PALMETTO, Fla. – Exclusive Autosport may be new to the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires, but it is far from being a new team.
With five years of experience in Canadian and U.S. junior formula series including numerous championship titles, the team continued its progression this year and made an immediate impact on the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda.
Exclusive Autosport was born from Michael Duncalfe’s driver management company, Exclusive Management Inc., with head offices in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Beginning with a diecast company he started out of his parent’s house when he was only 17, Duncalfe brings a history of success to his latest expansion.
Duncalfe shares an early racing trajectory with many of the Mazda Road to Indy racers. His father starting karting when the young Duncalfe was 8 years old and, growing tired of sharing seat time with the youngster, bought his son a kart of his own. Racing soon followed, but it was a karting scholarship that jump-started the program.
“Similar to the Skip Barber Shoot Out scholarship, Bridgestone Canada had a karting scholarship that earned you a free ride in the Bridgestone F2000 Championship,” said Duncalfe. “I was the quickest driver against 20 other drivers competing over three days, so I earned the scholarship. I finished fourth overall and won Rookie of the Year in 1998.”
The young entrepreneur left racing to focus on his university degree, when a search for a diecast model of Greg Moore’s 1999 Player’s Champ Car prompted him to start his own diecast model company. It was the success of this business that enabled him to get back into racing. During his experience as a driver he perceived a market need for services to help young racers get their start and guide them in the industry, so he branched out to form his own management company.
“I’ve always wanted to be a part of the racing industry. I thought at first that it would be as a driver, but I love being on the management and team side of things. I was fortunate that I had been able to learn the marketing and sponsorship side of racing from a very early age, and the biggest thing I learned was how to present to a company. When I was younger, I thought that it was about me and that people would want to sponsor me because I was a good driver. I learned very quickly that it was not about me but about the company, about taking care of their needs and delivering for them. In turn, I got to go racing.”
Duncalfe started Exclusive Management in 2007, putting partnerships and marketing deals together for drivers and helping them to navigate their way through development programs like Skip Barber, with its scholarship into USF2000. Wife Kimberly joined the organization in 2011, working on marketing communications and logistics. The experience gained helped him take the next logical step, to take control into his own hands by forming the Exclusive Autosport team. But in typical Duncalfe fashion, he not only found himself owning a team, but operating a chassis importing business as well.
“At the end of 2012, I had a number of drivers who were ready to continue their development and the next logical step was F1600. Based on the best attributes of several very professional programs I’d worked with in open-wheel and sports car racing, we started the team. At that same time, I had a young driver testing with the Cape brothers in their USF2000 car and it was the first time I’d seen (an Australian-built) Spectrum 1600 first hand. They introduced me to Michael Borland with Spectrum and I became the Canadian importer for Spectrum chassis, while the Cape brothers were the U.S. importers. At the end of 2013, the Capes decided not to continue so we became the North American importers.”
Exclusive Autosport won numerous championships in Canadian F1600 and F2000 before branching out into the U.S.-based F1600 Championship Series and capturing that title in 2015. The natural progression was to the Mazda Road to Indy and the USF2000 Championship, but with a year remaining on the old Van Diemen chassis, Duncalfe bided his time until the Tatuus USF-17 made its debut this season.