Mixed fortunes for Mazda ..

AT ROAD ATLANTAB-K Motorsports Lola B08/86 Mazda MZR-R ALMS LMP2 racecar at Road Atlanta

New Champions Crowned, Another MAZDA 6 Race Win in SPEED World Challenge, but a DNS in the ALMS

This was a very busy week for Mazda at Road Atlanta. In addition to the 1,000 mile ALMS Petit Le Mans feature race there were season finales for the Cooper Tires Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, and the SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship. There was also the penultimate round of the Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear, and the entire Road Atlanta weekend was powered by the Totally New MAZDA6. And, in case that wasn’t enough, the new MAZDA6 pace car was fueled by BP Bio-Butanol, an advanced bio-fuel.

Meanwhile, a few hours to the North, the 2008 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda, and the KONI Challenge seasons concluded at Virginia International Raceway. A busy weekend indeed.

ALMS Petit Le Mans & the Lola B08/86 Mazda MZR-R Recap After qualifying 15th overall in a field of 38 cars for their race debut with the new car, misfortune struck during the race morning warm-up. Gerardo Bonilla spun the car and backed into the tire barriers in turn one. Gerardo was uninjured but with less than two hours before the race, the team was forced to withdraw as there was insufficient time to complete the repairs. The car will make its race debut in two weeks at the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Key facts about the car include:

This will be the first coupe to race in the ALMS LMP2 class. Outnumbered by the Porsche & Acura forces by eight to one Mazda has stepped up their program on the chassis side. While the Mazda AER developed MZR-R has shown great speed, the results to date have not reflected the potential. Aerodynamically the coupe is expected to have approximately 10% more downforce and 7% less drag. The air restrictor size will be increased to 45.6mm, but all coupes are required to run AC so power increase will be negated. The car will also feature a faster refueling mechanism and improved fuel collector to reduce pit stop time. The BP sponsored car remains on Dunlop tires with drivers Ben Devlin & Gerardo Bonilla. About Bio-Butanol

BP and Mazda are working together to find more sustainable solutions for mobility, one example being new advanced bio-fuels. Mazda is partnering with BP whose strategy for bio-fuels centers around sustainable feedstocks which do not impact food supplies. They are investing in research work to develop the technologies required to produce advanced bio-fuels. In partnership with DuPont BP is developing the technology to produce Bio-Butanol on a commercial scale.

The EPA and ALMS green challenge race offers a unique opportunity to showcase new advanced bio-fuels like Bio-Butanol which represents the next significant change required to meet the growth in demand for environmentally responsible, renewable fuels for transportation. Mazda and BP are testing Bio-Butanol in various vehicles at the Green Challenge event at Road Atlanta

The Bio-Butanol fueled 2009 MAZDA6 pace car is a production vehicle that has NOT been modified in any way. Bio-Butanol does not require any changes to the fuel tank, pumps, or injection system. It is 100% compatible with existing vehicle technology. Mazda and BP will begin testing the Bio-Butanol in the Mazda MZR-R race engine with the desire to race with the fuel in 2009 Bio-Butanol offers the following key advantages:

Has an energy content closer to that of gasoline than ethanol so consumers face less of a compromise on fuel economy . Is less susceptible to separation in the presence of water than ethanol/gasoline blends, which allows use of the industry’s existing distribution infrastructure without requiring modifications in blending facilities, storage tanks or retail station pumps. Cooper Tires Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda Recap

The Friday afternoon season finale started with three drivers chasing the championship. Jonathan Bomarito lead Jonathan Summerton, with Marcus Niemela holding an outside chance to win. After a late race caution bunched the field, a post restart crash amongst the leaders led to Markus Niemela winning the race and coming from behind to secure the championship in dramatic fashion.

1 Markus Niemela Brooks Associates Racing  (2 wins) 2 Jonathan Bomarito  Mathiasen Motorsports 228 (3 wins)3 Jonathan Summerton Newman Wachs Racing 224 (2 wins)4 James Hinchcliffe Forsythe/Pettit Racing 196 (1 win)5 Junior Strous Condor Motorsports 196 (1 win)6 Carl Skerlong Pacific Coast Motorsports 189 (1 win)7 Dane Cameron Genoa Racing 1698 Simona De Silvestro Newman Wachs Racing 167 (1 win)9 Kevin Lacroix Walker Racing 16110 Greg Mansell Walker Racing 105

Later that evening at the awards ceremony, Ben Johnston was introduced as the new owner of the series to a standing ovation among the teams. A formal announcement along with the 2009 schedule is expected within the next few weeks. Both Mazda and Cooper expressed their intent to continue their partnership in the longest running road-racing series in North America.

Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear RecapThe penultimate round of the Star Mazda Championship was won by John Edwards. The top three drivers, Joel Miller, Edwards, and Peter Dempsey, are now within 15 points of one another with 44 points available for a win. The finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca could match the Atlantic race for excitement.

The series also used the Petit Weekend to announce their 2009 schedule which includes a return to ovals.

Date  Location  Track Type  Racing with March 20  Sebring (Florida)  Airport  ALMS April 25 Virginia International Raceway Road Course Grand-AmMay 16 Miller Motorsports Park (Utah) Road Course ALMSJune 13-14 New Jersey Motorsports Park  Road Course Feature Race (2 races)June 20 Milwaukee Mile Oval NASCAR TruckJuly 10 Iowa Speedway Oval ARCA RE/MAXJuly 25–26 Autobahn (Joliet Illinois) Road Course Feature Race (2 races)August 16 Trois Rivieres (Canada) Street Circuit Feature Race w/AtlanticAugust 29 Mosport (Canada) Road Course ALMSSeptember 25 Road Atlanta Road Course ALMSOctober 10 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca(Monterey, Calif) Road Course ALMS

SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship RecapThe Tindol Motorsports team ended the season on a high note for themselves with a Chip Herr, Michael Galati 1-2 in their distinctive green and white MAZDA6s. This was the fifth win of the season for the MAZDA6, more than any other car in the series. Five Mazda drivers finished in the top ten, including 2007 MX-5 Cup Champion Jason Saini who secured Rookie of the Year honors.

1 Peter Cunningham RealTime Racing Acura TSX 9392 Pierre Kleinubing RealTime Racing Acura TSX 934 (1 win)3 Kuno Wittmer RealTime Racing Acura TSX 930 (3 wins)4 Chip Herr Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6  885 (2 wins)5 Jason Saini Tri-Point Motorsports MAZDA6  770 (1 win & Rookie of the Year)6 Michael Galati Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6  711 (2 wins)7 Seth Thomas BimmerWorld BMW 325i 6938 Charles Espenlaub Tri-Point Motorsports MAZDA6  6859 James Clay BimmerWorld BMW 325i 626 (1 win)10 Charlie Putman Tindol Motorsports MAZDA6  559

The Tindol Motorsports team was voted team of the year by their peers, and team owner Chris Tindol was awarded the Zimmermann Cup for “his limitless enthusiasm and passion for World Challenge racing.”

BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda RecapConor Daly clinched the championship and its MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder bonus with a win on Saturday and a second place on Sunday at Virginia International Raceway. Daly, 16, finished with 388 points to edge Josef Newgarden (372 points) and Felipe Polehtto (366). The son of former racing star Derek Daly won five of the championship's 14 races, finishing in the top five a total of 10 times and taking three pole positions. Newgarden won Sunday's race, his third of the year, and earned a series-leading six poles.

"If you had asked me a 18 months ago whether I saw myself here now, champion of the Skip Barber National, no way," said Daly. This series has so many fast drivers, you can't believe how competitive it is… It's made me a much smarter racer than I was at the beginning of the year. Getting my first win [at Mosport, in June] gave me confidence, told me that I had as good a chance to win as anyone. Man, that I came out in front of a half -dozen super-fast guys, not just one or two… Winning the championship? It's so unbelievable, so great. But I can't wait to start testing in Star Mazda!" Daly's bonus, worth $350,000, is a funded ride in the 2009 Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear.

Next Up:

October 10-12, 2008 – SCCA National Championship Runoffs, Heartland Park, Topeka, Kansas – Over 100 Mazda racers will be chasing wins in over a dozen classes in the largest annual gathering of club racers.

October 17-19, 2008 – Monterey Sports Car Championships, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Monterey, California. This will be the season finales for the American Le Mans series, the Star Mazda Championship, and the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup.

On any given weekend, there are more Mazdas on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle. At the track, you’ll see MX-5 Miata, RX-8, MAZDA3, MAZDA6, RX-7 and other vintage Mazda models competing, because every Mazda has the Soul of a Sports Car. In fact, the largest road-racing class in the U.S. is the SCCA’s Spec Miata class, with nearly 1,500 first- and second-generation Miatas tearing up America’s racetracks, making it the most-raced production car in the world. Mazda’s involvement in motorsports extends to its relationship with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the world’s premier road-racing circuits, and the Skip Barber Schools for driving and racing.