Two of Canada’s finest race-car and race-driver preparation businesses, AIM Autosport of Woodbridge and Brian Stewart Racing of Sutton, are expanding their franchises – and their horizons.
AIM, which has been involved primarily in professional sports car racing as well as the Star Mazda open-wheel development series, announced Monday that it will field a team in the new USF2000 series that IndyCar (formerly the IRL) has designated as the first post-karting stepping stone in its Road to Indy program.
(IndyCar would like young drivers planning a career in Indy cars to move from karts to Formula Fords (the F2000 series) to Star Mazda to Indy Lights before going on to the big leagues.)
On the same day as the AIM announcement, Stewart – who’s had a team in the Firestone Indy Lights Series for years, sponsors the Brian Stewart Racing Karting Championship and only recently entered the USF2000 championship – announced that his business would be entering a team in the Star Mazda series.
The announcement by AIM – which was co-founded by Ian Willis and involves Keith Willis as Star Mazda team principal and former Toyota Atlantic standout Andrew Bordin as driver mentor – included information that Toronto teens Michael Furfari (Star Mazda) and his brother Anthony (USF2000) would be driving for the team this season.
"Andrew was a great influence on both drivers," noted Keith Willis, referring to a pre-Christmas testing session in Florida involving Bordin and the Furfaris. "He has the ability to communicate with the guys and make them feel comfortable which is important to the team dynamic, especially with young drivers."
AIM has a solid track record. Most recently, it won the 2008 Star Mazda title with American John Edwards aboard. In addition to the Formula Ford and Star Mazda teams, AIM fields the No. 61 Ford Riley with drivers Mark Wilkins (Toronto) and Burt Frisselle (Aspen, Colo.) in the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series.
Stewart, meantime, feels that his team is the perfect fit for any young driver planned to travel the Road to Indy.
"In our 45-year history, we have consistently graduated drivers through the various levels of open-wheel racing," said Stewart, noting that his star pupils have included Paul Tracy, Brian Herta, Christiano Da Matta, Gualter Salles and Eric Bechelart, among others.
"With the addition of our Star Mazda team, we now have a seamless series of stepping stones from karts through to Indy Lights for a driver planning to make racing his or her career."
In addition to Canadian Motorsport Hall of Fame inductee Stewart, mentoring and coaching of young drivers will be provided by former British F2000 and F3 champion Tommy Byrne, who also raced for Stewart in Indy Lights.
Both AIM and Stewart have seats available for all of these series.
It’s tough out there.