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The quest for the $1 million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship and a seat in the Verizon IndyCar Series begins in earnest this week at the first official test of the 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire championship. A gaggle of 11 drivers, and group of five teams will take to the 2.21 mile, 14-turn roval at Homestead-Miami Speedway for pre-season testing.

The 2016 campaign will mark the 31st season of Indy Lights, the 3rd season with Dan Andersen and his Andersen Promotions team at the helm, and the the 2nd season with the stunning and speedy Mazda powered, Cooper Tire shod, Dallara IL-15.

Spencer Pigot won the 2015 title at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in September and in October, he announced that he secured a ride with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing for at least three IndyCar races (including an attempt to qualify for the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500).

Juncos Racing, who won the Indy Lights driver’s championship with Pigot, returns for another crack at the title with one familiar and one new name. Kyle Kaiser has been confirmed to return to the (for now – see linked story) Brownsburg, Indiana based team in an attempt to improve on his two podiums and 6th place championship finish.

Kaiser, a 19 year-old from Santa Clara, California will be joined by Zachary Claman DeMelo, who has been confirmed in the second Juncos seat. The 17 year-old Claman DeMelo is a Montreal, Quebec native who spent 2015 racing in Europe after a stand-out career in karting.

Schmidt Peterson Motorsports with Curb-Agajanian will begin 2016 in search of the team’s 8th Indy Lights championship by testing one sophomore and one rookie.

Sophomore pilot RC Enerson is confirmed to return to the No. 7 Lucas Oil sponsored, Mazda powered Dallara IL-15 for a run at the championship. The 18 year-old is beginning his fifth Mazda Road To Indy season, and is coming off an impressive rookie Indy Lights campaign where one win, five podiums and one pole, propelled the New Port Richey, Florida native to 4th in the final points standings.

Joining Enerson for the test, but not yet confirmed for the seat, will be reigning Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire champion Santiago Urrutia. Urrutia, who won three times and stood on the podium 10 times is looking to use his Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship to make the jump up to Indy Lights.

Zach Veach will be back in the saddle for his first official Indy Lights activity since a podium at the season finale at Sonoma Raceway in 2014. The 21 year-old three-time Indy Lights race winner has signed with Belardi Auto Racing to start the 2016 season.

“Ziggy” will be joined at Belardi by reigning FIA Formula 3 champ Felix Rosenqvist. Rosenqvist, who is managed by former Formula 1 and Indy Car star Stefan Johansson, tested with Team Pelfrey in December is not yet confirmed for a seat in 2016. The 24 year-old will have a busy week, as the 24 year-old is also taking part in the Rolex 24 at DAYTONA this coming weekend.

With four wins, and seven poles, formative European junior team Carlin made an instant splash when they jumped into the American open wheel ladder pool in 2015. The Trevor Carlin team looks to take the next step by expanding their program to three or four cars in 2016. Returnee to the team and three-time race winner Ed Jones is confirmed for a full season alongside fellow race winning Indy Lights sophomore Felix Serralles, who is moving over from Belardi Auto Racing. They will be joined at the test by newly confirmed Rising Star Racing sponsored driver Neil Alberico.

Jones and Serralles both spent 2015 learning unfamiliar circuits and also how to race on ovals. With a year education themselves on the nuances of racing in the U.S.A., the pair that combined for four wins and nine podiums should push each other to compete for the championship.

Joining the two veteran drivers at Carlin will be Alberico, who is certainly no stranger to the American racing. The Los Gatos, California born Alberico currently has 10 wins and 21 podiums in four yeas of Mazda Road To Indy competition.

As only a one car team in 2015,  Andretti Autosport and Indy Lights rookie Shelby Blackstock struggled to find the adequate pace to be competitive during the first two-thirds of the season. The Michael Andretti owned team did find their way at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course and was able to finish the season strong. Blackstock is confirmed for a second season and will be joined by Mazda Road To Indy  veteran, but Indy Lights rookie Dalton Kellett.

Getting a late start in racing, the 25 year-old Blackstock has started to catch and surpass some of his much younger and more experienced contemporaries. The Nashville, Tennessee native, who did not start his racing career until his freshman year of college has amassed 14 podiums and one win in four years of Mazda Road To Indy competition.

Kellett, who holds an engineering physics degree from the prestigious Queens University, will also be entering his fifth Mazda Road To Indy season and the 22 year-old from the Toronto area should be able to help the Indianapolis, Indiana based team move their program forward.

As always thanks for reading and TSO will be back with daily coverage of the test beginning on Tuesday.

Homestead-Miami Speedway test schedule.

Tuesday, January 26

  • 9am – 12pm —> on-track testing
  • noon – 1pm —> lunch
  • 1pm – 5pm —> on track testing

Wednesday, January 27

  • 9am – 12pm —> on-track testing
  • noon – 1pm —> lunch
  • 1pm – 5pm —> on track testing

Other official series tests will take place on the oval at Phoenix International Raceway on February 25th and at Barber Motorsports Park on March 5th.