Initial phase of prototype development successfully completed
Following a shakedown test on Monday at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill., the brand new Mazda-powered Tatuus PM-18 wrapped up two days of development testing last week at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio. Mazda factory sports car driver and USF2000 driver coach/steward Joel Miller handled driving duties for the state-of-the-art next-generation chassis that will make its competition debut in the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
Miller, who holds a Mechanical Engineering degree, also conducted prototype development of the Tatuus USF-17 that made its bow to rave reviews last month in a pair of action-packed Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda races on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., during the season-opening weekend for the Verizon IndyCar Series and Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires.
“The car itself, with more horsepower and more downforce, is going to slot in well,” said Miller. “It is going to close the gap to the Indy Lights car, which is needed. It is substantially faster in a straight line. Cornering speeds are hard to estimate because the track was so green, but we are already at qualifying pace with the car. Driving wise, it is quite a bit faster than the USF-17 and it has more mechanical grip. With the extra horsepower in this engine, you have to be cognizant of tire degradation in the rear, which is good. All the kids will need to learn this. Everything the drivers learn in USF2000 can be applied to this car, and they will learn more here before they move on to Indy Lights. It will be an excellent stepping stone.”
As a means of containing costs for competing teams and drivers, the Tatuus USF-17 also serves as the base car for the PM-18.
Enhancements over the USF-17 include more sophisticated aerodynamics with an adjustable dual-element rear wing and single-plane carbon fiber front wing with adjustable flaps and Pro Mazda-specific front and rear endplates; larger Motegi Racing forged Technomesh monoblock alloy wheels with Cooper tires (13″x10″ fronts and 13″x12″ rears); and a 275hp 2.0-liter Mazda MZR-PM18A motor developed by Elite Engines, utilizing a fly-by-wire throttle system and Cosworth SQ6 engine management system. The power will be delivered via a Sadev SL82 six-speed sequential transmission and limited-slip differential.
Development of the PM-18, as with the USF-17, has been overseen by project manager Scot Elkins, in conjunction with leading chassis designer and manufacturer Tatuus.
“We are close to having 1,000 miles on the car in just these three days,” said Elkins, who also serves as Race Director for USF2000. “It has pretty much been trouble-free running. We were able to make all of the adjustments we needed, and the biggest thing is the new engine because the majority of the car is the same as the USF-17. Everything we have been doing in regards to the engine has been going very, very well. We had to do some adjustments for the shifting and some of the other systems to make it adjust for the extra 100hp. Overall, it has been really great. Joel has done a good job as always. The Tatuus guys are incredible to work with, and it is an absolute joy to do this project for Andersen Promotions.”
The debut of the PM-18 next season will complete a revitalization of the entire Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system by Andersen Promotions – which oversees and operates all three levels – following introduction of the USF-17 this year and the Dallara IL-15 in Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires in 2015.
PM-18 prototype testing will continue with outings at Barber Motorsports Park and Iowa Speedway in May.