MX-5: Series Laguna Seca practice one notes

Malkhassian Leads Opening MX-5 Cup Practice at Mazda Raceway MONTEREY, Calif. (May 15, 2009) -- With hundreds of laps already banked at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Ara Malkassian, of Sonoma, Calif., made the most of his track experience, putting...

Malkhassian Leads Opening MX-5 Cup Practice at Mazda Raceway

MONTEREY, Calif. (May 15, 2009) -- With hundreds of laps already banked at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Ara Malkassian, of Sonoma, Calif., made the most of his track experience, putting his car at the top of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup practice times. Marc Miller, of Holland, Mich., and Nick Mancuso, of Mettawa, Ill., completed the top three in preparation for Saturday's Round Two race, part of the Verizon Festival of Speed Presented by SPEEDCOM.

The start for the first of two 30-minute MX-5 Cup practice sessions at Mazda Raceway was delayed approximately five minutes, as series officials waited for morning fog to clear the 11-turn, 2.238-mile road course. Once practice began, it wasn't until the last bit of fog cleared the back side of the course that Malkhassain was able to get his first solid laps in the No. 11 ALARA Racing MX-5.

"It was very serene out there coming out of the fog at Turn Six," Malkhassian said. "At the beginning, my times through there were horrible, because I couldn't see anything past the apex. We took it easy at first, but then kept pushing harder and harder. We've got the setup right on the car I think and it kept getting better throughout the session."

Malkhassian's times continued to improve all the way to the very end of the session when he turned his fastest lap, a 1:42.979 (78.237 mph).

Though the Californian, who's ALARA Racing shop is located two hours away in Sonoma, has logged many miles at Mazda Raceway, this week was the team's first opportunity to tryout the series-mandated BF Goodrich0x00ae g-Force0x2122 R10x2122 tires at the classic Monterey road course.

"We've raced here a lot in SCCA Club Racing and we do a lot of testing here with the MX-5s as well. We haven't run with the BFGs though, so that was a big learning experience the last couple of days. I think we've got it figured out. The tires are sticking great and we're loving it. We were doing more of a race simulation and it felt really good, so I think we have a car to go to the end this weekend."

Road Atlanta race winner Miller was second fastest in the No. 28 Team MER/MOCA/RaceforAutism MX-5. After exchanging fast laps with Malkhassian for most of the session, Miller settled into the second spot with a 1:43.077 (78.163 mph).

Driving the No. 29 Team MER/LakeForestSportsCars MX-5, Mancuso was third-quick on the time sheets. The 22-year old entered a fast lap of 1:43.207 (78.064 mph).

MAZDASPEED MX-5 Cup Shootout winner Justin Piscitell, of Patterson, N.Y., turned a 1:43.275 (78.013 mph) in the No. 89 ALARA Racing/DAMG Racing Mazda MX-5. The lap placed him fourth on the practice sheets.

Robert Michaelian, of Seal Beach, Calif., completed the top five in the No. 19 AMG Group/Biz Rate MX-5 with a fast lap of 1:43.313 (77.984 mph).

Round One pole winner Lyonel Kent was sixth, followed by Zach Ply, Jeff Mosing, Todd Lamb and Brett Smrz.

The second MX-5 Cup practice session will take place later today, at 3:40 p.m. (PDT). Live timing and notes are available at www.mx-5cup.com.

-credit: scca pro racing

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Series SCCA
Drivers Todd Lamb , Nick Mancuso , Brett Smrz , Justin Piscitell , Lyonel Kent , Marc Miller