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MRTI Shootout preview: FF1600 stars to watch

The third annual Mazda Road to Indy Shootout takes place this weekend at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park in Arizona, with a $200,000 scholarship to USF2000 on offer for the winner.

Walter Hayes Trophy and Formula Ford Festival runners-up Oliver Askew and Keith Donegan won the first two editions, with Askew winning the 2017 USF2000 title and Donegan finishing ninth in the standings this year. This year’s winner will be the final driver to do so under Mazda’s sponsorship of the Road to Indy support ladder.

A selection of 20 drivers from across the world, aged between 17 and 25, will attend the event, with seven of those having starred in FF1600 this year.

The United Kingdom contingents consists of Michael Eastwell, Matt Round-Garrido and Ross Martin. BRSCC Avon Tyres National FF1600 Championship runner-up Eastwell won his ticket through the MSV SuperSeries Shootout at the iZone Driver Performance centre at Silverstone, and already has USA race miles under his belt as he claimed pole position and two podiums in a F2000 Championship Series round in September.

Round-Garrido finished third in National FF1600 this year, and won his ticket after taking the Dawson WAM Northern Ireland FF1600 title. He’s also looking at BRDC British Formula 3 next year, and should’ve been joined at the Shootout by National FF1600 champion and Team Dolan team-mate Niall Murray had he not chosen to decline his ticket.

Josh Smith only completed half a National campaign this year, but claimed a Shootout ticket with a late pass on Murray to win the FFord Festival. Like Smith, Ross Martin is a former British Formula 4 driver, and dominated Scottish FF1600 this year for his ticket.

Team USA Scholarship winners Jake Craig and Colin Mullan starred at the FFord Festival and WHT, with Craig in particular impressing in the wet in the latter event. Braden Eves will be joining them in the Shootout, but missed out on dirving in the end-of-season FF1600 events as he recovered from surgery.

Mullan was a winner in the F1600 Championship Series, but mostly concentrated on his IMSA SportsCar Challenge campaign with Mini. Craig graduated to cars in Canadian F1600, where was one of the top drivers. One of his rivals there was Team Canada scholarship winner Guillaume Archambault, who was the top Kent-powered driver in the championship and also competed in the FFord Festival.

Canadian F1600 champion Kellen Ritter used a Honda engine to power himself to the title, while Hunter McElrea used a 1800cc Zetec engine to win the Australian Formula Ford championship. Neither can claim to be a FF1600 star, but F2000 Championship Series runner-up James Roe Jr can, having finished fifth in National FF1600 last year.

Photo: Indianapolis Motor Speedway

Despite being the last Shootout under Mazda’s reign, and amidst recent troubles with the event host Bondurant Racing School, the 2018 event will be run in the same fashion as previous years.

A panel comprising Mazda factory drivers Tom Long and Andrew Carbonell, Indy Lights race-winner Victor Franzoni and inaugural Shootout winner Askew, will analyse the 20 competitors both on and off-track.

Three sessions on Saturday will be followed by one more on Sunday morning, which decides the finalists for two qualifying rounds and a race to determine the winner.

MRTI Shootout entry list
Colin Mullan, 16, Team USA Scholarship
Kellen Ritter, 17, Canadian F1600 champion
Stuwie White, 17, South African F1600 champion
Courtney Crone, 17, FCar Challenge (FSpeed) champion
Matt Round-Garrido, 18, Northern Ireland FF1600 champion
Dario Cangialosi, 18, F1600 Championship Series champion
Braden Eves, 19, Team USA Scholarship
Flinn Lazier, 19, SCCA National Runoffs (FEnterprises 2) winner
Ross Martin, 19, Scottish FF1600 champion
Hunter McElrea, 19, Australian FFord champion
Jason Reichert, 19, Pacific F2000 champion
Ryan Norberg, 20, eKartingNews.com nominee
James Roe Jr, 20, F2000 Championship Series runner-up
Tyler O’Connor, 21, F1600 Championship Series runner-up
Jake Craig, 21, Team USA Scholarship
Allan Croce, 21, Brazil Kart Open
Michael Eastwell, 22, MSV SuperSeries Shootout
Guillaume Archaumbault, 24, Team Canada Scholarship
Raghul Rangasam, 25, MRF F1600 champion
Bryce Cornet, 25, SCCA National Runoffs (FMazda) winner

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