Partnership announcement brings Indy 500 dreams a little closer
The road to the Indianapolis 500 could be just a little easier for up and coming racing drivers from both sides of the Pacific thanks to a new partnership between TOYOTA GAZOO Racing New Zealand and the Road to Indy programme.
In a partnership agreement between the two organisations confirmed today, drivers who have competed in all five rounds of the 2019 and 2020 Castrol Toyota Racing Series (TRS) will automatically qualify for a package that could help them get established in the Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires programme. This will include free entry for either the annual two day spring training test or the two day Chris Griffis Memorial test along with a free set of tyres for a test in either USF2000, Indy Pro 2000 or Indy Lights. Similarly, the top three finishers in those three Road to Indy series will receive a waived $5000 NZD entry fee for the full TRS championship.
Road to Indy Series Development Director Jonny Baker (pictured left) visited New Zealand in January for a close look at the Castrol Toyota Racing Series. Jonny took in the first round at Highlands Motorsport Park, catching up with the three young American racers competing in the series - Dev Gore, Parker Locke – who took out the Most Improved Driver award in the series – and race winner Cameron Das.
Nicolas Caillol, TRS Category Manager, (pictured right) will visit the US again this year to secure drivers for New Zealand's Premier National Championship single seater series, which recently launched its new state-of-the-art Toyota FT-60 chassis. New Zealand born Baker, meanwhile, will return to visit two rounds of the 2020 TRS series.
It's all designed to build stronger links between the organisations and ultimately provide a clearer and more effective pathway for drivers whose ultimate goal is to race in the NTT IndyCar Series.
"The spectacular racing I saw in New Zealand, combined with the mileage available to drivers and the intense competition make it the perfect training ground for up and coming IndyCar racers and without doubt the best value for money racing of its kind in the world," explained Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions which runs the Road to Indy programme (pictured centre).
"And of course, it falls at the perfect time of the year for Road to Indy drivers from all three of our junior categories looking to hone their skills ahead of the northern hemisphere seasons. It’s a great partnership and one that is a win-win for both organisations."
Caillol echoed Andersen’s sentiments, adding "Scott Dixon is a shining light for many young drivers in New Zealand and indeed many who come and compete in the Castrol Toyota Racing Series. Any initiative that eases the path into the US racing scene or creates potential opportunities will be a welcome one. Other IndyCar drivers like Indy 500 Rookie of the Year Santino Ferrucci and Jordan King have also benefitted from their time competing in New Zealand in January and February and we'd love to see more coming to develop their skills in our series as part of their development path. It's now a little bit easier for drivers on that development path."
The Road to Indy programme encompasses three racing series - the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship, the Indy Pro 2000 Championship Presented by Cooper Tires and Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires. The development categories also appear on the annual IndyCar calendar.
Since its launch in 2010, the programme has attracted competitors from around the globe. Drivers from all over the racing world have been part of the grids, showcasing their talents at premier venues on a mix of road courses, temporary street circuits and ovals.