TEAM GDT SIGNS RISING COLOMBIAN OPEN-WHEEL RACER ANDRÉS MÉNDEZ FOR THE 2012 STAR MAZDA CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY GOODYEAR
Texas-based Team GDT announced today it has signed rising Colombian open-wheel star Andrés Méndez to compete in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear.
Méndez is a 19 year-old Colombian racer who has been competing in both karts and open-wheel cars for the past four years in Colombia, Europe and the United States. His karting credentials include major championship events in Colombia, Italy and Mexico, as well as the Florida Winter Tour, Rotax Max Challenge, the Pan-American Rotax, and the Super Kart SKUSA championships in the USA.
He has tested F2000 cars with the Red Bull-sponsored Korainenbros Motorsport Team in Estoril, Portugal, participated in the Jim Russell Future Driver Search and was chosen for the Ferrari Driver Academy as junior future driver. In Colombia, he has competed in the Van Diemen 2.0 National Championship, and is a three-time winner of the 6 Horas de Bogotá race, one of the most important motorsport events in Latin America, driving a Van Diemen sports racer.
"The main thing that attracted me to come and race in the United States and the Star Mazda Championship was the Mazda Road to Indy and how it makes getting from where I am now to the top levels of racing very clear," says Méndez. "I've raced a lot over the last four years, in many countries and many different series, and it's all very confusing. Now I'm with a really good team, GDT, racing in a very professional series and in a driver development program where the goal, racing in IndyCar and at the Indy500, is right there in front of me. I'm very excited for the start of the season and to finally get my career going in the right direction."
In 2011, Team GDT won its second Expert Series championship in a row with driver/team owner J.W. Roberts. The Expert Series is a race-within-a-race and a championship-within-a-championship for drivers 30 and older. Roberts won the Expert title, driving his #65 Team GDT / General Data Tech Mazda to a total of five in-class victories. Team GDT has also had success with young drivers over the past several seasons, including Motorsport Ireland 'Young Racing Driver of the Year' Patrick McKenna and multi-race winners Alex Ardoin and Richard Kent. Méndez is the latest 'young hotshoe' to join the Team GDT squad, and is only the first of several driver announcements the team has planned for the coming weeks.
"As a team owner I am very pleased to have a driver with Andrés talent and international experience on board," says Roberts. "He has shown a lot of promise in some very competitive series and now, with a clear direction and a team that cares a great deal about getting him where he wants to go, I expect he'll be a top Star Mazda competitor in 2012. And we're hoping to add some equally quick teammates for him to work with, so this should be a breakout season for Team GDT where we can battle for both the overall and Expert Series championship."
As part of Team GDT's 'championship upgrade,' top engineer Eric Purcell was added to the team's roster of talent in 2011, with additional engineering announcements also in the works. Purcell, who engineered John Edward's Star Mazda Championship-winning car for AIM Autosport in 2008, is an MIT-trained engineer with more than thirty years of experience in Europe and the U.S. as a driver, engineer and team manager. His experience includes road courses, street circuits and ovals, as well as such series as Formula BMW, Formula Atlantic and Indy Lights. He also had a major role in the early development of the Formula Mazda series.
Adding to the championship mix at Team GDT for 2012 will be experienced team manager Paul Mata and driver coach and nutrition/lifestyle consultant Chuck West, a championship-winning open-wheel driver - including the 1992 Star Mazda Championship -- and the original founder of the championship-winning Worldspeed Motorsports team. West's 'whole life' approach to driver training, which includes everything from fitness and nutrition to lifestyle, is credited by the team owner Roberts with being a major factor in his back-to-back Expert Series championships. "I'm very excited to have Andrés on board for 2012 season," says Mata. "The chemistry of a race team is both critical and difficult to control, but I see him fitting in very well with the team of drivers, engineers and mechanics that we are assembling. This is shaping up to be one of the most competitive Star Mazda seasons in recent years and to have a young driver with his speed, ambition and willingness to learn is a great start."
As a part of the 2012 Mazda Road to Indy, drivers in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear are competing for a prize fund valued in excess of $1.2 million - including a $600,000 scholarship to help the series champion move up to the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights series. The 2012 Star Mazda Championship season begins with the series' 'Spring Training' test at Barber Motorsports Park March 19-20. The 2012 Star Mazda season-opener takes places at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg IndyCar weekend, March 24-25.