TO THE VICTORS -- PRIZE FUND VALUED AT MORE THAN $1.1 MILLION DISTRIBUTED DURING POST-RACE AWARDS CEREMONY FOR 2011 STAR MAZDA CHAMPIONSHIP PRESENTED BY GOODYEAR
Hours after concluding the 10-weekend, 11-race 2011 season on September 18 with a win from the pole at Mazda Raceway by Team Pelfrey driver Connor De Philliippi – and a 5th-place finish by JDC Motorsports driver Tristan Vautier that clinched the series championship -- the drivers, teams, crew and officials of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear gathered at the Clement Monterey Intercontinental Hotel in Monterey, California for the 2011 awards banquet.
The Star Mazda Championship, having concluded its 21st season as one of the top open-wheel driver development series in the world, distributed a prize fund valued at more than $1,130,000 to the top-15 drivers in the series, the series 'Rookie of the Year,' the top-3 finishers in the Expert Series, the top-3 finishers in the Team Championship and five special 'awards of merit.' In addition to cash prizes and the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship, merchandise (including 26 sets of new Goodyear radial racing tires (two sets per weekend) and 13 sets of Performance Friction brake pads) valued at more than $40,000 is awarded via drawings conducted during driver meetings at each race weekend,.Although he was unable to attend due to a conflict with exams at his high school in Finland, 2011 USF2000 National Championship powered by Mazda winner Petri Suvanto was also celebrated during the awards; he will race in the 2012 Star Mazda Championship with scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy, a prize valued at more than $350,000.
"This was a remarkable season with an extremely deep talent pool of young drivers from around the world, and next season is already shaping up to be even bigger and better," said Gary Rodrigues, founder and President of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear. "With Mazda, Goodyear, Star Mazda and INDYCAR all working together to make the Mazda Road to Indy into North America's premier driver development program, the drivers who raced with us this year as well as those who will be coming into the series in future seasons will be the thoroughly-educated, well-rounded rising stars that we need to build a bright future for INDYCAR and the Indy 500."The Top-3 Finishers / $718,200 totalAs overall champion, with four wins, four poles, four fastest race laps and top-5 finishes in every race of the season driving the #5 JDC Motorsports / Cecibon / Circuit du Laquais Mazda, French racer Tristan Vautier (426 points) won $100,000 in cash from the Star Mazda Championship and the Mazda Road to Indy scholarship to compete in the 2012 Indy Lights series, including $500,000 for the team he chooses to run with, a $45,000 engine lease and $16,200 in free race entry fees ($1350 per race x 12); altogether, the champion's prize package is worth $661,200. This was Vautier's second season in the Star Mazda championship; he came to the Star Mazda Championship in 2010 with an extensive resume of European open-wheel racing, won two races last year and finished 5th in the championship. This season, he opened with a podium in Round 1 at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, followed by a win from the pole (and with a 'fastest race lap') in Round 2 at Barber Motorsports Park. He took the championship lead at that point and never relinquished it. He finished 4th three times in a row, on the ovals at the Night Before the 500 and Lucas Oil Raceway, the Milwaukee Mile and Iowa Speedway. He finished 5th when the Star Mazda Championship returned to road racing in Round 5 at Mosport, then resumed his winning ways in the GP3R on the street circuit at Trois-Rivières, where he won Race 1 / Round 7 from the pole and again with a fastest race lap. He also won, from the pole with the fastest race lap in Round 9 at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway and on the street circuit at the inaugural Grand Prix of Baltimore. He finished the season with a record of four wins, four poles, four fastest race laps, six podiums and eleven top-5s.Finishing second and collecting a check for $70,000, was San Clemente, CA driver Connor De Phillippi (401 points). Racing the #11 Team Pelfrey / Justice Brothers Products / Trademark Garage Floors Mazda, he scored four wins – including the season finale at Mazda Raceway – and compiled a 2011 record that includes two poles, three fastest race laps, and seven podium finishes. De Phillippi, also a second-season competitor in the Star Mazda Championship, was the 2009 Skip Barber Pro Series champion and moved up to race in Star Mazda in 2010 with funding from the Mazda Road to Indy. He finished third in the championship with one win, one pole and eight top-5 finishes. This season, De Phillippi started out in a most promising fashion, with a win and fastest race lap in the season-opener at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. He won from the pole in Round 3 at the Night Before the 500 on the Lucas Oil Raceway oval, won again in Race 2 / Round 8 in the streets of Trois-Rivières and won from the pole in at the Mazda Raceway season finale.
