Portante joins Belardi for 2013

For the second year in a row the MAZDASPEED Scholarship winner, by way of the Skip Barber Race Series Championship Shootout, has chosen Belardi Auto Racing to compete in the Cooper Tires USF2000 Powered by Mazda Championship.

Peter Portante, 16, who won the Shootout at Road Atlanta in December, has signed with the Mazda Road to Indy team for the 2013 season.

"Being a huge fan of formula car racing, I always wanted to give road racing a shot, but with continued success in oval cars we found it tough to make the change," said Portante. "Once we learned about Skip Barber and what they had to offer it seemed like a no-brainer to us, so we made the switch while running a limited late model season.

"We could not have been happier the way 2012 went. There was a very steep learning curve when I started and I went through a lot of growing pains. With proper coaching from Lee Carpentier and the whole Skip Barber staff I was able to elevate my driving in a very short period of time.

"If it was not for Skip Barber and the Mazda Road to Indy's Scholarship program we would never be in the position to have signed with a team like Belardi Auto Racing for our first USF2000 season. I can't even begin to tell you how happy I am to be with such a strong team and able to move to the next step of the Mazda Road to Indy."

The Connecticut native began competing in karting at age 7 and eventually graduated to stock cars. Portante turned to open-wheel racing with a move to Skip Barber where he had a successful season in the Summer Series. Portante then participated in the Shootout, a rigorous three-day process of media training, fitness evaluation, and business proposal evaluation in addition to the race events.

"We're happy to see another talented racer from the Skip Barber Racing School make the jump to USF2000," said John Doonan, Director of Mazda Motorsports. "Peter earned this ride against some great competition. He will certainly have his work cut out for him this season as he moves up a rung on the Mazda Road to Indy. The combination of his Skip Barber experience, coupled with great support from Belardi Auto Racing should allow Peter to rise to the occasion."

Added team owner Brian Belardi: "It is awesome to see the Mazda Road to Indy continue to be a choice for young open-wheel drivers, and we are really excited to have Peter make the next step with us. It's great to have another MAZDA Scholarship driver join our team, too, and we couldn't be happier to have it be someone as talented and driven as Portante."