Laguna Seca: Race notes

Hinchcliffe victorious at Mazda Raceway as Matos captures championship October 15, 2005. Monterey, California. James Hinchcliffe, of Oakville, Ontario, Canada, went flag-to-flag to earn his third victory of the season today at Mazda Raceway...

Hinchcliffe victorious at Mazda Raceway as Matos captures championship

October 15, 2005. Monterey, California. James Hinchcliffe, of Oakville, Ontario, Canada, went flag-to-flag to earn his third victory of the season today at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the final round of the 2005 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear. Driving the #98 NOCO/Mobil 1 AIM Autosport Mazda, Hinchcliffe was never tested during the 21-lap race interrupted by five caution periods.Joining Hinchcliffe on the podium were Jonathan Klein in the #26 Nexus Distribution Andersen Walko Racing Mazda and Graham Rahal in the #12 Bobby Rahal Automotive Group Andersen Walko Racing Mazda.

"Well I did everything I needed to do today to try and capture the championship but Raphael and Robbie didn't cooperate," Hinchcliffe, who captured his third pole position of the season earlier in the day, explained. "With all the caution periods this race was pretty uneventful, and while I can't complain about winning this race, you never like to finish under the yellow flag. I have to thank everyone at AIM Autosport for all their hard work this season and to come here and wrap up the season with maximum points."

While Hinchcliffe was rolling to victory, Matos, from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, was battling the traffic to finish eighth place in his #7 Ocean Tomo Racing Mazda earning enough points to secure the championship by eleven points over Robbie Pecorari in the #23 SAI Hydraulics Andersen Walko Racing Mazda, who finished fourth on the day. "We came in here this weekend to win the race as well as the championship and we were fastest in both practice sessions before qualifying so I knew I had a great car," Matos said. "The Ocean Tomo crew gave me the fastest car out there today but the caution flags didn't give us a chance to race. As the race continued we knew we wouldn't get a chance for the victory so we focused on where Robbie was on he track and where I needed to be to claim the title. I have to thank my engineers Rick and Steve Cameron, Mylon Stockton, James Malackowski and all my sponsors for getting me to the top."

Klein, voted the Most-Improved Driver of the 2004 championship has had a hard luck season but finished strong with his first podium of the season, at a track he has grown fond of. "I've always run really well here at Mazda Raceway and this weekend was no exception," the University of Dayton freshman explained. "This season has been difficult as I've received several penalties from the officials so it feels good to come here and close out the season with a podium finish. Finishing second will also help me get out of trouble with my dad for forgetting I have a paper due Monday!"

With his sixth trip to the podium this season, Rahal, from New Albany, Ohio, has emerged as a future motorsports star as he looks to continue the legacy of his father, 3-time IndyCar Champion Bobby Rahal. Rahal would spend the majority of the race in second place but would get knocked back into third when he was tapped by Michael Potekhen on the fourth restart. "I'm not really sure what he was trying but unfortunately it moved me back a position," Rahal explained. "Fortunately I was able to continue and still finish up on the podium."

Finishing just off of the podium in fourth place, Pecorari, from Aston, Pennsylvania, couldn't wrestle the championship away from Matos but was able to score enough points to finish second in the championship and claim the Rookie-of-the-Year honors. "I wish I had been more aggressive to start the season to keep Matos from building up that early lead but it has been a good season," Pecorari said. "We didn't have many green flag laps but when we did I was able to pass a car every time. At one point Raphael and I were going wheel to wheel, but we both knew if we took each other out then Hinchcliffe would win the championship so there wasn't too much contact!"

As the final championship points are calculated, Matos, with four victories, three pole positions, and nine podium visits in the twelve events, captured the championship with a total of 452 points. Pecorari, with two victories, one pole position and seven podium finishes earned 441 points for second place. Hinchcliffe, with three victories, three pole positions, and six podium finishes captured 433 points to secure third in the championship. Both Pecorari and Hinchcliffe were models of consistency, finishing in the top ten in all twelve races, and along with Matos completed every lap of every race.

In the expert series championship, for drivers aged 30-44, Brian Thienes, driving the Thienes Engineering Hearn Motorsports Mazda, finished ahead of the recently crowned champion, Micky Gilbert in the Gilbert Engineering Eurosport Racing Mazda. Rounding out top three for the expert series battle was Mike Anderson in the HASA Pool Products Mazda. In the points battle Gilbert emerged on top with 199 points, Thienes finished second with 156, and James Malackowski would finish third with 148 points in the second Ocean Tomo Racing Mazda.

In the Masters Championship, for drivers aged 45 and older, Jon Brownson, in the Westridge Development Eurosport Racing Mazda, would capture his first victory of the season ahead of Emmett Murphy. John Pew, driving the NVG Velocity Motorsports Mazda would finish third and capture the Championship with 188 points over defending champion John Faulkner in his Peregrine Motorsports Mazda. Another former champion, Doug Peterson, would finish third this season in his 3-Dimensional Services American Speed Factory Mazda.

-star mazda-

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Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Graham Rahal , John Faulkner , Jon Brownson , Michael Potekhen , Robbie Pecorari , John Pew , James Malackowski , Jonathan Klein , James Hinchcliffe , Brian Thienes , Emmett Murphy , Steve Cameron , Doug Peterson