By: Tanner Watkins
December 3, 2018 | 12:00 PM
This weekend, 20 of the best open-wheel racing prospects from around the world will descend on the Bondurant Racing School to compete for a full-time ride in USF2000 next season.
Perhaps the most notable event in the Road to Indy offseason, the Scholarship Shootout brings together champions from a variety of international formula series for a grueling two-day battle for the $200,000 prize. One driver to keep an eye on is Hunter McElrea.
Winner of the 2018 Australian Formula Ford Championship, McElrea is an accomplished prospect at the age of 18. The young man started racing in karts at nine years old before making a splash in his first season as a car driver in 2016.
During the 2016 campaign spent racing in Australia and New Zealand, McElrea captured 13 victories and 17 podiums across a diverse set of formula racing series. He was the youngest driver selected for the 2016 New Zealand Elite Motorsport Academy, and the development enjoyed to this point all culminated in a strong 2018 in the Aussie Formula Ford series.
The Formula Ford series in which McElrea competed in during 2018 is the most competitive junior open-wheel racing league in Australia. After seven rounds, McElrea beat out Hamish Ribarits by a narrow 15-point margin in clinching this year’s championship.
A total of 33 drivers competed in the series this year, and McElrea’s dreams include racing in another event with 33 drivers.
“My dream has always been to be an IndyCar champion and Indianapolis 500 champion,” says McElrea. “My plan, like many others, is to do so by climbing up the Road to Indy ladder system.”
Hailing from Gold Coast, Queensland, McElrea is carrying the torch for a family who shares a long history in auto racing. McElrea’s father owns a race team that competes with Porsche sports cars while both his father and grandfather were ex-racers with national championship titles to their names.
“I have always wanted to race ever since I could remember,” says McElrea.
While the 2018 Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout will be held this Saturday and Sunday (December 8 and 9), McElrea is already in the states testing with Pabst Racing at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
He will be one of three drivers testing a USF2000 car for Pabst today and tomorrow (December 3 and 4) and the experience gained from time spent in the Formula 2000 machine could pay dividends in the Shootout. McElrea also tested a USF2000 car in September with Pabst Racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“I was lucky enough to test at the Chris Griffis Memorial where I ended up P1 overall (in USF2000), and now I have the opportunity to drive with Pabst Racing again at Homestead-Miami where the Shootout happens to be right after,” said McElrea.
“I really love the USF2000 car and the wings and slicks, which is great as the shootout uses a wings and slicks car also. I can’t wait!”
For McElrea, he hopes all of the testing and experiences enjoyed overseas will culminate in victory at this year’s Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout.
“For me, winning the Road to Indy Scholarship Shootout would be a dream come true,” says McElrea. “Not only (for) the fact that you are competing against other champions from all around the world, but to have the chance to be racing in USF2000 thanks to Mazda next year would be amazing!”
Header image courtesy of Road to Indy.