Finishing third, and collecting a check for $50,000, was De Phillippi's Team Pelfrey teammate, Nick Andries (385 points), driver of the #81 Team Pelfrey / Lithionics Battery / GS610 Brake Fluid / Trademark Garage Floors Mazda. He began competing in Star Mazda in 2010, running a partial season during which he scored four top-10s and finished 15th in the championship. Switching to Team Pelfrey for 2011, he scored seven podium finishes, one pole, two fastest race laps and finished every race but the season-opener in the top-10.4th through 15th-place finishers/ $319,500 total4th / $40,000– João Victor Horto of Londrina, Brazil, driving the #7 Juncos Racing / Programa Leilões Mazda (375 points) is a second-season competitor and scored his first Star Mazda win this season in Round 6 at Mosport. He scored four podium finishes and eight top-5 finishes.Rookie of the Year / 5th / $45,000 (*)– Sage Karam (left) of Nazareth, PA driving the #88 Andretti Autosport / MAZDASPEED / Comfort Revolution Mazda (364 points) clinched the prestigious 'Rookie of the Year' award in Round 10 at the inaugural Grand Prix of Baltimore. Karam won the 2010 USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda and raced in the 2011 Star Mazda Championship with scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy. In 2011, he won two races, both on ovals (Milwaukee and Iowa Speedway), started from the pole once and set two fastest race laps and finished in the top-5 seven times. In addition to winning $35,000 for his 5th-place finish in the championship, he collected a check for $10,000 (*) as Rookie of the Year.6th / $35,000 (*)– Tatiana Calderon of Bogota, Colombia, driving the #10 Juncos Racing / JAC Motors Mazda (322 points) is a second-season competitor and the lone female driver in the Star Mazda Championship this season. She scored podium finishes in both Round 2 at Barber Motorsports Park and Round 6 at Mosport. She scored four top-5 finishes and nine top-10s. In addition to a check for $30,000 for finishing 6th in the championship, she also won the VP Fuel 'Most Improved Driver' award, which includes a trophy and check for $5,000 (*).
7th / $32,000 (*)– Carlos Linares of Maracaibo, Venezuela, driving the #20 Linares Racing / Mindeporte Mazda (301 points) is a second-season competitor. Driving for his family-owned team, he finished every race in the top-10, with a best finish of 5th in Round 2 at Barber Motorsports Park. In addition to a check for $27,000 for finishing 7th in the championship, he won the BBS 'Hard Charger' Award, which includes a set of four road or race wheels and a coffee table made from a BBS racing wheel; the prize is valued at $5,000(*)8th / $25,000– Gustavo Menezes (right) of Coto de Caza, CA, driving the #28 Juncos Racing / Truecar / Safety Park Mazda (297 points) is a rookie in the series who made the jump directly from the top levels of international karting to the Star Mazda Championship. He scored a podium finish in Round 5 at the Iowa Speedway oval and finished in the top-10 nine times.9th / $27,500 (*)– João Jardim of Sorocaba, Brazil, driving the #39 JDC Motorsports / Shopping M Mazda (244 points) joined the series in Round 3 at the Night Before the 500 at Lucas Oil Raceway. He scored seven top-10 finishes. In addition to collecting a check for $22,500 for finishing 9th in the championship, he was awarded the Quartermaster 'Clutch Performer' award and a check for $,5000 (*).10th / $20,000– Jérimy Daniel of Montreal, Quebec, driving the #26 Daniel Racing / FixAuto / Sherwin-Williams Mazda ((237 points) had a best finish of 4th in the inaugural Grand Prix of Baltimore, and also scored a total of six top-10 finishes driving for his family-owned team.11th / $33,000 (*)– J.W. Roberts of Dallas, TX, driving the #65 Team GDT / General Data Tech Mazda (200 points) also won the Expert Series championship for drivers 30 and older; as a result he collected a check for $18,000 for finishing 11th in the championship and $15,000 for winning the Expert Series. This is his second consecutive Experts Series championship. During the 2011 season, he scored five in-class victories and finished twice in the top-10 overall.12th / $16,000– Nick Mancuso of Lake Forest, IL, driving the #27 JDC Motorsports / Indeck / Jimmy John's / Lake Forest Sportscars Mazda (194 points), scored his best finish of 6th in Round 2 at Barber Motorsports Park. He also scored six top-10 finishes.13th / $14,000– Martin Scuncio of Santiago, Chile, driving the #60 Juncos Racing / Bia Comunicaciones / Cable Del Pacifico Mazda (187 points), scored two podium finishes, including the season opener at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and Round 4 on the Milwakee Mile oval. He finished in the top-10 four times.14th / $12,000– Patrick McKenna of Dublin, Ireland, driving the #33 Team GDT / Motorsport Ireland / Irish Sports Council / General Data Tech Mazda (186 points), is a rookie in the series and scored a 4th-place finish in the season-opener at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg as well as a 3rd-place finish in the season finale at Mazda Raceway. 15th / $20,000 (*)– Walt Bowlin, of Tarpon Springs, FL, driving the #23 AIM Autosport / Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Mazda, also finished 2nd in the Expert Series for drivers 30 and older. He collected a check for $10,000 for finishing 15th in the championship and another $10,000 for finishing second in the Expert Series. He scored two in-class wins in the Expert Series, and finished 5th overall in Round 10 at the inaugural Grand Prix of Baltimore.Experts Series / $30,000 totalNote: where drivers included in this category finished in the top-15, the value of their Awards of Merit prizes were included in the totals above and indicated by a (*).The Star Mazda Championship is unique in featuring the Expert Series, a race-within-a-race category for more mature drivers (30 and older) in whom the competitive fire still burns brightly. Texan J.W. Roberts (right), head of a computer services company called General Data Tech and owner of Team GDT, scored eight in-class wins and won the Expert Series championship in 2010. In 2011, returning to defend his title, he scored five in-class victories, with a best overall finish of 9th in Race 1 / Round 7 at the GP3R at Trois-Riviéres, driving the #65 Team GDT / General Data Tech Mazda; he collected a check for $15,000, in addition to the $18,000 he won for finishing 11th in the overall championship (*).
