New Jersey Sees SpeedSource Leads a Mazda Sweep of the Podium
The heat wave that has swept the East coast had no intention of letting up for Round 9 of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. SpeedSource arrived at New Jersey Motorsports Park looking to carry their mid-season momentum and, as defending race winners, the pressure was on for crew and drivers. Even with a mid-afternoon start time, the blistering weather could do little to stop the charge of the #70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8 driven by Sylvain Tremblay and Jonathan Bomarito as the duo would claim the top podium spot in New Jersey for the second straight year. The #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 team car of Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal would finish sixth.
Knowing that managing the elements was an integral part of the race strategy, the SpeedSource crew opted for a dual driver change race. Bomarito started the #70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8 from 3rd on the grid. Following along the lines of conserving, tire preservation would be critical for the duration of the race; older tires lost almost 2 seconds of lap time.
The #70 Mazda RX-8 maintained position at 3rd before heading to the pits for the first of two driver changes. Team owner Sylvain Tremblay drove a fantastic mid-race stint, extending the conservation strategy to a usable fuel window for the race's closing stint. A blazing fast full service pit stop that included fresh tires, fuel, and driver change allowed the #70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8 to leapfrog all competitors to 2nd place, behind the #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8. When Segal, in the #69 Mazda, pitted for tires Bomarito gained control of the race at the front of the GT class. Battling with former-SpeedSource driver John Edwards, Bomarito drove a brilliant closing stint to victory extending his margin to over a second.
Emil Assentato started his #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 by driving an opening stint that lasted the first hour of the race. The recent elimination of the 45-minute mandatory pit stop rule meant that the opening driver would have to endure longer stints in the car. As defending GT-Class champion, Assentato showed that he was more than up to the challenge and even brought the #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 into the first pit stop in the top ten. Upon taking over driving duties, co-driver Jeff Segal steadily climbed his way up to the front of the GT class, eventually leading late in the race. A caution with 20 minutes to go left opened up strategic opportunities. Segal and the crew elected to pit for fresh Continental race tires for the final sprint to the finish line. The team claimed a sixth-place finish.
Sunday's race in New Jersey was a great points day for the entire SpeedSource team. The defending Rolex GT class championship team now sits third and fourth in standings, with the #70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8 just a single point ahead of the #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8. More importantly, the win also gives Mazda its first win of the 2011 season. The valuable points pushes Mazda into first in the Manufacturer's championship. With three races left in the season, it is truly anyone's championship for the taking.