By Christopher DeHarde, IndyCar & Road to Indy Writer
After a championship battle that was closing near the end, Oliver Askew won the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda driving for Cape Motorsports. Askew will be moving up to the Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires for an unannounced team and will be driving the brand new Soul Red Mazda-colored Tatuus PM-18.
This move up the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires was possible thanks to a scholarship presented to the USF2000 series champion valued at $325,000.
But what advice would past USF2000 champions give to Askew about moving up to Pro Mazda? Well, Motorsports Tribune asked a couple of former USF2000 champions that very question and here’s how they responded.
Anthony Martin, 2016 USF2000 Champion with Cape Motorsports:
“I think the biggest thing is to really focus on the task at hand and not sort of get too into the fact that you’re a Mazda scholarship driver,” said Martin, who was the 2017 Pro Mazda runner-up.
“You don’t get treated any more special than anyone else so it’s something where you’ve always got to focus on the job at hand and focus on what you’re there to do and that’s basically to drive a race car fast.
“To do that you have to really work with your team, whomever that is, work with your team and your engineers to get the most out of your car and the most out of yourself. As much as being a Mazda scholarship driver is so great, you’re not getting any more benefit than anyone else. I mean, you get the [driving] suit and you get a bit more exposure but that’s pretty much it and everything else is actually open to other drivers.
“When they need support from Mazda, they’re there to help and that’s what’s so cool about it is even though I’m a Mazda scholarship driver, I don’t get any more benefits than anyone else. I think the big thing is to focus on the task at hand and still drive the car fast.”
What would you have done differently?
“I think we could’ve done a bit more testing before the racing but there’s only so much testing you can do,” Martin said. “Obviously you can’t do it every single day like I’d like to but I think just being able to study the car, I mean we did have a pretty solid off season, we were in the car probably more than anyone else so I mean in terms of that it was pretty good.
Nico Jamin, 2015 USF2000 Champion with Cape Motorsports:
“It’s going to be a great experience, I’ve enjoyed it a lot,” said Jamin, who was third in the 2016 Pro Mazda standings.
“I think if you’re foreign and you’re from another country it’s really good to do some stuff with your local Mazda [dealers], I did some stuff with Mazda France and that was extremely good for Mazda USA as well, it started a relationship.
“Then just try to make the most out of the Mazda Road to Indy and learn as much as possible. I think when you come from USF2000 and step to Pro Mazda I think it’s doable to win the first season so just try to get the best preparation possible and go for another championship.”
What would you have done differently?
“Nothing, really,” Jamin said. “I was pretty happy with the way the last three years went, I was happy to share my second year of Pro Mazda with Cape Motorsports, we won and lost together but at the end I was able to step up to Indy Lights […] and had a great year in Indy Lights as a rookie this year. I mean, I think even if you win a championship, never think you’ve arrived and you know everything because you still have a lot to learn and always try to learn as much as possible.”
Matthew Brabham, 2012 USF2000 Champion with Cape Motorsports:
“Obviously it’s a big step up from USF2000 to Pro Mazda so the first thing you have to worry about is all the on track stuff,” said Brabham, who won the Pro Mazda title in 2013 for Andretti Autosport.
“Getting used to more power, a little bit more downforce and getting fitter so there’s a lot of things. You’ve got to step up your game as you move up through the ladder because it gets more competitive the higher you go and that’s the first part and the second part is all the off track stuff. You really have to start looking at trying to get sponsors, trying to find connections and make sure that when you do move up you have opportunities when you get to the top.”