New Pro Mazda Tatuus completes successful first test
The new Tatuus PM-18 Pro Mazda chassis has completed almost 1000 miles at Joliet and Mid-Ohio, and test driver Joel Miller says it will be far closer to Indy Lights performance than its predecessor.
Following a shakedown test on Monday at the Autobahn Country Club in Joliet, Ill., the Mazda-powered Tatuus PM-18 wrapped up two days of testing at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. Mazda sports car driver and USF2000 driver coach/steward Joel Miller drove the car that will make its competition debut in the 2018 Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires.
Miller also performed all the initial tests on the PM-18’s sister car, the USF-17, which became the spec car for the USF2000 series this year.
Comparing the new car to the ageing Elan used currently, Miller said: “The [PM-18], 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.
To contain costs and encourage USF2000 teams to also run in Pro Mazda, the USF-17 has served as the base car for the PM-18. However, the Pro Mazda has more sophisticated aerodynamics with an adjustable dual-element rear wing and single-plane carbon fiber front wing with adjustable flaps, larger Motegi Racing forged Technomesh monoblock alloy wheels and Cooper tires and a 275hp 2-liter Mazda MZR-PM18A motor developed by Elite Engines, utilizing a fly-by-wire throttle system and Cosworth SQ6 engine management system. Power is via a Sadev SL82 six-speed sequential transmission and limited-slip differential.
“With the extra horsepower in this engine, you have to be cognizant of tire degradation in the rear which is good,” said Miller. “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. Thursday was very, very cold and Friday was warmer so we were able to see two completely different conditions.”
Project manager Scot Elkins commented: “We are close to having 1,000 miles on the car in just these three days. 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 adjust it for the extra 100 horsepower.”
Dan Andersen, owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions which runs the three Mazda Road To Indy series, commented: “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.”
PM-18 prototype testing will continue with outings at Barber Motorsports Park and Iowa Speedway in May.
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