CALIFORNIAN CAMERON WINS, CANADIAN CUNNINGHAM SECOND Toronto, Ontario, Canada -- Dane Cameron continued his domination of the 2007 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear with a hat trick in round Seven at the Steelback Grand Prix of...
CALIFORNIAN CAMERON WINS, CANADIAN CUNNINGHAM SECOND
Toronto, Ontario, Canada -- Dane Cameron continued his domination of the 2007 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear with a hat trick in round Seven at the Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto -- fastest in every practice session, won the pole in qualifying, led every lap on the way to his third win of the season in the #19 JDC Motorsports/Finlay Motorsports Mazda. Cameron's record includes four poles so far this season, and he scored an identical hat trick on his way to victory in Round Two at the Reliant Park street circuit in Houston.
Finishing second in a 45-minute race interrupted every few laps by no less than five full-course yellows was Quebec racer Devin Cunningham, driver of the #33 Discovery Channel/AIM Autosport Mazda. Cunningham won the 2006 Discovery Channel 'Star Racers' competition and is making the most of the full-season sponsored ride in the Star Mazda series that was his prize. He won a rainy Round Five at Portland.
Completing the top-3 in his first-ever Star Mazda podium finish was Alex Ardoin of Lafayette, Louisiana. Ardoin, who's previous best finish was 6th at Round 6 in Cleveland, qualified the #51 Oral & Facial Surgery Center/Mundill Racing Mazda in 16th and drove up through the field to finish 3rd.
Also putting in a notable drive was Tyson Sy of Manila, Philippines, who suffered a blown engine in the first few laps of qualifying, forcing him to start the #68 Popsy/Team G.FRO Mazda from the very back of the 22-car field. He sliced his way up the order in a manner that had the track announcers nicknaming him the 'Thrilla from Manila,' running third for several laps before finally bringing the car home in 4th-place.
Cameron pulled out to a 2-second lead in the opening laps of the race until an accident at the 4-minute mark brought out the first full-course yellow. He resumed pulling away from the field when the race went green again with 35 minutes to go, only to run into another full-course yellow at the 31 minute mark. And so it went throughout the race, allowing only one or two green flag laps in between cautions until the closing minutes.
"It wasn't nearly as easy as it looked," said the 18 year-old native of Sonoma, California. "The tires on my car took three laps to come fully back up to race temperatures, so I was driving the wheels of it and holding on for dear life on every re-start trying to keep Devin behind me. That aside, the JDC team gave me a really good car and I'm happy to score my third win and extend my lead in the championship."
Cunningham qualified 5th on the grid and moved up to second on the re-start after the second full-course caution. He challenged Cameron hard on several subsequent re-starts, running within inches, but eventually opted for a more conservative approach and an assured podium finish.
"I though I would be nerve-wracking to race in front of this big a Canadian crowd, but it was just amazing," said Cunningham. "Like Dane's car, my tires took several laps to come up to temperature and it was tricky with all the track surface changes from asphalt to concrete in the turns and then back again. I got a good run on Dane during one of the re-starts, but it was clear that he had the faster car so I settled down and made sure to protect my position and make it to the finish."
Ardoin, the 2006 Skip Barber Shootout Award winner and 7-year veteran of national karting competition, ran a 'stealth race' until, on a yellow-flag re-start with twelve minutes left in the race, he executed a bold, side-by-side pass, taking over 3rd-place from Tyson Sy.
"I've only run two street circuits so far, Houston and here, but I love them because they bring out a whole different aspect of driving," he says. "What made the difference here was an adjustment I made to my racecraft after looking at some tapes of previous races. It was apparent that I wasn't being nearly aggressive enough, especially under braking, so I worked on that and it paid off here in Toronto."
And here's the story on what they're all fighting for; forty years ago, on May 31, 1967, Mazda introduced the first street car with a rotary engine, the Cosmo Sport. Since then, they've built two million rotary-engined vehicles and the company has built its very identity on the idea of Zoom-Zoom and every vehicle they produce having the soul of a sports car.
In pursuit of that ideal, Mazda has created a unique, company-sponsored 'motorsports ladder' that reaches all the way from karting to Champ Car. This year's Star Mazda series champion will receive a Mazda-sponsored full-season drive for 2008 in the next series up the ladder, the Cooper Tires Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. And the 2008 winner of the Atlantic Championship gets a $2 million sponsorship to help them move up to Champ Car.
Toronto is the seventh round of the 12-race 2007 Star Mazda Championship schedule and the first of three Star Mazda races in Canada over the next two months, including Trois Rivier, Quebec (where Star Mazda is the feature race) on August 18-19, and at Mosport in Bowmanville with the American Le Mans Series on August 24-25.
Star Mazda races are broadcast tape-delayed on SPEED TV. Date and time (all times stated are Eastern and subject to change) for the one-hour broadcast is available at www.speedtv.com/programs. The Toronto race is scheduled to air on Saturday, July 21 at 12:00 pm with a re-broadcast on Monday, July 23 at 3:00 pm.
The next event on the Star Mazda schedule is at Road America, with the American Le Mans Series, on August 10 - 11.