at Barber Motorsports Park
With the 2012 season-opener at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg just six days away, the teams and drivers of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear are engaged in a bit of 'Spring Training' Tuesday and Wednesday at Barber Motorsports Park.
And they're keeping the top of the time sheets pretty much 'all in the family.' With three sessions now in the books, Star Mazda veteran Connor De Phillippi, driving the #2 Modspace Racing Mazda this year for Juncos Racing, not only set the quick time of the day on the 20th lap of Session 1 - 1:20.607 (102.721 mph) - but he also broke, by a lot, the Star Mazda track record at Barber -- 1:21.166 (102.013 mph) -- set last year in qualifying for Round 2 of the 2011 season by eventual champion Tristan Vautier. De Phillippi, who finished 2nd in the Star Mazda Championship battle last year, was the 2009 Skip Barber Pro Series champion and moved up to Star Mazda in 2010 with scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy.
The quickest rookie in the pack of 21 cars, not unexpectedly, was 2011 USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda winner Petri Suvanto. The Finnish driver is competing in the Star Mazda Championship this year with scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy, and his time of 1:21.294 (101.853 mph), while well shy of De Phillippi's flyer, was the quickest of Session 2 and just 1/10th off the lap record... serving clear notice that he and his #81 Team Pelfrey / Mazda Road to Indy car will be a force to be reckoned with right from the very first green flag.
And at the top of the time sheets in Session 3 was 2011 Star Mazda Rookie of the Year, Sage Karam (also the 2010 USF2000 champion and Mazda Road to Indy scholarship winner) with a 1:21.411 (101.706 mph) in the #Andretti Autosport / Comfort Revolution Mazda, the car he drove to two oval track victories and 5th-place in the championship last year.
Star Mazda on-track action at Barber Motorsports Park continues with three sessions scheduled for Wednesday, after which teams will head immediately for the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg where the first practice session is scheduled for 6:10-6:40 pm Thursday evening.