Birmingham Test, St. Pete preview
Juncos Racing Barber Motorsports Park Test Report and St. Petersburg Preview
Leeds, Ala. (March 16, 2011) - Juncos Racing and the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear kicked off the 2011 season this week at the first official Mazda Road to Indy test of the year at Barber Motorsports Park in Leeds, Alabama. Though the IZOD IndyCar Series and the Firestone Indy Lights Series raced at the track last year, 2011 will be the first time the Star Mazda Championship and its drivers compete on the 2.3-mile road course.
The first two sessions on Monday saw all three of the Juncos Racing drivers in the top-five positions, but it was the #60 car of Martin Scuncio that took the top place on the time sheets at the end of the day. Tuesday's post-rain testing day saw all three drivers land in the top-ten positions in each of the three sessions that took place that day. The trio clocked in their best lap times, however, in this morning's final practice session where Tatiana Calderon and J.V. Horto were two of only four drivers to deliver a lap time in the 1:20s, and rookie Martin Scuncio was one of only two drivers to deliver a lap time in the 1:19s.
"Testing this week went really well," said Scuncio. "I'm really happy with the team; we grew a lot every day, and they really helped me improve in every session which is important going into the first race and the whole season. I'm really looking forward to racing at St. Petersburg next week and can't wait to get in the car again."
Though next week will be Scuncio's first experience at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the 19-year-old rookie has already demonstrated his extreme potential as a Juncos Racing driver, even on unfamiliar tracks. Just a few months ago, he made his debut in the Star Mazda Championship at the Road Atlanta season finale where he came very close to winning the pole position and finished in an impressive fourth place in the race.
Contrary to Scuncio, teammate J.V. Horto is a driver that is quite familiar with the Streets of St. Petersburg. It was there where the young Brazilian claimed a second place finish in the second race of the season, one of his best results that year. Horto will return to the favored track of his next week to compete for his maiden victory in the Star Mazda Championship.
"I'm really happy with the way testing went for me this week," said Horto. "I'm still getting to know the team and build a relationship with them as far as talking about the car setup goes, but we keep improving, and I am learning how to find the best setup for the car in a short amount of time. It's also amazing to be a part of the Mazda Road to Indy program and have the chance to test alongside the IZOD IndyCar Series. I am really looking forward to the first race at St. Petersburg next week. I like that track a lot, I had a great result there last year, and Juncos Racing won that race with Conor Daly last year, so I think we have a really good package going into the weekend."
Now in her second season, a stronger, better, faster Tatiana Calderon is set to return to the Streets of St. Petersburg with a year of experience under her belt. The technical street course was the second ever race of the 18-year-old's Star Mazda Championship career, and in turn, one of her lowest finishes of 2010. Calderon continued to improve throughout the season, however, and scored a best official result of sixth place at Autobahn Country Club and tenth overall in the driver's championship. Her success at this week's test is proof she is ready for the 2011 season.
"This week was a really positive training experience," said Calderon. "It's great to have the chance to see all your competitors and get ready for the competition this season. The St. Petersburg race is just next week, so it was a really good wakeup call. I really enjoyed my time on this track. It's a very difficult, technical track, but we gained a lot of experience and even had the chance to practice on a wet track. I'm really happy with the team and with the way things are going, and I'm really looking forward to racing at St. Petersburg next week."
"This week's first official test was the beginning of the whole 2011 Championship," said Team Owner Ricardo Juncos. "It was good to have three test days with all the other drivers and see where everyone is prior to the first race. We know exactly what we want to achieve and what areas we need to keep working on. We have some new team members this year and are also trying a new system which went really well this week. Even though we were only fastest in one session, we stayed focused on our main goal which was to really understand how our setup is affected when we race and practice on the same days as the IZOD IndyCar Series. We discovered a lot of things this week that are really going to help for the St. Petersburg race.
"I am so happy with the way the whole team worked and the way our new system worked, too. We have more we can do to improve, but the way the drivers and team members worked together was fantastic and even better than we expected. This is definitely going to be an interesting year for the Star Mazda Championship and the Mazda Road to Indy. We are looking forward to the 2011 season!"
-source: junco racing