VALENCIA, CA (November 12, 2002) -- The Stars of Tomorrow office issued the following statement regarding the disqualification of ICC pole sitter Lorenzo Mandarino just prior to the start of the main event Sunday:
"Mr. Mandarino was disqualified for having improper front tires on his kart on the pre-grid for the ICC main event. The tire issue was brought up by a competitor who allegedly noticed Mr. Mandarino's front tires looked to be in considerably better condition than the set on which he qualified the day before. Mr. Mandarino was running both the ICC and ICA classes and both his karts were designated with the same race number. The race number was used to identify tires on the kart during qualifying as the set that must be used in the main event. This information was forwarded to the race director via radio. The race director inquired with the race official at the scene as to who was reporting this observation. Because of the similarity in crew uniforms and some verbal miscommunication, the race official at the scene mistakenly thought a team member supporting Mandarino was confirming that the team used the front tires from his ICA kart on his ICC kart. This information was relayed back to the appropriate officials and the decision was made to disqualify Mr. Mandarino.
"Although we regret the manner in which the decision was made, the Stars of Tomorrow stands by the decision to disqualify Mr. Mandarino from the race.
"Subsequent to the decision, tempers flared both in the pre-grid area and at the grid area after Mr. Mandarino drove out onto the track. In both areas, race officials deemed it necessary to move the competitor's equipment in order to proceed with the race. We understand, as does Mr. Mandarino, that emotions run high in racing, especially national championship events. We do not support physical resolutions to matters and both the Stars officials and Mr. Mandarino feel the disputes in the areas mentioned could have been handled more wisely.
"Stars officials have discussed this matter at length with the Mandarino family and both parties agree the situation was an unfortunate sequence of circumstances and that matters could have been, and will be in the future, handled better on both sides. With this exception, the Grand Nationals ran very smoothly and overall competitors were pleased with the event. We look forward to an exciting 2003 season, and the Mandarinos have pledged their support of the series next year."
Vincent Mandarino, father and tuner for competitor Lorenzo Mandarino:
"Lorenzo and myself, although upset after the situation which developed prior to the main event, want to express our genuine gratitude to Bryan Herta, Paul Zalud and Bobby Rahal in their effort made to Lorenzo to understand and resolve the lost opportunity to showcase his skills in the Stars Grand Nationals. Lorenzo and myself confirm our continued support in the CART Stars development series and hope Lorenzo will be able to take advantage of the most obvious, best available driver development program in North America."
Paul Zalud, Director of Operations, Stars of Tomorrow:
"We regret that this situation took place in what was an excellent event, all things considered. As we have explained in recent announcements, we are putting in place an effective program for 2003 that will greatly reduce the possibility of recurring incidents like this. One of those components will be parc ferme, so strict control is gained on fuel and tires. We look forward to seeing Lorenzo and many other North American drivers on our grids in 2003."
Bryan Herta, Founder, Stars of Tomorrow:
"I want to thank the Mandarinos for the extra effort made to cooperate and come to an understanding on this matter. Lorenzo did a great job posting the fastest time against dozens of the best shifter kart drivers on the continent. We welcome him in the CART Stars program in 2003. I also want to thank Paul Zalud and his staff and the staff at Xplex for their efforts in staging a successful event in the short period they were allotted. Many people worked long hours to accommodate the more than 170 karters and television production teams and their effort helps us build towards what will be a breakthrough year for the CART Stars of Tomorrow."
The CART 'Stars of Tomorrow' karting series is the official first level in CART's driver development system. Specifically designed as a driver development series, Stars focuses on recognizing the skills of the drivers rather than the technology development within the machines, using FIA/CIK international standards. More information can be found at www.cartstars.com.