Michael Eastwell says the USF2000 drive on offer from this weekend’s Mazda Road to Indy shootout is a move he has been aiming for since the early part of 2018.
The winner of the MRTI shootout – taking place at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix, Arizona – receives a $200,000 scholarship to race in the USF2000 series, the fourth tier on the Road to Indy ladder.
Eastwell, whose four Champion of Brands race wins helped him claim this year’s SuperSeries shootout nomination, identified USF2000 as his preferred step for next year several months ago.
“When I started 2018 I was really uncertain of where to head towards after 2018,” Eastwell said.
“A few races in I already set my sights on definitely obtaining a Road to Indy ticket. And as the year went on and I talked more with my American friends, came and did a test in an F2000 car, it all started to piece together and by beginning of August I’d said to myself this is where I want to be in 2019. I want to be in the USF2000 car.
“That only pushed me further to definitely make sure that I obtained a chance to go to the shootout and give it everything.”
Eastwell, who bases himself in America for some of the year, has undertaken exacting preparations for both the shootout and a possible subsequent USF2000 campaign.
“I was at Miami Speedway [on Monday] checking the cars out while I’m out testing and also meeting not only the people from the series but the possible teams in that for next season.
“The important thing for me is that I know that I’ve done everything that I could and certainly right now I’m in a position where honestly, to myself and everyone around me, I can say that.”
Eastwell added his tuition from inaugural British Formula Renault champion Neil Riddiford at the iZONE Driver Performance evaluation day, part of the SuperSeries nomination selection process, was also beneficial.
“He was great, he gave me some great advice moving forward, and we did some time on the simulator,” Eastwell continued.
“The shootout is completely new to me, so with Neil’s experience [he] had some insight into it, and he was really fantastic, he passed on a lot of information on that to me and some tips.
“For the last two weeks I’ve just been going over that. I feel well prepared for the weekend. [At] the end of the day there’s a ton of quick people there, we’ve all earnt our place.”
Eastwell was effectively unopposed for the SuperSeries nomination, as the only other Champion of Brands race winner in ’18 Ollie White ruled himself out as by the ’19 season he would be at the high end of the age spectrum for the USF2000 prize.
“But that’s not normally the way it works,” Eastwell added, “and I’d say, anyone that wants to have a chance of getting to the shootout then James Beckett’s series was just an amazing opportunity.”