The win is the second in a row for Randy Pobst and Andrew Carbonell.
SALINAS, Calif. – Freedom Autosport’s Randy Pobst and Andrew Carbonell gave the team its fourth consecutive victory at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Saturday. The win is the second in a row for Pobst and Carbonell, who drive the No. 26 Mazda MX-5 in the ST class of IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge.
Pobst handled qualifying, posting the third-quickest time of the day. “The team decided to leave the car just as it was from qualifying,” he said. “The temperature had dropped about 20 degrees, and the effect was just what our crew chief Mark Canup had hoped for. The MX-5’s handling and balance were excellent in the race.”
Pobst stayed within the top four during his stint. Once Carbonell got behind the wheel, he was determined to give Freedom Autosport its fourth consecutive victory at Mazda’s home track. Carbonell, who had won at Mazda Raceway twice already, made two daring outside passes in turn five to move from third to first.
“Our MX-5 was strong through turns three and four,” Carbonell said. “The second-place car went so far down the inside that I was able to hold him there and get my car onto the line. After that it was just a matter of repeating it on the leading car. I’ve got to thank everybody for the clean racing; everyone was very respectful.” Carbonell said that there was pressure to win again, adding, “I like that. We know we have to do well here.”
Pobst noted, “I knew Freedom Autosport had a tremendous record at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. On one hand, that gave me confidence that they’d have the setup for the MX-5. On the other hand, it put pressure on me to get the job done. It was a pleasure and a relief to put in a clean race. The biggest part of the victory goes to the team – Freedom Autosport put together a car that had both speed and reliability. It was terrific to have team owner Derek Whitis on the stand for the first time this year, too.”
The win came in front of the many active-duty military and veterans who came out for Military Appreciation Day. Freedom Autosport gave out commemorative team shirts to them and hosted a cookout as part of the day’s special events.
“To be a team that supports the military, being able to bring home the top trophy was really an honor. What we do is nothing compared to what they do,” noted Carbonell.
Mark Pombo – a veteran who served in Iraq – had an outstanding qualifying session in the No. 25 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5, claiming the fourth spot on the grid. Unfortunately, he and brother Mat Pombo had to settle for 23rd after pit stop timing put the pair a lap down.
U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer made his team and series debut in front of the military members who were cheering him on all around the circuit. As a veteran who was wounded twice in combat and now has a prosthetic left leg, Dwyer’s racing offers inspiration to his fellow veterans. After positive results in practice and qualifying, the race ended early for Dwyer and Tom Long, whose No. 27 Mazda MX-5 retired after Dwyer had a miscue in turn two that resulted in contact with another car.
“I have to thank Mazda and Freedom Autosport for giving me this opportunity,” Dwyer said. “We had a lot of veterans and active-duty military come check out the car, and they were in awe that there was an amputee racing! The car was great all weekend, and overall, the team did extremely well. Congratulations to Randy and Andrew: their drive was phenomenal. Freedom Autosport appreciates the military, has veterans in their cars, and won on Military Appreciation Day: it doesn’t get any better than that!”