Two time Mazda Road to Indy Champion, Matt Brabham has given the new for 2017 Tatuus USF-17 its maiden oval test at Lucas Oils Raceway in Indianapolis.
The Italian-manufactured Tatuus chassis will form the basis for both the Cooper Tires USF2000 Series and the Pro Mazda Championship from 2017. Brabham won those Titles in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
Brabham – who made his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in May for PIRTEK Team Murray – secured the USF2000 Championship in 2012 with four wins and 11 podiums in the 14 race season.
The now 22-year-old went on to dominate Pro Mazda in 2013 with a record breaking 13 wins, including victory on the 0.686mi (1.1km) Lucas Oils oval, which is also known as Indianapolis Raceway Park.
Brabham was one of the six Mazda Road to Indy graduates to take part in the 100th Indianapolis 500 on May 29 – where he would go on to finish 22nd.
He spends weekends when he isn’t racing himself tutoring some MRTI regulars – including Australian Pro Mazda rookie, Jake Parsons – who moved to the US in January.
“It’s an honor to test the new chassis,” said Brabham.
“Today went really smoothly. We had no issues and ran tons of laps. The systems in the car are a big upgrade compared to the old car, which makes it a lot more comfortable to drive.
“It felt really quite different from the old USF2000 car and had different characteristics in the way it drives and handles obviously.
“It has less aero and downforce which makes the car slide around slightly more. I think it will be fantastic for learning car control especially on the Ovals. Hopefully it will make the racing closer and tighter too without as much aero wash in traffic.
“The mechanical grip from the Tatuus chassis is also a big improvement compared to the old car. It makes up for the less downforce.
“We ran pretty much the same lap times as the guys did earlier in the year. There is a lot more left in it also. I’m sure when the teams get hold of the cars and undergo proper setup development, the lap time will drop quickly.”
Promoter of the Mazda Road to Indy program, Dan Andersen praised Brabham’s contribution.
“Matt is one of our most successful MRTI alumni and certainly knows and understands the USF2000 class better than most,” said Dan Andersen, Owner and CEO of Andersen Promotions. “His skill as a top level open-wheel pilot served us well today, and we appreciate his contribution to this fantastic new car.”
The new chassis has been designed to bring costs down and increase durability of consumable components for the two entry level rungs to the MRTI program. It broke cover earlier this week for its first public test at Road America in Wisconsin.
The car will run with a Mazda powerplant in both trims and for the Pro Mazda Series, a higher level Cosworth data system and increased aerodynamics that will build a stronger challenge for the drivers in that category.
Brabham had his last competitive outing in Stadium Super Trucks, winning both races at the Detroit Grand Prix race a week after his successful Indianapolis 500 debut.
He has been a regular in the Verizon IndyCar Series paddock throughout 2017 and is in on-going discussions about future opportunities in IndyCar.
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