No, you are not mistaken, it is not May. Wheldon was invited to test drive the three cars of the Mazda Road to Indy ladder system during a media day at the famed speedway. The two-time Indy 500 winner was like a kid in a candy store; eyes gleaming at the chance to take the cars for a joyride around the former Formula 1 road course.
The Mazda Road to Indy is a three-rung ladder system that is made up of the Cooper Tires USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, and the Firestone Indy Lights. The cars go up in power, size and weight as you move up the program, which ends in the IZOD IndyCar Series.
The now “unemployed” IndyCar driver, Wheldon had a similar way of coming up through the series. First starting in F2000, he moved on to Indy Lights, then to the IndyCars, and is now the test driver of the brand new 2012 IndyCar…and enjoying every moment of it.
What Dan really enjoyed was the Indy Lights car of Belardi Auto Racing. The reigning champ took the #9 machine, currently being driven by Anders Krohn, for six to seven laps around the road course. He noted that the car was really well balanced and felt similar to the 2012 IndyCar.
Of the three cars driven yesterday, he had the fastest time in the Lights car with a lap time of 1:25:38.
Throughout the day Wheldon mentioned that the transition to each car going up felt right, and that it wouldn’t make sense to jump from an F2000 straight to an IndyCar. He reiterated the fact that the Mazda Road to Indy program really works and hopes it stays in place for years to come.
Belardi Auto Racing can be found on Facebook (search “Belardi Auto Racing”), while driver Anders Krohn can be found on Twitter (@anderskrohn).
Photos from: Ron McQueeney and IMS