racer to compete in the sport and the importance of the team.
“You just can’t do it on your own. It’s not an individual sport, it’s truly a team sport. If your tire changer screws up, if your engineer screws up, if the driver screws up – you’re done. Once you get an appreciation of it, it’s fun. The first time I got in a car at Daytona, I spun in the third turn. Like anything else, if you do it enough, you become familiar with the intricacies. You understand how to do it. Also, you have to be in good shape. People have no idea how physical this is. I don’t think people understand the demands. It’s very similar to football. At LeMans, I’m hitting three-and-a-half Gs in the corners – more than three times my body weight.”
Beyond the Flag explains how the Red Bull junior program is facing a growing problem. “Despite having a talented pool of drivers, including Lawson, Juri Vips (before his release for inappropriate online behavior), and Ayumu Iwasa waiting in the wings, the organization has continuously brought in and retained older drivers for the junior team instead.”
(Press Release) After launching several successful racing programs throughout North America, Gustavo Yacaman and the Yacademy are helping revive Formula FARA – “FF” as it makes its triumphant return. Building upon a rich two-decade legacy that encompassed both Formula and GT cars, FARA is embarking on a journey back to its origins. The unmistakable allure of open-wheel racing is set to rekindle the thrill in Florida, promising unparalleled competition and unforgettable moments.
With meticulous consideration, Formula FARA has selected the Ligier F4 as the vehicle of choice. This decision ensures that local race teams can offer an unparalleled experience at an affordable price.
“The Ligier F4 will make the Formula FARA program approximately around the $100,000 price point,” explained Yacaman. “Obviously prices may vary depending on the team, but FARA promises a thrilling entry into the world of open-wheel racing. The Ligier F4, powered by the reliable Honda Engine and supported by the esteemed Quicksilver Racing Engines, will be the base platform for this program.”
This six-event, twelve-race championship welcomes emerging talents fresh from karting and seasoned racers eager to embrace the challenge of open-wheel racing. Whether you’re a rising star or a seasoned veteran, the track beckons with the promise of unmatched excitement. Taking place at two iconic venues – the Homestead Miami Speedway and the illustrious Sebring International Raceway, these premier Florida facilities will host the return of open-wheel racing to Florida.
Tentative 2024 Formula FARA Schedule
- February 9-11 – Homestead Miami Speedway
- March 29-31 – Homestead Miami Speedway
- May 24-26 – TBD
- July 26-28 – Sebring International Raceway
- September 20-22 – Sebring International Raceway
- November 22-24 – Homestead Miami Speedway
Yacaman added, “Save the dates and stay tuned for more information.”
Formula FARA is poised to create history once again. Will you be a part of this exhilarating journey? Stay tuned for further updates as we gear up for the remarkable return of Formula FARA.
More news is coming soon, but for additional inquiries and opportunities, please reach out to FF@FARAUSA.com. Also, follow FARA Racing and Yacademy Drive on social media at @fara_Racing and @yacademydrive.
Jessica Hawkins recently completed a test session for Aston Martin using a two year old F1 car and she is using the opportunity to highlight how important it is to get women racing in F1. “For Hawkins, even if the F1 dream is personally unrealistic or unlikely at this stage of her own career, she hopes her recent test outing can act as similar inspiration in the ongoing battle to finally break that ceiling for women in motorsport.”
But as The Race points out, advancing beyond a landmark F1 test is difficult. As Hawkins herself admits, women are as competitive as men in the cockpit, it is in sponsorship where they have a hard time.
“Getting the drives has never been an issue – It’s been finding the sponsors to find the drives, which I’ve struggled with previously,” she adds. “But I’m working really hard to try and change that. And I think that this is probably my best opportunity to try and bring on some partners and sponsors to work with me.”
Further to the Jessica Hawkins story above, Autosport looks at how the gender performance gap is hindering women’s progress in motorsport by looking at the data from the recent More Than Equal study on female participation in motorsport.
“The performance gap was highlighted by the fact that their research found that women currently represent on average just 10% across all categories of competition, with the highest in karting – a format that contributes 40% of overall female participation.”
Sky Sports looks at the impact of how Extreme E is showcasing the power of providing an equal platform to male and female drivers. “We have to understand each other, to know that whatever we’ll be there to support one another. I’m not just racing for myself, I can only do the 50 per cent of the actual performance out on track.”
The NASCAR Drivers Recruitment Program will return ahead of the 2024 NASCAR Whelen Euro Series season with a test day on November 16 and 17th at the Circuits de Vendée in Fontenay Le Comte, France. The program represents the best opportunity for all sorts of drivers to test the ultimate “Pure Racing” car and potentially earn a scholarship to join the official NASCAR European championship, the best stepping stone towards a NASCAR career in the US.
One of the highlights of the NWES ecosystem, the Drivers Recruitment Program has proven to be the best way to enter the world of NASCAR. Experienced EuroNASCAR PRO drivers support participants to discover the Pure Racing character of the car, while off track each DRP driver will meet NWES President and CEO Jerome Galpin and the series’ organisation team to discuss their racing projects and potential needs to join the series.
Drivers from all over the world can apply for the program by visiting https://www.euronascar.com/drp/, filling out the entry form and submitting it to firstname.lastname@example.org. A participation fee will be asked to each driver joining the Recruitment Program depending on the package of choice.
Can the new World Rally Championship computer game EA Sports WRC help tackle a real-world hot topic? That is the question Autosport looks to answer as the gulf widens between Rally 2 and the top class.
“This is perhaps where EA Sports WRC, could actually help in offering a virtual testing tool to help develop young drivers for the real world of Rally1. Such is the game’s level of realism and accurate representation of car handling and stages, it is a view shared by EA Sports WRC game designer Jon Armstrong. This is not just a throwaway line from a game maker either, as Armstrong also just happens to be a professional rally driver who competed in the Junior WRC last year and won this year’s European Rally Championship ERC3 title.”