ANTHONY Martin has returned to Perth after nearly a year in the US – where he is now probably better known than in Perth.
That’s because the 20-year-old has been one of the brightest stars on the US motorsport scene, where he finished in the top five 13 times in 16 races and ended his first season there as Rookie of the Year and winner of the coveted Spirit Award.
He made the podium five times via three second and two third-place finishes, and ended up fourth in the 2015 championship.
“What a year it has been,” the tall, modest driver said after jetting in from Los Angeles last week.
“I have really had a great time racing in the States and the year has gone extremely well. My goal was to finish in the top 10 and to have finished fourth well exceeded my expectations.”
Anthony, who won the WA and national karting titles and the WA Formula Ford title before heading to the US, set his sights on competing in Indycars.
He signed with the respected Indianapolis-based John Cummiskey Racing team to compete in USF2000, the first step on the Mazda Road to Indy program.
“Martin’s performance far exceeded expectation,” Cummiskey said.
The single-seat USF2000 racers are Mazda-based and the series is contested by young drivers from all parts of the globe, all fighting for a place in Indycars. The series has a vast US fan and national TV audience following and often runs as a curtain-raiser to Indy Lights, and Martin shone not only as a committed driver, but also as an unsuspecting ambassador for Australia.
Martin was also thrilled to win the Spirit Award, the US equivalent of Australia’s ‘best and fairest’, which goes to the most respected driver, on and off-track.
Next year he hopes to compete in the Pro Mazda Championship, the second step on the Mazda road to Indy ladder system.
The Pro Mazda cars use more powerful rotary engines capable of taking the cars to 300km/h, and the series champion gets a scholarship package to advance to Indy Lights. But the Pro cars cost more to maintain and funding is an ongoing issue in motorsport.
“We are hopeful it will work out,” Martin said.
Fellow Perth racer Luke Gabin, of Kwinana, also had a stellar year, finishing sixth in the USF2000 championship and also hoping to fly the flag for Australia in the US in 2016.