Sears Point: AWR Friday practice notes

AWR's Donoso Leads Star Mazda Practice Session Friday Afternoon at Infineon SONOMA, Calif., July 15 - Pablo Donoso might be in the middle of wine country but he made sure that everyone at Infineon Raceway noticed his sponsor, Cristal Beer,...

AWR's Donoso Leads Star Mazda Practice Session Friday Afternoon at Infineon

SONOMA, Calif., July 15 - Pablo Donoso might be in the middle of wine country but he made sure that everyone at Infineon Raceway noticed his sponsor, Cristal Beer, Friday afternoon too.

Donoso topped 42 other Star Mazda drivers in the second practice session with his Andersen Walko Racing/Cristal Beer No. 22, taking only 1:30.425 to cover the 2.53-mile road course at an average speed of 100.724 miles per hour to jump to the top of the charts for that session.

The other three Andersen Walko Racing (AWR) drivers did well too. Robbie Pecorari posted the fourth-fastest time of the session with a 1:31.075 (100.005 mph) in his SAI Hydraulics entry. Jonathan Klein was seventh with a 1:31.224 (99.842 mph) with his car, which is sponsored by Nexus Distribution Corporation, Midwest Steel & Services, Ironclad Performance Wear and ProStar. Graham Rahal was right behind him in eighth with a 1:31.226 (99.840 mph) in the No. 12 sponsored by The Bobby Rahal Automotive Group, Bosch, Norwalk Furniture and Renier Construction.

Two practice sessions were held Friday in preparation for a doubleheader here Saturday and Sunday to support the American Le Mans Series' Infineon Technologies Grand Prix of Sonoma presented by Ravenswood Winery event. Both of the Star Mazda races are slated to go 25 laps or 45 minutes, whichever comes first.

In the first practice session Friday morning Donoso was second only to point leader Raphael Matos, taking just 0.411 of a second longer than Matos did on his best lap. Donoso's best time was 1:29.880 (101.335 mph) in that session. Pecorari was third overall with a 1:29.893 (11101.320 mph). Rahal as seventh in the morning with a 1:30.228 (100.944 mph) and Klein was 12th with a 1:30.795 (100.314 mph).

Donoso, of Santiago, Chile and the protege of Eliseso Salazar, has never raced at this particular track before but that obviously didn't affect his performance Friday.

"In this series, if you have the car, you're in front," he said. "I do like this track though. You're always turning."

"This is the second time I've been fastest in practice; I was also fast in Canada," he added. "If I can win one race this year, I'll be happy."

He's certainly off to a good start here at Infineon.

The other three AWR drivers also have limited experience here but are also doing extremely well. Pecorari, of Aston, Pa. and the most recent Star Mazda race winner, raced a Jim Russell car here in the past. Klein, of Long Grove, Ill., was in the Star Mazda race at Infineon last year. Rahal, of New Albany, Ohio, who is coming off a strong second-place finish in the last race, has never before competed here.

Besides working on trying to find the best overall set-up for this particular track this weekend, the team had two other main challenges on Friday. The first was working with a different compound of Goodyear Eagle tire, as the series has gone to a harder compound than usual for this race, utilizing Goodyear's 430 compound here this weekend as its spec tire.

The other challenge has to do with adapting the set-ups to reflect track temperature changes, as it's quite a bit hotter in the afternoon than it is in the early morning. Qualifying for both races will be held in the morning, while both races will be held in the afternoon on Saturday and Sunday.

Qualifying for the first race will be held from 8 a.m. until 8:45 p.m. tomorrow morning (Saturday), with the race following at noon.

Qualifying for the second race is slated for 9:05 a.m. until 9:50 a.m. Sunday morning, with the race following at 3:55 p.m., right after the American Le Mans Series headliner and the SPEED World Challenge Touring Car race.

-awr-

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Graham Rahal , Pablo Donoso , Jonathan Klein