Luis Schiavo leads flag to flag at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. June 15, 2003. Monterey, CA.The last time the Star Mazda Series North American Championship came to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, in September of 2002, Caracas, Venezuela native Luis ...
Luis Schiavo leads flag to flag at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
June 15, 2003. Monterey, CA.The last time the Star Mazda Series North American Championship came to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, in September of 2002, Caracas, Venezuela native Luis Schiavo was caught up in an incident while leading the event and would finish two laps down in 29th place. On his return to the track, as part of the ChampCar Monterey Grand Prix weekend, Schiavo never looked back enroute to a dominating flag to flag victory in his Racers Edge Motorsports/Rotelli Restaurants Mazda in Round Three of the 2003 Star Mazda Series North American Championship.
"It's been a great weekend for myself and everyone at Racers Edge Motorsports," an excited Schiavo exclaimed, "The crew gave me a great car and I just concentrated on driving and staying out front. I have to thank the team, my sponsors Rotelli Restaurants, and my parents."
While Schiavo was working his way to the top step of the podium, a field of 36 fellow drivers were all seeking to work their way to the front of the 24 lap event, with Red Line Oil West Coast Series rookie John Green coming the closest to score a well earned second place finish in the pro series debut for this former karting champion. "This is like a victory for us today," Green said. "We guessed right on the setup in qualifying and I was able to start on the front row, and we only had to make a few adjustments. Towards the end I was concerned with Moses Smith as he was catching up to me a bit but I just had to stand on it on the restart. Thanks have to go out to my team owner Chas Lemon, Red Line Oil, and my dad, who was wrenching on the car this weekend. This finish is my Father's Day gift for him."
Coming off of a disappointing finish at Nazareth, where he had crossed the finish line first only to have the victory revoked for a technical infraction, Moses Smith was on a mission to earn points and climb back into the championship hunt. The 2002 North American Championship runner-up paced the field in the first practice session but would fall back to eighth spot in his Team Tomlin Mazda after qualifying. With his work cut out for him, Smith methodically carved his way through the field to earn the final podium spot. "We didn't get the qualifying that we wanted but we put our heads down and worked on the race setup and the Team Tomlin crew gave me an awesome car for the race," Smith explained. "We were all running pretty close together at the end but it would've taken something spectacular to get to the front and after Nazareth I needed to focus on getting points."
While Schiavo and Green would maintain there starting positions throughout the race, both drivers that qualified on the second row, Jamie Bach and Matt Downs, would suffer mechanical failures leaving a void that a horde of drivers would seek to fill. Fourth place qualifier Downs, who was competing alongside his brothers Anthony and Lucas, would be the first of the pair to fall by the wayside when his gearbox failed as he made the climb towards the famous "Corkscrew" corner. "The gearbox gave me absolutely no warning, a disappointed Downs said, "It just lost all gears at once and I was forced to pull off the track."
Third place qualifier Bach, had some suspicion that something was wrong with his BK Motorsports Mazda as he could feel his handling deteriorate in the closing laps and was trying to nurse the car home when the left rear stub axle finally failed in turn three and he was forced to retire.
Jumping up to fill their spaces a group four cars would spend the race battling back and forth, with positions swapping throughout the event. Coming home fourth, after fending off challenges from Michael McDowell, Mike Anderson and Phil Fogg Jr, was John Olsen in his Team Bucknum Piloti Land Group Mazda. Olsen, coming off a third place finish at Nazareth, has been able to jump into the points lead by virtue of his consistent finishes towards the front of the field.
Finishing fifth and holding onto his points lead in the Star Mazda Series Red Line Oil Championship was Team DARE/HASA driver Mike Anderson. "I lost two spaces on the start and knew that I would have to take advantage of drivers that were battling with each other," Anderson stated. "I came up to Olsen and McDowell as they were battling and when they went side by side through turn five I saw my opportunity to make a move and I was able to get by McDowell as we went into turn six. I was hoping to gain some positions on the restart but everyone took off and I was unable to move up any farther."
The points battle has closed up after three of nine rounds with Olsen (108 points) taking a one point lead ahead of McDowell (107 Points), who moved up from his eleventh place on the grid to finish seventh, while Schiavo sits six points back in third place with 102 points. Alan Rudolph, who had claimed the victory at Nazareth and had been sitting second in points entering the event, fell back in the points when he had to pit as the track turned green to tighten a loose wheel nut and could only manage a 29th place finish.
The Star Mazda Series North American Championship will now move to Road Atlanta for Round Four as a support event for the American Le Mans Series on June 26-28. For more information please visit www.starmazda.com.