Portland: AWR race notes

AWR's Rahal and Pecorari Finish First and Third at Portland; Donoso Sets New Track Record in Quals PORTLAND, Ore., July 31 - Saturday was a terrific day for Andersen Walko Racing in Star Mazda action at Portland International Raceway. One of ...

AWR's Rahal and Pecorari Finish First and Third at Portland; Donoso Sets New Track Record in Quals

PORTLAND, Ore., July 31 - Saturday was a terrific day for Andersen Walko Racing in Star Mazda action at Portland International Raceway. One of its drivers, Graham Rahal, won the race while another one, Robbie Pecorari, finished third. Two more - Pablo Donoso and Jonathan Klein - were in the top 10 too, and earlier in the day Donoso won his third consecutive pole position and set a new track record.

That was a lot to celebrate and no one was happier than Rahal, who posted his first series victory in only his eighth Star Mazda race.

Driving the Bobby Rahal Automotive Group No. 12, which is also sponsored by Bosch, Norwalk Furniture and Renier Construction, Rahal took the lead on a restart by passing the eventual second-place finisher, James Hinchcliffe, going into turn one. The 16-year-old rising star from New Albany, Ohio led the rest of the way despite another restart two laps from the end to beat Hinchcliffe to the line by 0.317 of a second.

The event was caution-filled. When Rahal was told over the radio that there was going to be about 12 and a half minutes left in the 45-minute race on an upcoming restart, he knew he had to make a move.

"I knew that was going to be my only chance," he said. "It was hard to follow him [Hinchcliffe] too close because of the aero. On the restart I got a good run on him. I was right up on the wall and just stuck it out and squeezed ahead of him.

"The team has been working really hard, and after coming so close [to winning] at Pikes Peak, I wasn't going to finish second this time around.

"I did about 10 donuts at the end," he added.

Unfortunately his biggest supporter, his father, the legendary Bobby Rahal, wasn't at this particular race to see the victory because his Indy car team is racing in Michigan. "Everytime I've had a first win he hasn't been there, which has got to be frustrating for him," his son said. "Hopefully we'll get more now and he'll be here to see them. Now we've got to keep the momentum up."

Robbie Pecorari of Aston, Pa. recorded another strong finish by placing third, moving ever closer to point leader Raphael Matos in the point standings with his SAI Hydraulics entry. He was just 0.854 of a second behind Rahal at the checkered.

"Third isn't too bad; finishing a few spots ahead of Raphael was good for the points," Pecorari said later. "The car was pretty good. Raphael and I touched once in turn one and I bent my right-front wing. That gave me some understeer, but not too bad. I just dealt with that the rest of the race.

"On the restarts Raphael would get a good run on me, and I pretty much fought with him for the whole race."

It was also another strong finish for Donoso, of Santiago, Chile, and his Cristal Beer No. 22. He had a miscue at the start of the race and was black-flagged, but he came from last to finish sixth.

In addition to his dazzling drive and his performance in qualifications, he set the fourth-fastest lap of the race, just 2 one-hundreths of a second slower than Rahal's best lap.

Jonathan Klein of Long Grove, Ill. was a solid eighth in his No. 26, which is sponsored by Nexus Distribution Corp., Midwest Steel & Services, Ironclad Performance Wear and ProStar.

"I had contact in the first corner on the first lap with somebody; I don't even know who it was," Klein said. "The whole nose box was hanging off the whole race, the wing was so bent. Considering everything, it was a good finish and I'm happy to be there.

"It was crazy in the first corner," he added.  "There was contact on all the
restarts.  There were a bunch of full-course yellows today."

Unofficially after Sunday's race Matos still leads the point standings and Pecorari is still second, 309 to 278. Hinchcliffe is still third with 274 points. Rahal moves up to fourth with 250 points and Donoso advances to fifth with 230. Klein moves up to ninth with 182.

Donoso earned his third consecutive pole position in qualifying Saturday morning, taking only 1:08.466 to cover the 1.944-mile, 12-turn road course. That easily broke the old track record of 1:10.362 set by Michael McDowell in 2004. His pole-winning lap was the ninth and final lap he ran in the session.

The top 14 cars in the 36-car field were separated by just 1 second in quals and that included the three other AWR entries, as Rahal was fourth, Pecorari was fifth and Klein qualified 11th.

The race supported the Portland Grand Prix American Le Mans Series race.

There have been some changes to SPEED's broadcast schedule of the Star Mazda events. The latest information available shows the race from Montreal airing at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 7 and then being replayed at 4 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 8.

Donoso's triumph in the first race at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. is slated to be shown on SPEED at 1 p.m. on Sunday, Aug. 14 and again at 4 a.m. on Monday, Aug. 15. The second half of the Infineon doubleheader is now slated to air at 1 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 27. Highlights of Pecorari's victory at Pikes Peak will be included in the Infineon broadcasts.

Rahal's victory at Portland is slated to be shown on SPEED at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 18.

All times are Eastern.

Rahal will represent AWR in an exhibition race on the street course in Trois Rivieres, Que. Aug. 5-7. That circuit will be added to the series' schedule starting next year.

Only four races remain in the 2005 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear. The next one is an event at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. on Aug. 18-20, which will be followed by Mosport International Raceway in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada Sept. 1-3; Road Atlanta Sept. 28-30 (part of the Petit Le Mans) and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Oct. 13-15.

The SPEED TV schedule for the remaining races is 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 2 for Road America; 1 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 23 for Mosport; 1 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6 for Road Atlanta and 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 19 for Laguna Seca.


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Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Graham Rahal , Michael McDowell , Robbie Pecorari , Pablo Donoso , Jonathan Klein , James Hinchcliffe