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By Steve Wittich

Dan Andersen, Owner/CEO of Andersen Promotions Andersen Promotions, John Doonan, Director Motorsports for Mazda North American Operations, and Chris Pantani, Director of Event Marketing and Motorsports for Cooper Tires kicked off the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) Trade Show on Thursday morning by unveiling a brand new Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire race car.

The Mazda powered, Cooper Tire shod,Tatuus built PM-18 is the final step in a complete refresh of the Mazda Road To Indy presented by Cooper Tire that began with the introduction of the Indy Lights Dallara IL-15 during the 2015 race season.

The PM-18 will be in the hands of teams for testing on June 1, 2017, before making it’s race debut in 2018. The PM-18 is the big brother of the USF-17, which made it’s public debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway during the Chris Griffis Memorial Test on October 8-9, 2016. The USF-17 is completely sold out with 35 chassis ordered.

“We are very excited to unveil the next generation Pro Mazda chassis,” said Andersen. “Scot Elkins [Project Manager and Race Director Pro Mazda and USF2000] and Tatuus have done a great job in augmenting the USF-17 base car to provide everything drivers on the second step of the ladder need to continue their career development. We currently plan to begin prototype testing in March of next year, with the first shipment of cars delivered to teams in June to allow for a summer test program. With the success of the USF-17, I can’t wait to see this car on track.”

For cost effectiveness and ease of transition for teams, the PM-18 utilizes the same Tatuss chassis as the USF-17, with the following upgrades:

  • more sophisticated aerodynamics with an adjustable dual-element rear wing and single plane carbon fiber front wing with adjustable flaps with adjustable flaps and Pro Mazda specific front and rear endplates
  • larger American Racing alloy wheels (13”x10” front and 13”x12” rear) featuring Cooper Tires
  • a more powerful Elite Engines developed 2.0-liter Mazda MZR-PM18A motor with 275 HP utilizing a fly-by-wire throttle system, Cosworth SQ6 engine management system, and Sadev SL82 six-speed sequential transmission and limited-slip differential.

“It’s a pretty good next step based on all the work that we have done so far,” said Elkins. “We know that the performance level is going to be a lot higher than the USF2000 car and the aero is going to be more like the Indy Lights car which fits within the ladder quite well. It will allow drivers to transition to the next step much easier. We obviously have more horsepower and more aero than the USF2000 car, which was the entire intention, and we are excited about it.”

2016 will mark the final season of pro racing for the venerable Mazda Renesis powered, Star Race Car designed, Elan Motorsports Technologies built chassis which made it’s debut in 2004.

The middle-rung of the MRTI ladder offers an incredible value for up-and-coming open wheel drivers. Mazda has increased the value of their scholarship by $200,000 to $790,300, Cooper Tires has added a $75,000 awards and Andersen Promotions will have a series entry award of $24,000. The 2017 Pro Mazda champion will receive a prize package of $889,300.

“We talk frequently about the global growth of the Mazda Road to Indy program, and having top- line, modern race cars on each step of the MRTI ladder increases the likelihood of seeing the finest young drivers in the world at each step,” said Doonan. “We also talk about providing value for our teams and drivers, and the PM-18 is a wonderful example of an affordable race car that is safe and fast. We’ve already seen the huge interest in the new USF2000 car for next year, and we expect much the same for the Pro Mazda series in 2018.”

We’ll be back later to update this post with pictures and driver/team owner reactions.