Hearn Motorsports To Close First Season at Mazda Raceway
MONTEREY, Calif., October 12, 2004 -- Hearn Motorsports will close-out its first season of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship this weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. Team owner Richie Hearn anticipates that the Monterey, Calif. track will host the best finish yet for his two-car team. Hearn, who has raced at the track multiple times in the SCCA Atlantic and ChampCar Series, will field the No. 70 Showtime/ Samsung/ Skip Barber Star Mazda for Raphael "Rafa" Matos and the No. 77 Thienes Engineering Mazda of series sophomore Brian Thienes. The two-car team is Hearn's first foray into team ownership.
Matos, of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, has impressed in his rookie year with the first year team. The 2003 Skip Barber Formula Dodge National Champion has been especially quick at fast, natural terrain road courses like Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He grabbed his first pole position at Mosport International Raceway earlier in the season and closed the weekend there with the team's first podium finish, a third. At the longest track of the season at Road America, Matos qualified fourth and took second-place wheeling the No. 70 through the hills of Wisconsin. The Monterey facility's mixture of sweeping and tight turns, uphill climbs and three-story drops, fits well with Matos' style. With a new Mazda powerplant, Matos' past success at the track and Hearn's detailed knowledge of the 2.238 mile, 11-turn road course, the No. 70 has an excellent chance to take the first win of the young team's career. Matos is well within reach of the Hearn's goal of a top-five in the season-long standings. He is currently eighth, four points out of fifth-place with 45 points available this weekend.
The No. 77 of Huntington Beach, California's Thienes may be a dark horse contender for Hearn. Thienes has been the top-finisher for Hearn Motorsports in the last two races and could prove to be a formidable competitor again at Laguna Seca. He has experience at the Monterey Peninsula-track and raced in the Star Mazda Series here last season. The combination of Thienes' past success and momentum could give the No. 77 an edge for the first Hearn Motorsports entry to stand on the top-step of the podium. In the points chase, Thienes is 14th in driver points with 180 markers, 24 points out of tenth-place. He is also in strong competition for the Star Mazda Expert Series where he is tied for second, seven points out of first place.
The season finale of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship will take the green flag at 2:05 (PT) and can be seen on SPEED, at 2pm (EDT), October 31st.
Richie Hearn: "The last two races have been bad but we've had some success. We're pulling out all the stops for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. I think we had a good run at Phoenix and at Road Atlanta but we didn't get the results that we deserved. We're looking forward to ending the season on a good result. I think that this is probably our best chance all season for a win. Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is a driver's track, like Mosport. It separates the drivers from the guys that just have good cars. Rafa knows the track real well and we've had time to get the car right. Brian has raced there too and if we can put a good car under him, he should be really strong as well. I think he'll have a good weekend. We've had a pretty good first year as a team but we want to finish it on a high note. Laguna Seca is a great place for us to do that."
For more on Hearn Motorsports and its 2004 Pro Formula Mazda Series' effort please visit www.richiehearn.com. To learn about Raphael Matos, visit his bilingual site at www.rafamatos.com. More on Brian Thienes can be found at www.thieneseng.com. For information on the Star Mazda Series, please visit www.starmazda.com.