By Road to Indy
BN Racing burst onto the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires scene early this season and made an immediate impact, scoring a pole position and podium finish with former karting star David Malukas at the team’s second race weekend in their home event at Road America. The Chicago-based squad now has plans to expand into the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires, having purchased two Tatuus PM-18s that will make their race debut next year.
The team is led by Englishman Bryn Nuttall, who has an extensive background in formula car racing and karting, including working as a driver coach and manager, mechanic, engineer and engine specialist. That background would be put to good use after a well-timed conversation in a Starbucks queue changed his career trajectory.
David Malukas and his father, Henry, a Lithuanian immigrant and founder/owner of HMD Trucking in Chicago, first had a chat with Nuttall about working together when the trio ran into each other during the SKUSA SuperNats in Las Vegas in 2014. Malukas, then 13 years old, had been karting since the age of 8 with numerous series titles and podiums, and was looking at future possibilities. They kept in touch, and when Malukas heard that Nuttall was in Chicago visiting family, he invited him over for further conversation and over the next few months their program came together.
“To make a long story short, David fit the bill for what I was looking for,” said Nuttall. “He was young, a good driver with very good potential, but he needed some work so I took him onboard. It was his first year of racing karts in Europe and that can be pretty daunting for a kid coming from the States. It’s very different over there, in regards to the general mentality and from a technical standpoint.”
Within five months of working together, the combination had racked up an impressive results sheet: at the prestigious season-ending Iame X30 World Championships in Le Mans, France, Malukas won the 2015 Junior X30 World Championship in spectacular fashion, taking the pole, all five heats and pre-final. He went on to earn the Junior Europa Championship at the start of the 2016 season in Casteletto, Italy and enjoyed a solid run at the CIK-FIA World Championships in the Senior class.
Choices now had to be made regarding the future. It was decided that Malukas would get initial race car experience in the UAE Formula 4 series in Dubai over the winter of 2016 and then in Germany in early 2017, building the required mileage and experience to make an impact when the timing was right to move back to some racing stateside. After exploring many avenues, instead of putting Malukas with an existing team, Nuttall formed his own, and BN Racing became a racing team in reality, joining the Mazda Road to Indy and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
“We looked at many different options but we wanted a series that was well run and had good benefits. I believe that the Mazda Road to Indy is the best series on the planet. It’s completely unique and they look after their customers.”
BN Racing joined the USF2000 series at the Grand Prix in Indianapolis. After a rocky start that weekend, the team restructured and made an immediate impact at the next race at Road America. In front of family and friends, the 16-year-old took the pole for race one and earned a second-place finish after leading much of the race.
“From Road America on, David had good pace although I didn’t think he got the results he deserved. I think we could have won both races in Toronto were it not for a mechanical failure and an incident, and some other issues in qualifying at Mid-Ohio and Watkins Glen that stopped us from being on the podium at the very least. We came from nowhere, almost a laughingstock at Indy, but we showed that we could compete with teams that have been around for years and that was very cool. We certainly turned some heads.”
As part of the new structure before Road America, BN Racing hired former USF2000 racer Victor Franzoni, who was locked in battle for the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires title. Franzoni worked in the shop and helped to coach Malukas, with everything going towards his own racing effort.
With the new Tatuus PM-18 coming online next season, the team had another decision to make: go for the USF2000 championship in 2018 or take the plunge onto the next level of the Mazda Road to Indy with Pro Mazda. With a plan in place for the young racer’s future, the decision was made to graduate Malukas now.
“David is very mature for his age, so I believe it’s well within him to be able to handle the Tatuus PM-18. And with so many of the top drivers from USF2000 moving up to Pro Mazda next year, he’ll be racing against some very good competition. He has a plan to continue his progress through Indy Lights and into the Verizon IndyCar Series and this is the best way to accomplish that. Having the new car makes the timing work, because everyone starts level.”
Malukas picked up the PM-18 right where he left off with the USF-17, topping the timing sheets in the second of six test sessions in the Chris Griffis Memorial Test at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October and setting the second-quickest lap of the weekend.
“The Chris Griffis test went extremely well for us, and showed that we can compete with some of the best teams in the whole Mazda Road to Indy paddock – established championship-winning teams like Juncos Racing and Cape Motorsports. Even though we are such a young team, it shows on an engineering front what we can do.”
BN Racing will continue to compete in USF2000, having brought three young talents to the Griffis test, including former Red Bull Junior driver Callan O’Keeffe. The team has yet to announce its USF2000 drivers for 2018 but plans are in place to run a pair of USF-17s alongside the two-car squad in Pro Mazda.
“Honestly, I didn’t think we’d generate so much interest this soon. But I guess the impact of what we did last year on the track, and the image we presented off the track with a very professional presentation was noticed. It’s pretty nonstop right now and we are still improving in many areas but it will all come together by the time the New Year comes around.”