Apr 19, 2012
The core goal of the Mazda Road to Indy program is attracting talent from all corners of the world.
This happens not only through a growing ladder series that continues to see increasing field sizes and tighter competition, but through the one-of-a-kind scholarship initiative awarded to the champion of each series. As Firestone Indy Lights welcomes nine new rookies to the 2012 season, the results of that selling point are quickly becoming apparent.
Englishman Oliver Webb was well on his way up the European motorsports ladder in series such as Formula Renault 2.0, Formula Renault UK and British Formula 3, and continued to find that each move up resulted in an almost impossible budget with little reason to continue.
"It just became pointless staying; they didn’t offer enough incentive going forward," Webb said. "You could be the quickest driver in the world, and as we found out for instance through (Pastor) Maldonado. He’s a very good driver driving for Williams, he won the GP2 Championshp, but still he’s paying over 20 million pounds to be in Formula One, so that’s 30 million dollars for one year.
"It’s crazy money to be paying when you could come over here, earn a better living, have a better lifestyle, race just as competitively."
Webb recently transferred from his hometown of Manchester, England, to Indianapolis to pursue a career. He ran four races in 2011 with Jensen Motorsports, and obtained a full-time ride with defending team champion Sam Schmidt Motorsports for 2012.
He sits sixth in the standings, three points behind series veteran Gustavo Yacaman. In addition to the ease in budget as compared to Europe (the average Firestone Indy Lights budget runs in the $500,000-750,000 range), Webb sees a larger commitment to fan engagement in the States.
"There’s a different atmosphere in the American racing," he said. "The first thing you notice is they’re making more of a show for the audience, which is great because that’s what generates revenue in the end. If we didn’t have crowds we wouldn’t be racing because no one would want to be seeing it, so the series does a great job of making great events … that’s really what gets the crowds here. The crowds here mean more drivers can come, more sponsors, which in turn means we can earn a living doing what we love."
Listen to a full interview with Webb and learn more about his move to the U.S. HERE.