AIM PODIUMS IN PORTLAND HINCHCLIFFE SECOND, WILKINS FOURTH, THOMAS ROBBED The Aim Autosport Star Mazda team placed two of it's three drivers in the top five at Portland International Raceway during round eight of the 2006 Star Mazda ...
AIM PODIUMS IN PORTLAND
HINCHCLIFFE SECOND, WILKINS FOURTH, THOMAS ROBBED
The Aim Autosport Star Mazda team placed two of it's three drivers in the top five at Portland International Raceway during round eight of the 2006 Star Mazda Championship. Unfortunately, AIM driver Brandon Thomas had a certain top ten finish taken from him by a competitor's poor judgment.
Throughout practice and qualifying the team prepared all three drivers and cars for what would be a hot humid event. James was leading the charge, with top three times in all practice sessions. Mark and Brandon made good progress throughout practice sessions with Mark solidly in the top ten and Brandon turning top fifteen times.
Qualifying was all about tire management for the AIM squad with series rules stating that cars must race on the same tires they qualify with. James and AIM engineer Yancy Diotalevi worked their magic during the session- managing second on the grid while only running seven laps in total, the fewest number of laps by any competitor. Mark qualified in seventh position struggling with traffic, while Brandon started fifteenth on the grid.
The race, originally scheduled for 35 laps, would ultimately cover 28 laps as a result of several caution flags, culminating in a two-lap shootout to the finish between Rahal, James and Pecorari. With James and Pecorari already recording victories at Infineon Raceway and Pikes Peak respectively, Rahal knew he would have to push hard for the win. "James and I went pretty deep into the Festival Chicane and I actually had to shift down to first gear but I was able to get a good run out of the corner and didn't make any other mistakes the rest of the way.", Rahal explained. James led the most laps and set the fastest race lap, unfortunately James could not hold back Rahal for the win and had to settle for second place.
Marks' race began well, making up positions at the start and running very competitive times throughout the race. Trading positions with series points leader Matos for several laps before ultimately finishing fourth just ahead of Matos.
Brandons' race started saw his best start of the season... from fifteenth to seventh- including passing several cars on the outside of the first corner. Unfortunately, his race was too short as a competitor unexpectedly drove into the rear of Brandon, severely damaging Brandons' gearbox which would finish him for the day.
Championship points leader Matos, finished fifth surviving close calls on the opening laps of the event to protect his championship lead. With eight of twelve races complete Matos sits in first with 309 points while Pecorari inches closer with 278 points. James remains in third place with 274 points while Mark is in seventh place with 207 points and Brandon is in 21st with 112 points.
#96 Mark Wilkins (AIM Autosport/Trizec Canada)
Qualified: Seventh (1:09.050) / Finished: Fourth (-1.500)
"I struggled with my driving style this weekend; I wasn't patient and over drove the car. It's frustrating because the car was fantastic all event- consistent in the heat".
The race was difficult due to all of the yellows. We had conserved our tires but never had the chance to use them; I had several close calls with other drivers making mistakes. Overall we scored good points and moved closer to our competitors in the standings."
#97 Brandon Thomas (AIM Autosport/Western Union)
Qualified: Fifteenth (1:09.596) / Finished: DNF
"I struggled a bit in qualifying- never competing on this circuit before", but overcame our starting position with a great start!". I learned some things from my ChampCar friends at RuSport for the first corner and it worked out well."
Unfortunately I got taken out from behind by a competitor while in seventh place which is sad."
#98 James Hinchcliffe (AIM Autosport/Emexis/Noco/Mobil 1)
Qualified: Second (1:08.676) / Finished: Second (-0.317)
Fastest Race Lap: 1:10.423.
"I feel like we had the fastest car out there today but the caution periods hurt us," He would explain. "Each time I was able to open up a gap but on the final restart Graham made a great move when I thought I had protected the corner and was able to get through. We raced each other pretty hard into the chicane, and we both went too deep but we managed to make it through without any contact.
It has been an interesting few races in that a few weeks ago I was thrilled to just be on the podium but now I'm crushed that we didn't win because everyone at the team has worked so hard."