Here's an update on the comings and goings of some of Canada’s young (and not so young) racing drivers as the 2010 season approaches:
Scott Maxwell: Arguably Canada’s most successful international auto racer (he won a class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans with John Graham and the late Greg Wilkins, for example), Maxwell sat out most of the 2009 season after winning the 2008 Grand Am KONI Challenge.
But that was last year. Maxwell has since been chosen to spearhead Ford’s lead entry in this year’s Grand Am Continental Tire Challenge (nee KONI).
Ford’s Grand Am program is focused on their retro Mustang "Boss 302" car from the late-1960s, early 1970s. Maxwell’s car, which will debut at Daytona on Jan. 29, is decked out in the famous "Parnelli Jones No. 15" livery of that era.
(If he’s going to drive Parnelli’s car, he’d better get a brush cut.)
There'll be no rest for Maxwell that Daytona weekend because, in addition to his Continental Tire race on the Friday, he’ll be driving on Patrick Dempsey’s Mazda RX8 team in the 24 Hours of Daytona on the Saturday and Sunday.So, from zilch in 2009 to all this in 2010. It’s hard, sometimes, to figure out the racing game.
Kyle Marcelli: Primetime Race Group has signed 19-year-old Barrie native Marcelli to co-drive alongside team owner Joel Feinberg in the LeMans Prototype Challenge class in the 2010 American LeMans Series.
Throughout the 2009 IMSA Prototype Lites Championship, an ALMS feeder series, Marcelli and Feinberg competed head-to-head with the goal of moving into the ALMS prototypes. Recognizing each other’s abilities behind the wheel as well as sharing the same aspirations as drivers, the two are excited to team up for a run at the LMPC championship in 2010.
"This is a dream come true for me," said Marcelli. "When I was 13, my dad and I used to go to Mosport each year when the American Le Mans Series arrived in late August. We would sit on top of Turn Two with thousands of others and watch the prototypes and GT cars and six years later I have found myself behind the wheel."
The two will be in their car for the first time when ALMS pre-season testing starts Feb. 22-23 in preparation for the 12 Hours of Sebring March 20.
Philip Major: After two season in England racing in the British Formula 3 series, the 21-year-old Ottawa native has returned to North America to drive for Sam Schmidt Motorsports in the 2010 Firestone Indy Lights championship.
"(The team) offered me a program for 2010 that I just couldn’t pass up," Major said in a release. "The experience of living and racing in Europe was fantastic but I feel that the opportunity to join the Indy Lights championship and race here, back at home, is the right step in my career."
Said Schmidt: "Out team had the opportunity to test Philip. Clearly, his experience in the U.K. has given him technical ability and discipline beyond his years. He progressed quickly through our program and I am confident he will adapt to the car and circuits successfully this season."
Tony Burgess: Autocon Motorsports team owner Michael Lewis of San Diego confirmed last week that Tony Burgess of Toronto and Bryan Willman of Kirkland, Wash., will be back as drivers for the team that has a Prototype 1 entry in the American LeMans Series for 2010.
Burgess, originally a motorcycle and motocross racer, started racing sports cars in 1997 and in 2000 did the first of his five 24 Hours of Le Mans races, to date. That first Le Man race in 2000 resulted in a third in class in GT2.
He started racing in the Prototype 2 class in 2006 in the European Le Mans Series and moved up to P1 in 2007, where he had a podium finish at Mosport.
Matt Billings: The voice of the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series, Adam Ross, announces that 16-year-old DIRT sportsman racer Matt Billings of Brockville has been selected as the first Canadian recipient of a scholarship offered to youngsters seeking to further their career in motorsports through education.
"I can’t wait to start the program," Billings said in a release. "I look forward to learning more about the industry when I go to North Carolina. This is a big opportunity for me to get to the next level."
The one-year program focuses on the mechanics of race cars, communication within the team, public relations and image as core areas.
Called RACE101, the program was founded by crew chief Tony Blanchard, who’s worked with Joey Logano as crew chief for Joe Gibbs Racing in the USAR Pro Cup series.
"We plan to provide a quality education for these talented drivers," said Blanchard. "Our mission is to improve the sport of auto racing by educating drivers in their areas of need."