Autobahn I: Series race report

QUEBEC RACER MIKAEL GRENIER WINS FROM THE POLE IN STAR MAZDA CHAMPIONSHIP RACE 1 / ROUND 8 AT HARRAH'S AUTOBAHN GRAND PRIX PRESENTED BY MAZDA Autobahn Country Club / Joliet, IL (July 31, 2010 ) -- Starting from his second pole of the season, ...


Autobahn Country Club / Joliet, IL (July 31, 2010 ) -- Starting from his second pole of the season, Quebec racer Mikael Grenier drove a flawless race to his first victory in this afternoon's Race 1 / Round 8 of the HARRAH'S Autobahn Grand Prix Presented by MAZDA. Rounding out the top-3 were Brazilian Caio Lara and American Conor Daly. The top-finishing Expert Series driver (ages 30-44) was Texan J.W. Roberts and the first Master Series racer across the finish line was Puerto Rican racer Carlos Conde.

"It may have looked pretty easy for me on TV or in the stands, but in the car it was harder,"[IMAGE] said Grenier, who led every lap of the 45-minute, 17-lap race in his the #17 Andersen Racing / Slow Cow / April Super Flow / NAPA Auto Parts / HS Telecom / Desharnais Mazda. "I built up a little bit of a lead so I could relax, but then we had a safety car come out with about five minutes to go, so when the race went green for the final few laps, it was like starting all over again. The Andersen Racing team gave me a great car and we're working hard to do this again tomorrow."

Unlike the morning qualifying session, which was conducted in the rain, the race itself was dry, resulting in lap times almost 30 seconds quicker around the 3.6-mile Autobahn Country Club circuit. Grenier took the pole with a 2:43.240 and his fastest lap of the race was a 2:14.498. No doubt this contributed in some measure to the topsy-turvy nature of the race in which it seemed front and back of the field were marching in opposite directions on the results sheet.

Lara, one of the season's four race winners with his first-ever victory in Round 6 at New Jersey, qualified 14th in his #19 JDC Motorsports / MLD / ATW Mazda and confirmed his emerging talent with a superb drive. And Daly's effort was all the more impressive for the fact that he was demoted to the rear of the 23-car field; he was 5th in qualifying this morning but in post-race inspection his #22 Juncos Racing / INDECK / The College Network / Merchant Services Ltd. Mazda was found to have an aerodynamic part that was 'outside the permissible range of adjustment.' And the Autobahn track, comprised mainly of medium and high-speed corners, is widely recognized as being a difficult track on which to pass due to the lack of braking zones.

Other notable drives include both female drivers in the field; Tatiana Calderon of Bogota, Colombia, moved up from 12th on the grid to finish 4th -- her best result of the season so far -- in her #25 Juncos Racing / JAC Motors Mazda. However, she tried a 'hail Mary' pass on Norwegian racer Ander 'The Viking' Krohn and caused his #47 Andersen Racing / Norse Cutting & Abandonment / Trallfa / Colosseum Mazda to spin and drop back to 7th. It also brought out the safety car in the closing stages of the race and, as a result - per the Star Mazda rule book - Calderon was moved back behind Krohn, who then moved up one, placing them 6th and 7th respectively.

All of which was to the benefit of local racer Ashley Freiberg of Homer Glen, Illinois, a regular in the Skip Barber Series making a one-off Star Mazda Championship appearance in her home-town event. She overcame ongoing mechanical difficulties in practice that limited her on-track time to a handful of laps, qualified 9th and moved up to finish 5th in the #91 Team GDT / Collision Damage Experts / Azko Nobel / Charleyhorse Restaurant Mazda. One of the other fast young Canadians in the field, David Ostella from Maple, Ontario, also benefited from Calderon's imprudent move; he drove the #16 AIM Autosport / GP Global Precast Mazda from 10th on the grid to cross the line in 5th and be moved up to 4th, his best finish of the season.

Several drivers suffered the slings and arrows of racing fortune, including Frenchman Tristan Vautier who won Race 2 / Round 8 at New Jersey and qualified his #38 Andersen Racing / Moulin TP / Cecibon / Circuit du Laquais Mazda on the outside of the front row. He suffered a mechanical problem that caused his car to stop on track on Lap 2; the corner workers tried to get him re-started but couldn't, and pushed his car behind the safety barrier. Venezuelan driver Jorge Goncalvez, who put his #9 Team Apex / Wabash Capital Investments Mazda 4th on the starting grid, had a problem on Lap 10 and pulled into the pits, credited with a 21st-place finish. Conor De Phillippi, the 2009 Skip Barber Pro Series champion and winner of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder scholarship, started from 7th on the grid in the #11 JDC Motorsports / MAZDASPEED Motorsports / Skip Barber Mazda but dropped back to finish 14th.

At the end of today's race, Conor Daly remains in the championship lead with 326 points, four wins, five poles and a podium finish in every race but one... in which he finished 4th. Anders Krohn remains in second with 280 points, one pole three podiums and a top-5 finish in every event... except today's, where he finished 6th. Caio Lara moves up from 5th to 3rd with 263 points, one win, three podiums and a top-10 finish in every race. Joao Victor Horto drops from third to fourth with 2626 points, four podiums and a top-10 finish in every race but one. And race winner Mikael Grenier moves up from seventh to fifth with 255 points, one win, two poles, three podiums and five top-5s. The Star Mazda Championship awards 44 points for a win, and one point for pole.

Qualifying for Race 2 / Round 9 takes place this evening from 6:35 pm to 7:20 pm. The second of the weekend's two races begins at 1:00 pm Central (2.00 pm Eastern), Sunday, July 26.

-source: mazda

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Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Skip Barber , J.W. Roberts , David Ostella , Mikael Grenier , Jorge Goncalvez , Caio Lara , Carlos Conde , Tristan Vautier , Conor Daly , Anders Krohn , Joao Victor Horto , Ashley Freiberg
Teams Juncos Racing