Finishing second was the racing dentist from St. Petersburg, FL, Walt Bowlin. This was his second season of Star Mazda competition and he scored two in-class victories driving the #23 AIM Autosport / Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Mazda. In addition to $10,000 for finishing second in the Expert Series, he won $10,000 for finishing 15th overall in the series championship (*).Finishing third was Larry Pegram of Columbus, OH, one of the top AMA Superbike racers who also competes in the Star Mazda Championship. He scored three in-class wins with a best overall finish of 8th in Round 2 at Barber Motorsports Park. He collected a check for $5,000.Team Championship / $30,000 totalThe Star Mazda Championship 'Team Championship' is based on points earned by each team's two highest-finishing cars. Even in the case of larger teams, only the top-2 count toward the championship. Smaller, one-car teams get a bonus of 5 points per race to compensate and allow them to compete against larger teams.Winning the team championship with a total of 293 points, and a check for $15,000, was Team Pelfrey. This is the team's rookie year in the Star Mazda Championship and their first team championship. They fielded a 2-car effort throughout the season for Connor De Phillippi and Nick Andries. Team Pelfrey was an INDYCAR team from 1998-2001 and was noted for giving young drivers their 'big break' in INDYCAR. Owner Dale Pelfrey sold his aerospace company last year and decided to revive the team as a 2-car Star Mazda Championship effort and work their way back up to INDYCAR.Finishing second in the Team Championship – for the second year in a row -- was Juncos Racing with 274 points; they collected a check for $10,000. This third-year team won the series championship with Conor Daly in a record-breaking season in 2010. For 2011, they fielded a four-car team for drivers João Victor Horto, Tatiana Calderon, Gustavo Menezes and Martin Scuncio. Their best result was Horto's victory in Round 6 at Mosport; Juncos drivers were also on the podium nine times. Finishing third in the Team Championship and collecting a check for $5,000 was JDC Motorsports, which fielded the championship-winning effort for Tristan Vautier. This is their third Driver's Championship, including 2007 with Dane Cameron and 2009 with Adam Christodoulou; they also won the Team Championship in 2007 and 2009. For 2011, they fielded a three-car team for Vautier, João Jardim and Nick Mancuso. Their best results were Vautier's four wins, but JDC drivers also scored six podium finishes.Awards of Merit / $19,000 totalNote: where drivers included in this category finished in the top-15, the value of their Awards of Merit prizes were included in the totals above and indicated by a (*).The Quartermaster "Clutch Performer Award" is designed to keep drivers motivated in the home stretch by scoring the most points earned by a competitor in the final six races of the season. The trophy and check for $5000 was presented to João Jardim, driver of the #39 JDC Motorsports / Shopping M Mazda (*).The BBS 'Hard Charger Award" is scored over all 13 races during the season and is presented to the driver who gains the most places in total from the beginning to end of the races. The prize, a custom-made coffee table made from a polished BBS wheel and etched glass top, plus a set of four BBS racing or BBS road car wheels (valued at $5,000), was presented to Carlos Linares, driver of the #20 Linares Racing / Mindeporte Mazda(*).The VP Fuel "Most Improved Driver Award" is a consensus award that is nominated by all participants, drivers and teams, in the Star Mazda Championship. It is awarded to the driver who has shown the most growth and improvement as a driver. A trophy and check for $5,000 were presented to Tatiana Calderon (left), driver of the #10 Juncos Racing / JAC Motors Mazda (*).The Performance Friction Company "Crew Member of the Year Award" is also the result of nominations from all Star Mazda Championship participants and is awarded to the team member who has done a consistently outstanding job throughout the season. The award, and a check for $1,500, was presented to Alejandro Juncos, Crew Chief for Tatiana Calderon's Juncos Racing car.
The President's Cup, also known as the "Spirit of the Star Mazda Championship Award" is also a consensus award, ultimately decided by the President of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, Gary Rodrigues. It, along with a check for $2,500, is awarded to the person who most typifies the qualities and character that the Star Mazda Championship values and promotes; for 2010, that person was Jocelyn Daniel, father of racer Jerimy Daniel; he is also head of the family-owned team, The Racing Company' and chief mechanic as well.