WHILE Daniel Ricciardo has been doing a sterling job flying the flag for Australia in Formula One, another Perth racer has been making headlines in the US, just missing out on taking the fiercely-fought 2017 Pro Mazda Championship.
Anthony Martin finished a close second in the final of the Mazda ‘Road to Indy’ series which last week finished at Watkins Glen, New York.
It was a season of intense racing for Martin, who last year won the USF2000 category, and with it a scholarship which allowed him to tackle the next step in program.
Had he won, he would have got another scholarship, worth US$800,000, which would have put him in the IndyLites class, just one rung below the fabled Indycars.
Martin, 22, and eventual winner, Victor Franzoni, of Brazil, traded first places throughout the season and the final, run in the wet on the tricky Watkins Glen circuit, was anybody’s race.
However, despite the category being a one-make event where every car was supposedly identical, the Brazilian’s car consistently showed superior straight-line speed.
To exacerbate matters, Martin had to start from 5th on the grid after incurring a penalty for ‘failing to acknowledge the chequered flag at the conclusion of qualifying.’
Yet he was the only one of at least five drivers who was penalised for failing to see the flag – which had inexplicably been moved well ahead of where it was in earlier qualifying laps.
However, to his credit, young Martin kept his cool.
‘I’m very disappointed not to take the championship but I had a great time this year,’ he said.
‘To come this far and to not take the championship is bittersweet.
‘The season has been one big bumpy rollercoaster.
‘Victor (Franzoni) and I traded the lead I don’t know how many times, and we had some intense battles.
‘I was pushing 150 per cent out there with the championship on the line and gave it my all.’
But all may not be lost.
Martin’s solid performance throughout the season was noted and talks are underway with several potential backers for next season.