SCC: Daytona: Freedom Autosport race report

Freedom Autosport 3rd at Season Opener in Datyona; MAZDASPEED3 debuts with a Top-10 Finish DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.--Freedom Autosport got the 2010 Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season off to a great start with a third-place finish...

Freedom Autosport 3rd at Season Opener in Datyona; MAZDASPEED3 debuts with a Top-10 Finish

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.--Freedom Autosport got the 2010 Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season off to a great start with a third-place finish in Friday's opener at Daytona International Speedway. The team also earned a top-ten finish in the new MAZDASPEED3, marking an impressive debut for the new car.

Andrew Carbonell and Rhett O'Doski co-drove the No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5 to a third-place finish in the Street Tuner (ST) class. Rising Mazda stars Taylor Hacquard and Ryan Ellis co-drove the No. 28 Freedom Autosport MAZDASPEED3 to a tenth-place finish.

Derek Whitis started the weekend on a high note, qualifying on the ST pole in the No. 25 Mazda MX-5 that he shares with Tom Long. Unfortunately, the loss of fifth gear ultimately limited their competitiveness.

Meanwhile, O'Doski took the green flag in the No. 26 MX-5, handing over to Carbonell during a pit stop. Carbonell worked his way up steadily, taking the third spot in the waning minutes of the race.

"We went a lap down at one point, and that can really demotivate you, but I stayed in it and just kept trying," said Carbonell, who posted the fastest ST lap time of the race. "That last caution was a golden opportunity for us. It's really confidence-inspiring to start the season on the podium."

For Hacquard and Ellis, the 10th-place finish in the No. 28 Freedom Autosport MAZDASPEED3 was a double accomplishment: it was the first Grand-Am race for both drivers and the competition debut of the MAZDASPEED3.

"It was a lot of fun, and it was great to be at Daytona with Freedom Autosport," said Ellis. "The MAZDASPEED3 handled great and it was really consistent throughout the race. I was really impressed with how well it performed in its debut."

Eighteen-year-old John Edwards teamed up with Patrick Dempsey to drive the No. 27 Freedom Autosport MAZDASPEED3. Dempsey qualified 15th and the pair were aiming for a top-ten finish before they went a lap down because of pit stop timing.

Still, Edwards was pleased with his Grand-Am debut. "Our teammates had a great showing and proved that the MAZDASPEED3 is a top-ten contender," he said. "I restarted the race at the back of the field after our pit stop, and I had a lot of fun working my way up. I really had a good time in my first Grand-Am race."

Team co-owner Whitis easily summed up the race at Daytona: "All the Mazdas ran a strong race, starting on pole with one MX-5 and finishing third with another. Putting a brand new MAZDASPEED3 in the top ten in its first race ever shows what great cars Mazda builds."

Freedom Autosport will be working on further developing their two MAZDASPEED3s before heading to the second Continental Tire Challenge round at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 6, where they hope to earn more podium finishes in Florida.

-source: freedom autosport

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Series GRANDAM