The Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, the developmental ladder for drivers and teams aspiring to reach the Verizon IndyCar Series, announced several drivers joining teams for the 2017 season in all three tiers.
In Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires, the top MRTI level, Carlin announced the addition of Matheus Leist and Zachary Claman DeMelo, while Team Pelfrey welcomed back Juan Piedrahita.
In Pro Mazda Championship presented by Cooper Tires, multi-time expert class champion Bobby Eberle returns to drive for World Speed Motorsports while Max Hanratty moves up from Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship powered by Mazda competition to race for Leading Edge Grand Prix. In USF2000, Norway’s Ayla Agren rejoins Team Pelfrey, for whom she won the 2014 F1600 title, while Guyana’s Calvin Ming has joined Pabst Racing.
Leist is the reigning BRDC British F3 champion. The 18 year-old Brazilian is considered a top prospect on the European racing scene after success in both Formula 4 and Formula 3 in the United Kingdom.
“I had quite a few options open to me in 2017, but a combination of things, including the opportunities in the U.S. and on the Mazda Road to Indy ladder, made Indy Lights a great option for me,” Leist said. “I have raced against Carlin before, so I know how hard they push as a team to win. I’m incredibly excited to get out on track in the car and get the season underway.”
Leist’s had two wins and seven podiums in 2015 British Formula 4 competition. He moved up to BRDC British F3 in 2016, winning four races and collecting 11 podiums to claim the 2016 title.
Claman DeMelo joins Carlin in 2017 after competing for Juncos Racing in Indy Lights last season, when he finished ninth in the championship. The Canadian raced with Carlin for selected rounds of the 2015 F3 Cup.
“Carlin, to me, represent one of the most professional teams that strive for only the best and I’ve no doubt that 2017 will be a great experience,” Claman DeMelo said.
Piedrahita, from Colombia, had six top-10 finishes for Team Pelfrey in Indy Lights in 2016. This year will mark the 25-year-old’s fourth season in the series.
“I couldn’t be happier to rejoin Team Pelfrey for the 2017 Indy Lights season. After working with the crew last year, I knew it was the right fit coming into this year,” Piedrahita said. “Gary (Neal, team manager) and Yves (Touron, engineer) have given me a lot of confidence and they always have a very competitive car at every track. We are going be extremely competitive this year and, for sure, we are going to seal the deal in the Freedom 100.”