This weekend Australian Formula Ford drivers Hunter McElrea and Cameron Shields will be participating in the 2018 Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test organized by the Mazda Road To Indy.
McElrea, who's currently leading the 2018 Australian Formula Ford Championship by 38 points, will be testing a USF2000 car for the second time in his career. Last year McElrea was the quickest rookie around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway, driving a Pabst Racing USF2000 car, powered by Mazda.
"Driving around Indy was amazing, as one of my big dreams is to win the Indy 500, it felt really special to drive over the bricks every lap on the road course circuit. [Indianapolis Motor Speedway is] definitely one of my favourite tracks," said McElrea about last year's test in wings and slicks machinery.
"For me, it’s such a dream come true and an awesome opportunity to get over there, last time it was such a big learning curve and I did better than I expected.
"I’m so excited and lucky to go back and chase my dream to get to Indy Car."
The Melbourne-based driver has well-defined goals for his future career and Australian Formula Ford is the perfect launching pad, given the category's ongoing relationship with the Mazda Road To Indy ladder.
The winner of the 2018 Australian Formula Ford Championship will receive an entry ticket to the 2018 Mazda Road To Indy Shootout. The prize for the winner of the shootout is a US$200,000 scholarship to compete in the 2019 USF2000 Series.
Cameron Shields is the second Aussie Formula Ford driver to participate in the Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test this weekend. Shields will join Indycar outfit Juncos Racing, driving one of their 275hp Pro Mazda cars.
The Toowoomba-based driver is one of the most experienced drivers in the Australian Formula Ford field, with a triple-championship campaign this year (he is currently competing also in the Australian Formula 3 Premier Series and the CAMS PAYCE Australian Formula 4 Championship).
Given his experience in various open-wheel racing cars, Shields has proven to be a versatile driver, open to expanding his horizons in different classes and environments.
"My goal is to become a professional racing driver and I would be more than happy to drive anything that is presented to me. Right now I am going to test in America in hope of chasing the Mazda Road to Indy pathway and someday becoming an Indy Car driver. However, that is not what I am limited to - if I were to be provided with the opportunity to drive a Supercar in Australia or anything anywhere for that matter, then I would take it."
This will be Shields' first experience in North America, having never driven a Pro Mazda before.
"The experience I have gained driving a Formula 3 car will be incredibly valuable for this test day. From all of the information I can gather, the Pro Mazda will have more horsepower but they only have half the amount of downforce so it will certainly be something quite different to drive!"
Last week Shields was awarded a Sports Australia Hall of Fame mentorship, being the first racing car driver to receive this important recognition.
Both McElrea and Shields will fly back to Australia next week just in time to jump into their Formula Fords for the upcoming National Round at Phillip Island, held on the 28th-30th of September.
2018 AFFC Pointscore (top 10)
Hunter McElrea - 252 pts
Hamish Ribarits - 214 pts
Zac Soutar - 165 pts
Nathan Herne - 140 pts
Liam McLellan - 135 pts
Lachlan Mineeff - 116 pts
Angelo Mouzouris - 109 pts
Cameron Shields - 108 pts
Bart Horsten - 101 pts
Cody Donald - 87 pts