Anticipation builds for 2004 Star Mazda Series North American Championship With a brand new car, an exciting combination of new and returning teams and drivers, and a televised 10-race schedule across the United States and Canada all for a...
Anticipation builds for 2004 Star Mazda Series North American Championship
With a brand new car, an exciting combination of new and returning teams and drivers, and a televised 10-race schedule across the United States and Canada all for a prize package worth $500,000, the Star Mazda Series North American Championship presented by Goodyear is gearing up to provide a season of thrills for competitors and spectators alike.
Sanctioned by IMSA, the Star Mazda Series North American Championship has become the premier development series in North America for drivers seeking a cost-effective method of climbing the motorsports ladder. The 2004 schedule includes nine road course events supporting the American Le Mans Series, starting in March at Sebring International Raceway, and one oval race at Phoenix International Raceway supporting the NASCAR event. All rounds of the championship will be televised on Speed Channel in the United States and internationally on Sky Sports Network in the United Kingdom.
Drivers will have a new tool to work with on their journey up the motorsports ladder -- the new Pro Formula Mazda -- which features a carbon fiber chassis, six-speed sequential gearbox, and a sealed 240 horsepower Mazda "Renesis" rotary engine as found in the Mazda RX-8.
Teams that competed in last year's championship have started taking delivery of their new cars and after watching the development of the new Pro Formula Mazda they were eager to put the car through its paces themselves. Championship winning team Racers Edge Motorsports and Eurosport Racing were some of the first teams to get their cars out on the track and both were impressed with the product. "I've had several test days with the car already and I get more excited about the car everyday," Eurosport Racing driver Mike Potekhen exclaimed. "The new car will be a challenge, but for those drivers that are very smooth, precise, and consistent, this will be a great car."
"Early responses from teams and drivers in preseason testing have been enthusiastic," commented Series President Gary Rodrigues. "Teams have reported times comparable to those of top Atlantic teams right out of the box. We logged over 3000 miles on the prototype last season to develop a fast and reliable car for our customers, so we are definitely pleased to have the reports from the teams confirming our belief in the new car."
Rivalries will be renewed in 2004 as both Luis Schiavo and Michael McDowell are slated to return to the championship. Schiavo edged out McDowell, who earned Rookie of the Year honors, for the crown in the final race of the season in 2003. Both will face stiff competition from Potekhen, who finished fourth in the 2003 campaign, and Mike Anderson, who captured the Star Mazda Series Red Line Oil Championship last season. "These young drivers gave us a tremendous championship last year," Rodrigues said, adding, "it will be exciting to watch how events unfold this season as they face each other once again in the new car."
The series has also generated interest from new teams, and it has brought a former championship winning team back into the fold. Richie Hearn, former Toyota Atlantic Champion, Champ Car, and Indy Racing League driver, has formed a new Star Mazda team to help groom the next generation of drivers. Meanwhile, Scuadra Fortia, an entrant in the Toyota Atlantic championship, has also been seeking drivers for the series.
Coming back to the series for a full time effort will be World Speed Motorsports. The 2001 championship winning team has announced they will return with a multi-car effort. "We are thrilled to be returning to the Star Mazda Series Championship," offered Telo Stewart, owner of World Speed Motorsports. "The Star Mazda Series features a top-level organization committed to keeping the costs of racing reasonable, and with the new Pro Formula Mazda, the enhanced television package, and the prize package this championship offers the best performance for the dollar."
Since 1991, the Star Mazda Series has provided an opportunity for the maximum number of drivers to compete "on a level playing field" on the same race tracks that are used for major league events, for the lowest possible cost. The cars have been designed with cost to the racer in mind; from sealed engines from a single engine builder to regulations that ensure that driver skill and not driver budget is the most essential component for success. The series administration works hard to develop an atmosphere of spirited competition without losing the ideal of sportsmanship.
The 2004 Star Mazda Series North American Championship presented by Goodyear begins at Sebring International Raceway on March 19th as part of the 12 Hours of Sebring weekend. The remaining championship dates are as follows. June 26 -- Mid Ohio Sports Car Course; July 3 -- Lime Rock Park; July 17 -- Infineon Raceway; July 24 -- Portland International Raceway; August 7 -- Mosport Raceway; August 21 -- Road America; September 24 -- Road Atlanta; October 2 -- Phoenix International Raceway; October 16 -- Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
For more information on the Star Mazda Series North American Championship please visit www.starmazda.com or contact Series President Gary Rodrigues at (818) 686-3350.