Who said anything about an off-season? There’s been no off-season this year, there’s just been no cars on track. The business of motorsport, and especially everything open-wheel, has been running at full-steam lately. Its been hard to keep up with all of the positive news and announcements. Carrying on with that theme, Juncos Racing announced the drivers for its four-car effort in the Star Mazda Championship today. Some names are familiar to those who followed Star Mazda last year, others are new, but here they all are: Tatiana Calderon, Martin Scuncio, Joao Horto and Gustavo Menezes. Both Tatiana and Joao are veterans of the series, but Martin and Gustavo are rookies, although Martin did race for the team at Road Atlanta last year.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Juncos Racing squad, this is the team for whom Conor Daly drove in his dominating 2010 championship effort. The team initially founded in Argentina in 1997, moved their operations to Florida in 2003 and focused their efforts on karting and 2000cc and smaller formula cars. In 2009, they entered the Star Mazda Championship and had a successful year. In 2010, the sophomore team took the championship against some stiff competition, and with the line up announced today, they’re poised for a strong showing in 2011.
Here’s the summary of these four young drivers from the Juncos Racing press release.
Tatiana Calderon, 17, first competed with Juncos Racing five years ago as an eager young go-kart driver and reunited with the team once again last year for her rookie season in the Star Mazda Championship. By the third race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, the Colombian racer had already delivered her first top-ten of the 2010 season, and by the second half of the year, she was consistently competing with the front-runners to take five additional top-ten finishes. The former teammate of 2010 Star Mazda Champion Conor Daly will return to the series this season stronger than ever and ready to seize her first victory.
“I am really excited about being with Juncos Racing again for the 2011 season,” said Calderon. “They have shown how competitive they can be for the last two years, and they have all the tools a driver needs to be at the top. Last year, I gained a lot of experience which I’m sure will help us this season, especially with a busy schedule. We will be facing some new tracks and sharing time with the IZOD IndyCar Series which I know will be a great experience. I am really looking forward to testing again in January. I think I am much more prepared both physically and mentally for this season than I was last year. I am ready to fight for the Championship in 2011, and I am sure the team is, too.”
Running alongside Calderon is Argentinean driver Martin Scuncio, 19, a rookie who made his debut in the Star Mazda Championship last season at the finale event in Road Atlanta. Despite being his first Star Mazda Championship race and first experience on the famous 2.54-mile road course, Scuncio immediately commanded the attention and respect of others by finishing in the top five positions in every official session, narrowly missing the pole position due to a session-ending red flag, and claiming a fourth place finish in the race. The 2008 Chilean Formula 3 Champion has already proven what a competitor he is in a single event and has even more to show in 2011.
“I am so happy to join the Juncos Racing team in 2011,” said Scuncio. “We did really well at the last race, and we have a very good relationship with one another. Now, it is time to compete for an entire season, and I am ready for it. The 2011 season will be completely different than last year because we have new tracks in the schedule, so we will have to do a lot of testing before the start of the season in St. Petersburg. Once again, I am very happy to join this team. The guys here are awesome, and I know they will help me fight for the Championship all season. I want to say thank you to Ricardo (Juncos) for trusting in me and allowing me to be his driver for the whole season. 2011, here we come!”
Joao Horto, 20, though not a rookie to the Star Mazda Championship, will make his debut as a Juncos Racing driver in 2011. Like many other aspiring racecar drivers, the Brazilian began his career in go-karts where he won multiple races and championship titles in Brazil. By 2008, Horto was ready to take his passion for speed to the next level—formula cars. Horto spent 2008 and 2009 competing in the Formula BMW Americas Championship before graduating to the Star Mazda Championship in 2010 where the rookie claimed four podiums, five top-five finishes and nine top-ten finishes in 13 total rounds. Horto’s return to the series in 2011 will undoubtedly see him in the hunt for his maiden win.
“I am very happy to be joining Juncos Racing in 2011,” said Horto. “I am really looking forward to being a part of the “Big Family” that this team is. I am definitely ready and willing to learn everything that the team has to teach me, and I will of course do my very best to bring good things to them as well.”
The final, youngest member of the four-car team will be 16-year-old Gustavo Menezes. The American premiered on the racing scene at age six and became the California State Champion in go-karts that same year. The subsequent years saw many race and championship wins in go-karts, and at age 11, Menezes became the youngest driver to win a JICA Snap-On Stars of Karting race. The following year, Menezes headed overseas to race gokarts in Europe—in addition to racing in the U.S.A.— where he continued to impress, and in 2009, the karting ace was awarded the Jim Russell Future Driver Award. The 2011 Star Mazda Championship will be Menezes’ first attempt at racing a full season of formula cars, but with a résumé like his, the Juncos Racing team has full confidence in the young man’s abilities.
“I am very excited to be competing in the 2011 Star Mazda Championship,” said Menezes. “It will be a great challenge for me, and I can’t wait to get started with the first race in St. Petersburg. It is great to be partnering with Juncos Racing again as I raced for them when I was younger in karts, and I know they are one of the teams to beat in this series. I think we will be able to put up a strong fight this season. It is a very big step for me to go directly from karting to the Star Mazda Championship level, but I’m sure I will learn a lot through this experience.”