The MRTI Shootout Evolves

After producing a champion, the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout is looking at which series will receive invitations

It’s hard to argue with success. The inaugural Mazda Road to Indy Shootout at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca produced a scholarship winner who absolutely dominated the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. Oliver Askew won half of the 14 events in 2017 in his first year of auto racing after launching his career in karts, and carries his scholarship to the Pro Mazda Championship for 2018.

“After we – business development manager Jim Bowie and myself – did the MRT24 shootout and the inaugural MRTI Shootout [in 2016] where they both went off without a hitch and we produced a USF2000 champion and a darned good MX-5 Cup competitor, we wanted to retire,” says Mazda Motorsports Operations Manager Kyle Kimball. “But John Doonan had other thoughts. So here we are again planning the shootouts and executing them. It is so much fun to see the up-and-coming talent and we want to provide an equal platform for these participants to compete.”

The 2017 Shootouts, from which Keith Donegan (MRTI) and Sellin Rollan (MRT24) emerged the scholarship winners, were conducted back to back at the Bondurant Racing School facility in Arizona in December. While the exact format for 2018 has not been decided, all involved were impressed by the way the Bondurant crew welcomed them and prepared the Formula Mazdas used in the MRTI Shootout and felt the track was a good facility to evaluate the drivers. Whatever the format, Mazda Motorsports and Andersen Promotions have chosen the series that are invited to participate.

“After we did the Shootout at Mazda Raceway, we were flooded with requests from series all around the world to be included. Our hard challenge is we would love to have 40 series participate and send their champions, but that would probably take us a week to evaluate the talent so we think the sweet spot right now is that 20 series number in terms of automatic entries. If you get any larger than that, you’re going to get into more than a two-day event. We could certainly look at that, but there’s a lot of increased costs for everybody,” says Kimball, noting that while Mazda Motorsports puts on the Shootouts, the contestants must get themselves to the venue.

In 2018, contestants came from seven different countries, representing everything from karting to SCCA Club Racing to Team USA Scholarship winners. Formula Ford champions from Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and Scotland were represented. Winner Donegan was chosen based on his performance at the Formula Ford Festival.

A total of 18 champions will earn an automatic entry to the shootout from the various Official Feeder Series, which in 2018 for the first time will include the NACAM Formula 4 Championship in Mexico, the South African Investchem Formula 1600 Championship and the Toyo Tires F1600 Championship in Canada.

“We are delighted to join the many championships from around the world as an Official Feeder Series to the Mazda Road to Indy Shootout program,” says Toyo Tires F1600 series coordinator Brian Graham. “What the Mazda Road to Indy has created with the scholarships is widely recognized as the best opportunity in open-wheel racing. The 2018 Toyo Tires F1600 Championship grid is building for the upcoming season and now there is even more to be excited about.”

Five series in the U.S. and Mexico will be on the radar for at-large entry tickets to the Shootout, issued at the discretion of Mazda., the authority on the karting industry, will continue to select one up-and-coming karter as the recipient of a 2018 Shootout entry ticket.

The full list of 2018 Official Feeder Series:
Australian Formula Ford Championship (Australia)
BRSCC Britcover/Avon Tires FF1600 Championship (England)
Dawson WAM Northern Ireland Formula Ford 1600 Championship (Ireland) (North America)
Formula Ford Festival (England)
Formula Ford Super Series (England)
Formula Tour 1600 (Canada)
MMSC MRF F1600 Championship (India)
NACAM Formula 4 Championship (Mexico)
New Zealand Formula 1600 Championship (New Zealand)
SCCA National Championship Runoffs (USA)
SMRC Scottish Formula Ford 1600 Championship (Scotland)
Selectiva de Kart Petrobras (Brazil)
South African Investchem Formula 1600 Championship (South Africa)
Team USA Scholarship (USA)
Toyo Tires F1600 Championship (Canada)
Walter Hayes Trophy (England)

Official Feeder Series for At-Large Entries:
F1600 Formula F Championship Series (USA)
F2000 Championship Series (USA)
Formula Car Challenge Presented by Goodyear (USA)
Formula Panam (Mexico)
Pacific F2000 Championship (USA)