New Mazda ready for Road Atlanta debut

NEW MAZDA ENGINE WILL BRING THE NOISE TO SPORTSBOOK.COM GRAND PRIX OF ATLANTA Braselton, Ga. - The roaring sounds of the engines in the American Le Mans Series' prototype classes vary from a low, loud rumble to a relatively quiet hum. But the ...

NEW MAZDA ENGINE WILL BRING THE NOISE TO SPORTSBOOK.COM GRAND PRIX OF ATLANTA

Braselton, Ga. - The roaring sounds of the engines in the American Le Mans Series' prototype classes vary from a low, loud rumble to a relatively quiet hum. But the volume is about to pick up as the Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta nears.

Round 2 of the ALMS' 2005 schedule features Mazda's celebrated return to North American road racing in the No. 8 B-K Motorsports Sportsbook.com Courage, powered by the Japanese giant's famed Rotary engine. Guy Cosmo and Jamie Bach will drive the entry at Road Atlanta and the rest of the ALMS' races in 2005. Both have extensive road-racing experience in Mazdas.

The Rotary engine technology is a unique technology that is known only to Mazda, said John Doonan, director of marketing and public relations for the No. 8 Sportsbook.com Mazda Courage. Mazda won the 24 Hours of Le Mans in 1991, the only Japanese manufacturer to do so.

"It's the efficiency of the motor as it relates to endurance racing," Doonan said. "When Mazda won at Le Mans, it was because we were efficient and lasted longer. That's the whole point."

The high-pitched whine of the Rotary engine is unmistakable, the most obvious characteristic that will set it apart from other motors at Road Atlanta. "It'll be a pretty good sound to hear again," Bach said. "It's a lot smaller version of a more powerful engine. You can mount it a lot lower, there are lot less moving parts to go wrong and it's a lot more superior, I think."

During the last couple of weeks, Cosmo was involved in a shakedown of the car in France. It hit the Road Atlanta surface for the first time in an open test session Wednesday. Both Cosmo and Bach had turns in the car, which exceeded Cosmo's imagination.

"It was the first chance I had to open it up. It is absolutely awesome," said Cosmo, who said he turned laps in the low 1:20s. "It's hands down the most fun I've ever had in a race car. I didn't really get that much of an indication in France with the circumstances and the time we had. This car is so well mannered and it really, really inspires us. It just tells you, 'Hey drive me hard. This is fun.' I was looking at this as being tentative. I've explored a lot of its limits, and it responds to everything so well."

It may be hard to temper expectations after such a session. After all, it's tough for a new car to compete right off the bat. "If we can pull together and finish the race, it would be a great accomplishment for us," Bach said. "Because of attrition, finishing could place us in the top two or three, I'd be happy with that. Placing higher and in qualifying would be better yet."

Cosmo had higher aspirations, though. "Before today, I would have said our goal was to just finish, not knowing how we would fare today," he said. "We saw a competitive spirit from the car right off the bat. I guarantee it has more. We're just creeping up on our potential."

The Sportsbook.com Grand Prix of Atlanta is scheduled to start at noon April 17. It will be broadcast on CBS from 1-3 p.m., and American Le Mans Series Radio will have live flag-to-flag coverage at www.americanlemans.com. Tickets can be purchased by calling (800) 849-RACE or logging on to www.roadatlanta.com.

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Series ALMS
Drivers Guy Cosmo