Sebring: MJ Motorsports race notes

MJ Motorsports looks to Road Atlanta after difficult Sebring weekend March 18, 2005. Sebring, FL. Sebring International Raceway marked the official debut for the MJ Motorsports Star Mazda Championship effort with Marco Andretti and Bryan ...

MJ Motorsports looks to Road Atlanta after difficult Sebring weekend

March 18, 2005. Sebring, FL. Sebring International Raceway marked the official debut for the MJ Motorsports Star Mazda Championship effort with Marco Andretti and Bryan Sellers behind the wheel, but the hoped for results didn't occur as contact cut short what was shaping up to be a strong showing for Sellers and mechanical gremlins hindered Andretti's efforts to run to the front. Now the team looks to regroup for Round two at Road Atlanta in one month's time.

"This was a difficult weekend for everyone at MJ Motorsports," Team Owner Michael James said. "We have two great drivers in Marco and Bryan, and this was the core group of guys that won the championship with the factory team last season, so we expect success as well. I am proud at how hard everyone worked this weekend and know that will help us get the results we want."

The weekend would start out promising for the team, with Sellers hovering near the top of the timesheets during Tuesday's unofficial practice day, however Andretti was experiencing a loss of power in his #11 Vonage sponsored Mazda, cutting into his practice time. When the official practice sessions began on Wednesday, it appeared that the engine change had helped Andretti, however Sellers began to encounter problems with his #16 MJ Motorsports Mazda. The team worked late into the night to resolve any issues ahead of Thursday morning's final practice session and afternoon qualifying session.

Weather would choose to play havoc with their plan as torrential rain washed across Central Florida overnight and throughout Thursday, washing out the qualifying sessions for both the American Le Mans Series and Speed World Challenge in addition to the Star Mazda Championship. As a result the qualifying positions would be determined by Wednesday's practice times, leaving Andretti to start 14th and Sellers 16th out of the 42 car field. "The rain was a killer as it cut short any chance we had to improve our times after the difficulties we had on Wednesday and it didn't give as chance to get on track and determine if we had finally resolved the issues we had experienced," James explained.

Answers would be had when the green flag fell for Friday's twenty lap race. Sellers quickly began carving his way through the field, jumping up three spots at the start and an additional three positions on the next lap. By the fourth lap he had worked his way into the top ten and was dicing with front-row starter Pablo Donoso when Donoso would cut his ignition by mistake, leaving Sellers nowhere to go. The damage would force Sellers to retire from the event.

While Sellers was forced to retire, Andretti was facing his own difficulties as mechanical problems would return. In what was later determined to be a problem with his fuel pump, Andretti was losing horsepower, leaving him at a serious disadvantage down Sebring's long straights. Andretti would manage to hang on though to finish on the lead lap in the 19th position.

Despite the problems, James remains optimistic for the rest of the season, reasoning, "Michael McDowell finished 32nd here last season and we were able to guide him to the championship. While we wouldn't prefer to play catch up we have done it before and we have the crew and drivers capable of doing it again."

Round Two of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will be held at Road Atlanta on April 15-17. Round one of the championship from Sebring International Raceway will be televised on Speed Channel on Sunday, April 11th at 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time.

-mjm-

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Michael McDowell , Marco Andretti , Bryan Sellers , Pablo Donoso