The month of January is traditionally rather quiet on the North American open-wheel auto racing calendar. But thanks to the Team USA Scholarship, talented youngster Neil Alberico, who finished a close second in this year’s Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda, winning a series-high six races, will have an opportunity to enhance his preparations for a graduation to the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires by contesting the Toyota Racing Series in New Zealand.
TRS, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, will comprise three races per event for five consecutive weekends during the Southern Hemisphere summer in January and February. Past TRS graduates include recently confirmed Scuderia Toro Rosso F1 driver Daniil Kvyat, from Russia, and New Zealanders Mitch Evans, who won the 2012 FIA GP3 Series, and Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 test driver Brendon Hartley, who has been a sports car standout in both Europe and North America the past two seasons.
“This is such an exciting development for our program,” said Team USA Scholarship founder and president Jeremy Shaw. “I was in New Zealand in 2005, running a Team USA Scholarship Formula Ford car, when TRS made its debut, and I was immediately impressed by the level playing field, the attention to detail and the level of intensity. The series has continued to grow in stature and credibility ever since. Finally, we have been able to put together all the pieces to take part ourselves. We haven’t been able to fund the entire program but I’m thankful not only for our own supporters but also some of Neil’s who have agreed to pick up the slack and ensure that he will contest all five weekends.”
Alberico’s car will be fielded by Victory Motor Racing, run by motorsports veteran Garry Orton.
A full field of 22 cars, including drivers from around the world, is expected for the series which will commence at the world’s most southerly race track, Teretonga, on January 9-12 and continue on to Timaru International Raceway, the brand-new Highlands Motorsport Park and Hampton Downs before concluding on Feb. 6-9 with the prestigious New Zealand Grand Prix at Manfeild Autocourse.
“I am honored to be a part of such a prestigious program,” said Alberico, 21, from Los Gatos, Calif., who also won a Team USA Scholarship in 2011. “New Zealand is going to be an exciting venture for Team USA. I am very much looking forward to the partnership between the guys at Victory Motor Racing, the Toyota Racing Series and the Team USA Scholarship. Big thanks to all the supporters involved in this year’s program to make this opportunity possible. I’m psyched to be headed to New Zealand in January to duke it out with some of the best drivers from around the world.”