The season-opening Star Mazda Championship race at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway featured only two laps of green-flag racing, but the AIM Autosport drivers made the most of them. Both cars started from the back of the 32-car grid, but...
The season-opening Star Mazda Championship race at Sebring (Fla.) International Raceway featured only two laps of green-flag racing, but the AIM Autosport drivers made the most of them. Both cars started from the back of the 32-car grid, but charged ahead at the green flag, despite extremely wet track conditions.
Devin Cunningham of St-Bruno, Que., qualified 16th, but was moved to a pitlane start in the No. 33 Discovery Channel Pro Formula Mazda because of a qualifying crash. His teammate Michael Duncalfe of Saskatoon, Sask., started 21st, but was stopped by a broken halfshaft on his No. 33 Exclusive Motorsport Diecast Gallery Mazda as he tried to leave pit lane for the pace lap. The crew quickly replaced the halfshaft and he rejoined the race four laps behind the leader.
The planned 45-minute race was shortened to 30 minutes because of rain delays, and ran under caution for six of the eight laps completed. Cunningham blasted ahead on the two green-flag laps to gain 16 positions and finish 16th. Duncalfe passed about a dozen cars, but was unable to improve his finish from 29th because of the four-lap deficit.
Although both drivers are series rookies -- and rookies in car racing -- they weren't intimated by the wet track or the lack of visibility.
"I knew there would be some spray, but I didn't think there would be that much. It was like a complete white-out in some places," Cunningham said. "To come into the pits and hear I passed 16 guys in two laps in the rain in my first formula-car race was a big confidence-booster.
"With these cars, you have a lot of downforce and it acts like it does in the dry, so you can really carry some speed into the corners. It was just a question of feeling it out on the warmup laps, then just pushing in the race. As soon as I saw how quickly I could gain on some of these guys, my confidence kept boosting and boosting and I went quicker and quicker. It was really fun!"
Duncalfe was disappointed with the mechanical problem, but enjoyed his first Star Mazda race.
"We were trying to follow the formation to leave the pit lane and the halfshaft broke. Not to make it off pit lane was difficult," he acknowledged. "The team's worked very hard and it was disappointing for those guys. At least we got the halfshaft fixed and got to do the two green laps.
"It was great! I passed about six or eight guys and another four or five spun off, so if we could have had our starting position, we could have finished very well. On a positive note, we know we had a good car. The whole weekend was a blast. The team really came together, worked hard and we learned a lot. That's very important. What we're going to take away from this event is huge."
The next Star Mazda Championship race will be on the streets of Houston on April 22.