Drivers are always looking forward to the next race. But that is especially the case this weekend as the next round of Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires competition will see the drivers and teams enter hallowed grounds to contest Rounds 3 and 4 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The event, which will be staged as part of the traditional Sports Car Vintage Racing Association (SVRA) visit to the Brickyard, will see nearly 30 Mazda MX-5 Cup machines take to the 2.43-mile road course that utilizes several sections of the fabled oval circuit as part of the 14-turn course. Now in its 12th season, the Global MX-5 Cup series has raced on most of the high-profile circuits in North America. But this is the first for the Mazda-owned series, which has made significant upgrades to the program for 2017.
Patrick Gallagher will lead the championship tally heading into Indianapolis following a double-victory weekend with his No.29 McCumbee McAleer Racing entry in the season-opening event at Barber Motorsports Park in April.
While the opening event at Barber packed 17 corners into 2.3-miles of track, the Speedway will see the 28-car field able to stretch their legs a little bit more, thanks to the long fast run into Turn 1 as well as a long back straight sprint into Turn 7, which is expected to be a popular passing spot. Before the drivers take to the track, many of them will be looking to just take it all in as the opportunity to race at this track is one that does not come along often.
“Indianapolis is a pretty cool city and a pretty cool race track,” said Gallagher. “I raced there in a quarter midget when I was six or seven, but I’ve never raced at the actual road course. Of course, I had never been to Barber before either, and that turned out pretty well! I mean, it’s Indianapolis, so it is really cool to get the chance to race there. I’ve been there as a spectator for the Indianapolis 500 and for the IMSA races. It’s probably one of the two or three tracks that you walk into and get goosebumps. I think you’ll see 15 cars nose to tail, and I’ve been told that it’s a pretty straight forward circuit. Steven (McAleer) has video from when he raced there in his ModSpace Mazda MX-5 ST car in IMSA so I’ve been looking at that.”
Gallagher will have a healthy fleet of hungry competitors looking to usurp his championship lead. Heading that group will be Winding Road Racing’s Mark Drennan, who arrives in Indianapolis just 11 points behind Gallagher having also opened his 2017 championship account with a double-podium weekend at Barber. At stake is the $200,000 Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship for the series champion.
Playing the draft could be a key factor, considering that the Global MX-5 Cup machines are so well-matched given their common build specification. Built to a homologated spec by Long Road Racing, Mazda’s development and build partner, the SKYACTIV-engined Global MX-5 Cup machines will be piloted by a field that includes drivers from 15 different states and two countries.
In addition to the $200,000 overall prize, there is a $50,000 scholarship on offer from Mazda that will go to the highest finishing rookie in 2017. There are seven first-year racers who will look to build momentum toward that prize this weekend at IMS. Patrick Wilmot leads Bryan Ortiz and Matt Cresci after the initial two rounds of racing, with a deep rookie roster of talent that will likely produce a tight championship battle through the season.
“Racing at the Speedway is something that every driver dreams of, no matter what their discipline is,” said David Cook, Manager, Mazda Motorsports Business Development. “We are fortunate to have this opportunity to add the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the list of great tracks that Global MX-5 Cup competes on. With this track layout likely to encourage passing and so many closely matched cars, it should be some outstanding racing for our series that prides itself on parity."
Mazda will once again provide live streaming for the two races, hosted at https://www.facebook.com/Mazda/ and www.MazdaLive.com. Friday’s Race 1 will begin at 5:55 pm (Eastern) with Saturday’s Race 2 at 5:10 pm (Eastern).
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