Finally, we come to last in our trio of articles on the new Pro Mazda Series which will succeed the Star Mazda Series as the second stage of the Mazda Road to Indy. We’ve seen the story behind the rise and fall of Star Mazda, and the phoenixal story of USF2000, now let’s put all the pieces together and see where Andersen Promotion may steer Pro Mazda in the coming seasons. Let me start with the caveat that the following speculations are solely my own based on the observations delineated in the previous two articles.
A Potential Future for Pro Mazda
One thing that Andersen Promotions absolutely cannot afford to do is to keep the current series as it currently is. Change is needed or the series will continue to stagnate. It’s not that the Star Mazda formula is a bad one, quite the contrary. The current spec is affordable and durable, but it’s also not enough. The USF2000 Championship class chassis and engine specs are good, too, but it wasn’t enough. For Pro Mazda to see a return to the 30+ car counts it enjoyed in the early 2000’s, there needs to be a larger inclusion of chassis and engines. This is the model that has worked so well for USF2000, and it’s working well for the Formula Car Challenge as a regional series. USF2000 also derives strength from being part of the Mazda Road to Indy with scholarship programs in place for its National Class champion to move to the Championship Class, and the Championship Class champion to move up to Pro Mazda. It’s cost-effective, competitive, and provides opportunity to advance. That’s why the current USF2000 series is so strong. When the previous ownership of USF2000 moved away from being inclusive to the SCCA standards, and when Star Mazda no longer was seen as a series with advancement opportunities, failure followed.
The way I see it, multi-class racing in Pro Mazda is the way to go. One of the reasons why the USF2000 grid was so strong in 2012 was the inclusiveness of various SCCA-compliant chassis. The Championship Class is the most restrictive, but also the fastest, requiring sealed Mazda engines, and a spec Van Dieman chassis. In the National Class, the spec is a bit more open and the very plentiful and affordable Formula Continental and Formula Enterprise chassis are permitted. The Formula Car Challenge also features multi-class racing to offer interested teams and drivers options based on their goals and budget. The performance differential is a bit high between the various FCC classes, though, and for Pro Mazda I’d like to see the differences narrowed as was done in USF2000. Right now, FCC offers Pro Formula Mazda as their top class, based on the 240-hp Star Mazda formula, followed by the Formula Mazda (FM) 180-hp platform and the new FormulaSPEED 2.0 195-hp racer. For their national championship race at Sonoma Raceway, 33 cars competed. That’s pretty good for a non-televised, low-exposure series!
The Formula Car Challenge gives a hint at where Pro Mazda could go in the coming seasons, but it’s structure isn’t ideal for the Mazda Road to Indy development series. The performance gap between the Star chassis and the other specs must be narrowed. The gap doesn’t have to be erased as USF2000 has show, but there can’t be a huge difference in the performance or the top class will seldom find clear track space. The low-hanging fruit, at first glance, are these two FM and FS2.0 specs. However, both platforms are sealed spec platforms and the manufacturers, Moses Smith Racing and World Speed, Inc., have little interest in adapting to higher-output powerplants. That’s not to say that we couldn’t see their inclusion in the future, but it might not be the ideal case.
An option that would permit closer racing and still have a tie to the SCCA classes is to incorporate the Formula Atlantic (FA) into the Pro Mazda Championship. Traditionally, the engine of choice for FA has been the Toyota 4AGE, but the SCCA rules also allow for several Mazda engines including the Renesis. This will be the first expansion that we see in allowed equipment in the Pro Mazda Series. Andersen Promotions has a strong relationship with the SCCA through their management of the USF2000 Championship, and any expansion of Pro Mazda will likely be the inclusion of a current SCCA formula as opposed to the FS2.0 platform which is run in the Formula Car Challenge and as part of NASA’s championship, not in the SCCA. While FM is certainly part of the current SCCA landscape, it’s performance is too far below the Star Mazda platform to be comfortably included. The various Swift-built FA chassis with a Resesis engine is the perfect companion for the Star chassis.
So what changes happen in 2013? Nothing, or at least nothing on the track save for a change of tire manufacturer. As we reported previously, Andersen Promotion’s relationship with Cooper Tires as official tire and presenting sponsor for USF2000 has carried over to the new Pro Mazda Championship. That will be the only change I think we see for 2013 since this acquisition came so late in the year. I think we will see an announcement late summer to early fall that beginning in 2014, there will be a new national class featuring the Formula Atlantic chassis powered by a Mazda 13B-MSP Renesis. Will my prognostications come to pass? Time will tell, but all we need to do is to look at history to know that Pro Mazda’s success hinges upon it’s continued inclusion in the Mazda Road to Indy and it’s openness to affordable and abundantly available equipment. Given the rapid growth and success Andersen has had with USF2000, the future of Pro Mazda looks to be very bright!