Indy Lights debut for Rinus VeeKay at Indianapolis
KNAF Talent First car racing talent Rinus VeeKay will make his Indy Lights debut at this weekend’s Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 17-year-old driver from Hoofddorp in the Netherlands, who claimed the title of vice champion in the Cooper Tires USF2000 series in his maiden season in car racing, will join Belardi Auto Racing, the team that won the team championship in the Indy Lights category of the 2017 Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Over the past two weeks VeeKay tested with great success for several teams in the new Pro Mazda PM-18.
KNAF Talent First car racing talent Rinus VeeKay impressed in his maiden season in car racing with three wins and twelve podium finishes out of fourteen races and by claiming the title of vice champion in the Cooper Tires USF2000 series, the first official step on the ‘Road to Indy’, the clearly defined path for young talented drivers to reach the top, the highly regarded IndyCar Series. VeeKay’s results and driving style didn’t go unnoticed and after Watkins Glen, the last race of the 2017 Cooper Tires USF2000 season that was won by VeeKay in commanding style, the Dutch rookie was contacted by Belardi Auto Racing, the team that won the team championship in the Indy Lights category of the 2017 Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires. Belardi Auto Racing invited the young Dutchman, who turned 17 years of age only a few weeks ago, for a 2-day test at this weekend’s Chris Griffis Memorial Open Test at Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s 2.4-mile, 14-turn road course. The annual test provides teams in all three categories of the Mazda Road to Indy the opportunity to audition new talent and jumpstart their campaigns. The Indy Lights category has a competitive entry list at Indianapolis, so VeeKay will meet some tough competition. Arie Luyendyk, the 2-time Indy 500 winner, will be at Indianapolis to support his young countryman.
VeeKay has been in the States for almost two weeks now to prepare himself for the next step in his racing career. Pro Mazda is the next level of the Mazda Road to Indy, and after his impressive USF2000 season VeeKay got offers from several Pro Mazda teams.
Last week the 17-year-old driver from Hoofddorp tested with Exclusive Autosport at Road America and two days at Mid-Ohio with the championship winning team of Juncos Racing.
VeeKay impressed both teams with his speed and attitude. “Due to some electronic problems we could only do 15 laps at Road America, but at Mid-Ohio we completed 120 laps. Everything went very well and I felt comfortable in the car from the very first moment,” the KTF-driver said. VeeKay praised the very professional attitude of Juncos Racing, a team with drivers in Pro Mazda, Indy Lights and the IndyCar Series, and with titles in the Indy Lights drivers’ championship in two out of the last three seasons and the 2017 Pro Mazda title as well.
Learning from Roberto Moreno
In 2018 the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires will use the brand new and much faster Tatuus PM-18 chassis with a 2-liter 275HP Mazda engine. “At Road America I was more than five seconds quicker than the 2017 Pro Mazda car and ten seconds quicker than my USF2000 car. Pro Mazda is the category between USF2000 and Indy Lights, but in performance and lap times the new Pro Mazda comes closer to the Indy Lights than to the USF2000,” said an enthusiastic VeeKay.
This week VeeKay tested the Pro Mazda car of Pabst Racing, the team he claimed the title of USF2000 vice champion with this season, and Exclusive Autosport. “After the problems at Road America they offered me this extra test day. It went extremely well again and the lap times were very good,” said the KTF-driver after the 3-day test at Autobahn Country Club, a track near Chicago.
VeeKay also has some offers to race in Europe. An English top team invited the 17-year-old talent to test in one of the leading European formula categories. This test will be in November. “After that test we will look into all the options and make a decision about the class and team for 2018. One thing is for sure, I’ll once again do the MRF Challenge, a series of four events at tracks in Bahrain, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and India. This series has its first race in November and ends early February, and unlike last winter, I don’t have to miss a race this time,” said VeeKay.
This season, Rinus VeeKay is supported by Jumbo, Total and the Dutch KNAF Talent First program.