Also launches new Indy Lights Rookie Challenge—winner receives 2009 ride
Written by Moore Good Ink
Orlando, FL: Palm Beach International Raceway President, Ron Dixon, announced news on Friday at the PRI Trade Show of FIA approval to use the track as a test facility for all types of racing that falls under the umbrella of a Grade 2 License and also of an important new Indy Lights Rookie Challenge Series to help aspiring young drivers get closer to competing in the 2009 Indy Lights series.
Dixon said, “We’ve recently received notification from the FIA that our Grade II license is forthcoming, and we are confident that we will have the rubber stamp on the certificate by late January or early February, 2009.” This means track testing for professional classes on our road course can begin immediately. This valuable certificate enables Palm Beach International Raceway to host events in all the major classes, including IRL, Indy Lights, Grand-Am, and NASCAR. “Our whole aim,” explained Dixon “is to bring all major auto racing events to the State of Florida by 2010.”
PBIR’s second announcement of note, involves the launch of a new series titled the Indy Lights Rookie Challenge. This is a concept inspired and perpetuated by Dixon to attract approximately thirty young, ambitious Indy Lights drivers to compete for a fully sponsored ride in the 2009 IRL Indy Lights series.
“There are a lot of young racers who simply cannot afford today’s Indy Lights annual budgets, which have escalated to between $750,000 and $1,000,000,” said Dixon. “My aim is to help young drivers who cannot raise these kinds of racing budgets. Our plan involves two days testing the applicants on our road course here at Palm Beach International Raceway and another two days on the oval at Homestead.”
The rookie drivers will be judged by a professional independent panel. The panel will judge the contestants not only on their driving abilities but also on their appearance, their level of fitness, how they handle the media, and so on. The Rookie Challenge, to which PBIR has allocated one million US dollars, begins mid-February and ends first week of March. The winner will take all.
To give the plan further support, Ron Dixon, father of 2008 Indy 500 winner and twice IRL champion Scott Dixon, has been in close communications with the IRL, the Indy Lights series, and the manufacturers. “This program is something new and unique,” explained Dixon “it will afford huge opportunities to young, aspiring racing drivers, enabling them to demonstrate their excellence in all aspects of today’s racing.”Palm Beach International Raceway is located in Jupiter, Florida, on a 200-acre property formerly known as Moroso Motorsports Park. It was purchased by a group of local investors, Joe Lubeck, JC Solomon, and Raymond Graziotto, who razed the original facility to the ground. To provide additional and vital expertise, motor sports entrepreneur Scott Revell obtained a quarter of the company in October, and introduced race engine induction authority Keith Wilson of Wilson Manifolds and Jan Kipnis. The group appointed Ron Dixon as president.
Work on the new raceway began in May 2008 and by November a 2.034-mile 11-turn European-style road course was in place as well as an all-concrete drag strip, and a karting facility, which is expected to host a World Championship event before the end of 2009. Though the three race tracks are located on the same property, they are separated and operate independently. All three tracks are lit to television requirements, and as PBIR is situated near the Pratt and Whitney factory, there are no noise restrictions. Hence their slogan, ‘where the sun never sets on racing,’ it’s a twenty-four/seven operation.