BELARDI AUTO RACING CONFIRMS URRUTIA FOR 2017 INDY LIGHTS RETURN
Series runner-up returns to Mazda Road to Indy with winningest team from 2016
BROWNSBURG, IN (December 30, 2016) – The driver line-up at Belardi Auto Racing continues to come together, and the team is thrilled to make its second confirmation with the announcement that 2016 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires runner-up Santiago Urrutia will be joining the squad for the 2017 campaign. The team is riding high on the momentum fueled by a six-win season last year, one that included a run of performances in the second half of the season that out-scored the competition. Urrutia will join new Belardi Auto Racing recruit Shelby Blackstock under the tent and will drive the team’s #5 Dallara IL-15.
“We’re extremely excited to being adding Santi to our stable of drivers for the 2016 season,” commented Brian Belardi, Team Owner. “We’re coming off a really strong season and our staff is highly motivated to make 2017 even better. Signing a driver of Santi’s caliber will once again put us into the fight for a championship. The entire team is fired up with the announcements of Santiago and Shelby and we’re hoping to confirm a third driver early in the new year.”
Urrutia came within a single on-track position of scoring the Indy Lights crown as a series rookie, coming off a title-winning season in the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires in 2015. The 20-year-old from Uruguay won four races in his freshman Indy Lights season, scoring at Barber Motorsports Park, Road America and the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Santiago battled wheel-to-wheel with the red-and-white Belardi Auto Racing entries throughout 2016, fighting for wins with both Felix Rosenqvist and Zach Veach, who each won three races for the team. He’s very excited to get back on-track and with the team that challenged him so aggressively this past season.
“We have a really strong crew and I believe that we are going to have one of the greatest teams in the paddock,” Urrutia commented, who is looking forward to getting back behind the wheel when the team returns to testing in early January. “I am very happy to sign with Belardi, as I was fighting with the team’s drivers all year in 2016. I have only one goal, and that is to win the championship, and I am going to try to win every race for the team. If I can’t win, I’ll be aiming for seconds and thirds, whatever I need to win the title. What happened at Laguna Seca in the finale is now in the past, and I am looking at the future. I have to thank all of my fans, my engineer, my sponsors in Uruguay and I want to thank Brian Belardi for believing in me.”
The team will head back to the track after the holidays to resume their testing program ahead of the 2017 Indy Lights season. The opening battle of the 10-event / 16-round Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires schedule will be the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 10-12.
TSO Ladder Notes from Steve:
- Urrutia is the second Belardi Auto Racing pilot and ninth over-all confirmed driver for the 2017 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tire season, joining: Dalton Kellett (Andretti Autosport), Shelby Blackstock (Belardi Auto Racing), Nicolas Dapero (Juncos Racing), Nico Jamin (Andretti Autosport), Ryan Norman (Andretti Autosport), Kyle Kaiser (Juncos Racing), and Colton Herta (Andretti Autosport)
- Motorsport.com reported earlier this year that 2016 Pro Mazda presented by Cooper Tire champion Aaron Telitz will be utilizing his $1million Mazda Motorsports Advancement Scholarship to join Belardi Auto Racing, meaning that the Brownsburg, Indiana based squad will be at least a three-car Indy Lights team.
- Urrutia will be joined at Belardi Auto Racing by his fellow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports refugee and 2016 engineer, Tim Neff. Neff had been part of Sam Schmidt’s team since 2001 before being laid off when Schmidt Peterson Motorsports shuttered it’s Indy Lights program, and is one of the most experienced (and successful) Indy Lights engineers in the paddock.
- Belardi Auto Racing, between drivers Zach Veach and Felix Rosenqvist, won six races last year (including four of the last seven races), the most of any Indy Lights team. The Brian Belardi owned and John Brunner led team were last Indy Lights champions with driver Gabby Chaves in 2014.