MORE THAN 25 CARS EXPECTED FOR ROUND TWO OF THE 2009 THE STAR MAZDA CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY GOODYEAR AT VIR THIS WEEKEND
When you have a 25+ field of racing drivers in which three of the top four and seven of the top ten from last year's championship are back to do battle again, you know you have a hot racing series. And so it is with the 2009 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, with Round Two of the 2009 season is scheduled to take the green flag at 1:00 pm Sunday as part of the Grand Am Rolex Sports Car Series Bosch Engineering 250 at Virginia International Raceway.
The Star Mazda Championship has made only one previous visit to VIR, in 2007. Dane Cameron, driving for the JDC Motorsports team, won the race and went on to win the championship.
While one race is thin data on which to build any trends or predictions, Round One, at the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 20, did get the 2009 Star Mazda Championship season off to a dramatic start. After dominating pre-season testing driving a car prepared by Andersen Racing, Englishman Adam Christodoulou surprised everyone by signing instead with JDC Motorsports. Starting from the outside of the front row, he drove a flawless race on the way to victory in the #11 JDC Motorsports Mazda.
Also finishing on the podium was pole-sitter Richard Kent, another Englishman, driving the #33 Andersen Racing / Traka / Allied Interior Products Mazda. Kent was the 'man from nowhere' who entered only one race last season, the finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, then proceeded to set a new track record in winning the pole in qualifying and leading every lap of the race. And while Brazilian driver Caio Lara in the #19 JDC Motorsports Mazda finished third on the track and participated in the podium ceremony, a post-race review of the videotapes showed a driving infraction that cause officials to penalize him a place, dropping him to fourth. , and elevating to the final, official top-3 another interesting rookie, Conor Daly, son of racing legend and motorsports broadcaster Derek Daly. Daly is the 2008 Skip Barber Pro Series champion and races the #22 Andersen Racing / College Network / Indeck / Cytomax Mazda with sponsorship from the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder.
Completing the 5-person Star Mazda Championship podium at Sebring were the top-finishing Expert Series (ages 30 – 44) driver, the 2008 Expert Series champion, Chris Cumming of Vancouver, B.C. He drove the #16 Kester Racing Team 3G / Texas World Speedway / Motul Oil Mazda to a 14th-place finish overall. Californian Mike Guasch won the Master Series (45 and older) driving the #91 JDC Motorsports / Molecule Labs Mazda.
Other top contenders at VIR include Californian Joel Miller, who won the season opener at Sebring from the pole in 2008 on his way to finishing second in the championship. He finished 5th at Sebring this year driving the #2 JDC Motorsports Mazda. Irishman Peter Dempsey, who won four races during the 2008 Star Mazda Championship and finished third in the championship, weathered a difficult weekend with his new team to qualify 5th and finish 6th in the #3 AIM Autosport / Motorsport Ireland / Queyside.ie Mazda. Joe D'Agostino, a last-moment entry driving with sponsorship from Classic Mazda in Orlando, Florida, qualified 11th on the starting grid in his #5 Andersen Racing / Classic Mazda machine and finished 7th.
Alex Ardoin, the only driver currently competing in the series who drove in the 2007 event, finishing 11th. At Sebring, Ardoin, now in his third season of Star Mazda competition, qualified 4th in the #51 JDC Motorsports / Oral & Facial Surgery Center Mazda, but with an aggressive start found himself leading the first three laps. Officials determined the start was perhaps a bit too aggressive and awarded him a 'drive-through' penalty that dropped him to the very back of the 28-car pack. By lap 20, however, the racer from Lafayette, Louisiana worked his way back up to 8th. 17 year-old Venezuelan Jorge Goncalvez, moving up from Formula BMW made a good showing, finishing 9th in the #72 AIM Autosport / Mazda and Chilean rookie Kevin Toledo, driving for the newly-announced Eliseo THL Motorsports team headed by racing legend Eliseo Salazar, scored a top-10 finish driving the #77 Eliseo THL Mazda.
In the first major upgrade of the Star Mazda 'Pro Car' since its introduction five years ago, Star Race Cars has produced a package of mechanical and software upgrades for the 2009 season. The upgrades, including new wings, shock absorbers and suspension rockers, are designed to increase the car's aerodynamic efficiency and top speed while improving engine cooling; in addition, it will be easier for drivers and their engineers to arrive at the best setup for each track. The cumulative effect of the upgrades will be to increase both top speed and cornering speed, reduce maintenance costs and enhance the mechanical reliability of what is arguably already one of the most dependable, cost-effective open-wheel cars in competition today.
MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder
Up-and-coming race drivers have two major challenges: winning on the track, and finding the resources to move up to the next level. Mazda in conjunction with series corporate partners is making the second task significantly easier for this year’s champion drivers. Mazda will provide a next-level, fully-funded ride in a Mazda powered car to the 2009 champions of selected Mazda series.
Open-wheel racers are competing for these awards in 2009:
· One successful kart racer will participate in a full season of the BFGoodrich Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda in 2010.
· The 2009 Skip Barber National Champion will be racing in the 2010 Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear.
· The 2009 Star Mazda Champion will be racing in the 2010 Cooper Tires Presents the Atlantic Series Powered by Mazda.
Over the past decade, Mazda has developed an increasingly strong presence at road racing tracks around the nation. At the 2009 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring festivities, Mazda is represented in five of the eight races, and six of the thirteen different classes of cars, more than any other brand including Porsche, Ferrari, General Motors, Ford, Dodge, Toyota and Honda.
Mazda is the brand of choice for road-racers across North America. More than 9,000 grassroots racers compete in various classes with the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) and the National Auto Sport Association (NASA). Racers who are years away from earning a driver’s license can now begin their professional motorsports careers in the Mazda family. A driver can begin in karts and progress through the Skip Barber series, Club Racing Formula Mazda, professional Star Mazda and finally to Formula Atlantic, all with Mazda. No other car company has ever connected the dots this way.
The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear
For 2009, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will feature an 11-weekend, 13-race schedule on major race weekends with American Le Mans, Grand-Am, the Atlantic Championship, NASCAR Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series. Prize money is $1.5 million, including a fully-funded drive in the 2010 Atlantic Championship. Drivers 16 and older are welcome to compete and the Star Mazda Championship also features Expert (30 to 44) and Master (45 and older) classes for more mature racers. The Star Mazda Championship features standing starts, wheel-to-wheel racing at 150 mph and budgets a fraction of other top open-wheel ladder series. iRacing.com is the official racing simulation of the Star Mazda Championship, and one-month free 'virtual test drive' of the Star Mazda open-wheel car is available by going to.starmazda.com/newdriver.