Robbie Pecorari goes wire-to-wire at Road Atlanta September 30, 2005. Braselton, Georgia. Robbie Pecorari drove away from the field in his SAI Hydraulics Andersen Walko Racing Mazda to score his second victory of the season in Round Eleven of...
Robbie Pecorari goes wire-to-wire at Road Atlanta
September 30, 2005. Braselton, Georgia. Robbie Pecorari drove away from the field in his SAI Hydraulics Andersen Walko Racing Mazda to score his second victory of the season in Round Eleven of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear this afternoon at Road Atlanta during the American Le Mans Series Petit Le Mans Weekend. Pecorari was joined on the podium by his Andersen Walko Racing teammate Graham Rahal, in the Bobby Rahal Automotive Group Mazda, and championship points leader Raphael Matos, in the Ocean Tomo Racing Mazda.
Pecorari came into the penultimate round of the championship on a mission to score maximum points as he looks to chase down Matos for the crown, and with a strong qualifying run and a blistering pace early in today's 30-lap race he was able to close the gap as the series moves to the finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. "The Andersen Walko racing crew gave me the best car I've had all season and we were fast from the start of practice," the 18-year old from Aston, Pennsylvania explained. "The car was perfect for the first half of the race and I was able to open up a gap on Graham and then hold on to the finish. We did everything we needed to and will now need a little help if we are to catch Raphael as he has been consistent all season."
Finishing second to Pecorari for the second time this season, Rahal, who tasted victory himself at Portland International Raceway earlier this season, found himself in a late race duel with Matos for the second spot on the podium. "Robbie and I definitely had the fastest cars today and we planned on opening a gap but Robbie opened up the gap to quick," Rahal explained. "My car was strong as well but in the second half of the race the tires went a way a bit and the car started sliding around. Raphael was able to close up on me a bit as he was definitely quicker than me through turn six so I made sure my car was perfectly straight every lap through turn seven so I could get the power down. We both were closing up on Robbie towards the end but there was no way I was going to let Raphael get around me."
Matos, who has topped the championship battle from the first race of the season at Sebring International Raceway, and won the spring race here in a drive which saw him climb from ninth at the start, would line up fourth on the grid this time, and after losing a few spots early he would begin a steady climb to the podium. "Coming into the race I am always looking for the win but a couple of times out there I was thinking of the championship," the Belo Horizonte, Brazil-native explained. "I lost a couple of spots on the opening laps protecting the corners of my car but the Ocean Tomo racing Mazda was strong in the closing laps."
Coming into the weekend three drivers, Matos, Pecorari and James Hinchcliffe, still had a shot at the championship, and while Matos and Pecorari were racing for the podium, Hinchcliffe, in the AIM Autosport NOCO/Mobil 1 Mazda, was recovering from a difficult qualifying session which would find him fifteenth on the starting grid. "I knew I would have my work cut out for me today after qualifying in the middle of the pack," Hinchcliffe said. "We discovered a disconnected plug lead after qualifying so I was starting around some drivers that I haven't raced with much. Fortunately I was able to fight past six cars on the opening lap and was back racing with some people that I've had good battles with this year and finally make my way up to fifth at the end."
Road Atlanta also featured several other drives of distinction. Returning to the championship after he was forced to miss several rounds with a broken foot, the result of a boating mishap, Mark Wilkins moved from crutches to the cockpit of his AIM Autosport Mazda to finish just off the podium in fourth place. MJ Motorsports teammates Marco Andretti and Ross Smith both sliced their way through the field after encountering mechanical problems in qualifying. Andretti, who lined up 28th out of the 30 cars would finish ninth while Smith would move from 30th to 12th by the end without the benefit of a caution flag.
Heading into the final round of the championship at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Matos, with 424 points holds onto the championship lead over Pecorari though the margin has closed to seventeen points. Hinchcliffe also remains in the championship hunt with 388 points.
In the expert series championship, for drivers aged 30-44, Mike Anderson, driving the Team HASA Racing Mazda, returned after a two race absence to claim the victory ahead of the newly crowned champion, Micky Gilbert. Rounding out top three for the expert series battle was Jim Malackowski in the second Ocean Tomo Racing Mazda.
In the Masters Championship, for drivers aged 45 and older, John Pew, driving the Velocity Motorsports Mazda, captured his fourth victory of the season to maintain his grip on the points lead with 174 points while John Faulkner in the Peregrine Motorsports Mazda would finish second in class and points with 167. Doug Peterson, who entered the weekend third in points, would finish seventh on the day and fall out of championship contention.
The series now heads to Monterey, California for the final round at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on October 13-15. Round Eleven from Road Atlanta is scheduled to be broadcast by Speed Channel on Sunday, November 6th at 1:00PM Eastern Time.