Team G.FRO's Mandarino Speeds to a Wild 2nd Place Finish at Mosport August 26, 2007 -- Team G.FRO's Lorenzo Mandarino had gone through some tough races recently, especially in last weekend's Trois-Rivieres Grand Prix which saw him lead much of...
Team G.FRO's Mandarino Speeds to a Wild 2nd Place Finish at Mosport
August 26, 2007 -- Team G.FRO's Lorenzo Mandarino had gone through some tough races recently, especially in last weekend's Trois-Rivieres Grand Prix which saw him lead much of the race before being punted into the wall and out of the lead with just a handful of laps remaining. Mandarino's luck took a turn for the better this weekend at Mosport International Raceway, sight of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear's Round 10 of the 2007 Championship, as the 20 year-old from Vancouver, British Columbia finished an impressive second place in a wild and sometimes confusing race.
Team G.FRO's driving duo of Mandarino and recently promoted F2000 protege Chuck Hulse proved to have the daunting Mosport circuit figured out when it came to qualifying. A mix of wet and drying track conditions during the weekend meant that weather had to be a factor at any time, but luckily qualifying stayed dry throughout.
Mandarino in his #15 Team G.FRO/Newway/Rossi Pro Mazda was quick out of the box, initially setting the 2nd fastest time, all-the-while continuing to work closely with recently promoted Team G.FRO Lead Engineer Ian Lacy to improve the car throughout the 45-minute session. Mandarino would improve with each stint, resulting in a quick time good enough for third place on the grid, while Hulse picked up just under two seconds off his fastest time in practice to qualify a career-best 12th overall and once again line-up first in the Masters category--for drivers 45 years of age and older--in only his third career Star Mazda start.
Weather once again would play a huge factor in the Saturday afternoon's 32 lap race. Threatening clouds rolled in as the cars took to the pace laps and by the green flag, the showers began to fall. The rain didn't last long though, leaving all the teams to make a difficult decision whether or not to pit for rain tires or stay on slick tires and hope for it to dry out. Team G.FRO chose to pit Mandarino early for rain tires, making a steller pit-stop beating everybody else out of the pits while also keeping their car on the lead lap.
Meanwhile, G.FRO chose to keep Hulse's #68 Team G.FRO/Silicon Salvage Pro Mazda out on slicks in what was a inner-team split strategy. Hulse shuffled to the front of the order to second position while under full course yellow, but sadly an engine misfire would quickly spell an end to anymore good fortune for Hulse.
"We could see the rain coming," explained Team G.FRO Principal Geoff Fickling, "but it was a matter of how intense and how long it would dump. Looking back, I'm so proud of our team because we made the right decisions and performed beautifully in our pit stop. The guys take pride in practicing their pit stops and it definitely paid off.
"We could have gone either way with our strategy and if it weren't for the engine problem, the race would have fallen in his lap. Its really a shame because Chuck is making leaps and bounds with adapting to the Star Mazda and I'm sure he'll be making headlines before the end of the season."
Once the race re-started, Mandarino would re-start in seventh position and on the lead-lap, while four cars were ahead on track that chose not to pit and were still on slicks. This is when Mandarino began his charge--passing at will, anywhere and everywhere, the former 12-time karting champion proved his form as he consistently lapped between 1-2 seconds faster than any other car on track. He would push all the way to the finish, depositing championship leader Dane Cameron with a few laps to-go for second spot and made up almost a five second gap with four laps to go to catch leader James Davison on the final lap and hold on to a very close second place finish.
Mosport ended a brutal three race in three week trip for the Star Mazda Championship, which had its ups and downs for Team G.FRO. Mandarino was crashed out by another competitor in the first two rounds of the trip held at Road America, then Trois-Rivieres. Hulse meanwhile, debuted with the team at Road America and made Star Mazda history by scoring two top-tens in his first two starts as a Masters competitor--a feat that had yet to be done in the storied history of the open-wheel series.
Next up for Team G.FRO's Star Mazda schedule is Rounds 11 and 12 held at Road Atlanta on October 5th and Laguna Seca on October 20th. Star Mazda races are broadcast on the SPEED Channel, with the Mosport event scheduled to air on Saturday, September 11 at 12 pm Eastern. To find out when future Star Mazda races will air, log on to www.speedtv.com/programs.