Mazda Road to Indy
PM-18 Gets First Taste of On-Track Action
For the first time since the December unveiling, the brand new Mazda-powered Tatuus PM-18 got to take it’s first laps on-track, spending two days testing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio.
USF2000 driver coach/steward Joel Miller, who handled development duties for the new Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda car last season, is also handling duties for PM-18 this year.
“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.
“At Mid-Ohio, we focused on the chassis and tires. This car has more aero pieces so we wanted to try a few things and we went through that list. It responded very well, so that is very encouraging. On the tires, we tested an array of different compounds. It was kind of a blessing in disguise because Thursday was very, very cold and Friday was warmer so we were able to see two completely different conditions which really made it well-rounded. We’ll continue this at the next test.”
In an effort to help tone the costs for teams, the new PM-18 shares the same carbon and aluminum honeycomb monocoque chassis as the USF-17. However, the car is more enhanced compared to the USF-17, including 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 American Racing forged Technomesh monoblock alloy wheels with Cooper Tires (13″x10″ fronts and 13″x12″ rears); and a 275 HP 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.
“We are close to having 1,000 miles on the car in just these three days,” Project Manager Scott 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 100 horsepower. 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.”
Priced at $61,800, the PM-18 will serve as the series standard for at least five years, replacing the Elan Pro Mazda chassis introduced in 2004. Over the past three years, each stage of the MRTI ladder has been upgraded as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires got their new car in 2015 with the Dallara IL-15.
“With the first three days of prototype testing now complete, it’s clear that once again Tatuus and Elite Engines have hit another home run,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “Taking the already successful USF-17 and adding more downforce, bigger wheels and tires and 100 more HP plus a limited slip diff, my team headed by Scot Elkins has created an awesome race car that will break Pro Mazda track records right out of the box and be a delight to drive.
“Drivers on the Mazda Road to Indy will now progress correctly with a far better training vehicle than previously, and they’ll be much better prepared for Indy Lights and ultimately IndyCar. That’s what we are all about, and the success of testing so far provides me with the assurance that the MRTI ladder is in great shape for many years to come.
Testing will now continue with trips to Barber Motorsports Prak and Iowa Speedway in May.
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