DER FOGMEISTER -- DEMPSEY ON POLE FOR THIS AFTERNOON'S 2009 STAR MAZDA CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON FINALE AT MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca / Oct. 10 -- During a nail-biting qualifying session, notable both for the fog in which it...
DER FOGMEISTER -- DEMPSEY ON POLE FOR THIS AFTERNOON'S 2009 STAR MAZDA CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON FINALE AT MAZDA RACEWAY LAGUNA SECA
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca / Oct. 10 -- During a nail-biting qualifying session, notable both for the fog in which it occurred and last-moment drama of a battle of tenths between the two remaining title contenders, it was Peter 'The Irish Steamroller' Dempsey who scored his fifth pole of the season and will occupy the inside of the front row for the start of the season finale of the 2009 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. His lap of 1:20.109 (100.573 mph) in the #3 Juncos Racing / The Collection / Motorsport Ireland / Queyside.ie Mazda was just shy of the outright Star Mazda Championship lap record set in qualifying for this race last year -- a 1:19.935 -- by the driver who went on to victory (but will start from 9th on the grid this year) Richard Kent.
Dempsey, winner of five races so far this year -- four of them from the pole -- now needs to finish only 7th or better to clinch the series championship... and the career-making prize that goes with it; a fully-sponsored 2010 season in the Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, courtesy of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder.
"I thought winning the pole would take a lot of pressure off me, but it actually hasn't," said Dempsey. "It was a really tough qualifying session with the conditions like they were out there, and to get the pole on the last lap is a huge bonus for me, including the extra point I get in the championship battle. The JDC Motorsports cars really got their act together and were quick in qualifying and Adam really put the pressure on me. This is our fifth pole of the season, and I really need to thank the Juncos Racing team for giving me such a great car. The track dropped of about half a second yesterday between the cool of the morning and the hotter session in the afternoon but the 'feel' of the track didn't change at all, the times were just a bit slower because the corner speeds dropped off. But we're going to go the same direction and keep the same setup. It's just going to be about getting off the line and trying to stay ahead of the rest of the field during the race."
Several people held the pole position throughout the session, including Louisiana racer Alex Ardoin, who won this race in 2007, but will ultimately start from 3rd on the grid with a lap of 1:20.397 (100.213 mph) in his #51 JDC Motorsports / Oral & Facial Surgery Center / Twister Trailer Mazda. Englishman Adam Christodoulou, the only driver remaining with a chance to spoil Dempsey's relentless march toward the championship held the pole until Dempsey's flier on the final lap and will start on the outside of the second row with a lap of 1:20.138 (100.537 mph) in the #11 JDC Motorsports / Molecule / Miller Milling Company / Alpinestars Mazda.
The two rising open-wheel stars are separated by a bare 16 points; and there are a maximum of 44 points up for grabs this weekend. Dempsey needs finish only 7th or better to clinch the title no matter where Christodoulou finishes, but both drivers are hungry to finish up the season with a win and the 45-minute season finale, scheduled to take the green light for the always-exciting standing start at 12:50 pm, Saturday, October 10, is sure to feature a high-speed, wheel-banging battle that will have fans on their feet.
Rounding out the top-5 are Californian Joel Miller, who turned a lap of 1:20.412 (100.194 mph) in his #2 Andersen Racing / Doug Mockett & Co. / Allied Interior Products Mazda, and Brazilian racer Caio Lara with a 1:20.692 (99.846 mph) in the #19 JDC Motorsports / MLD / ATW/ Molecule Mazda. Making stellar showings in the final race of the season are 6th-place qualifier David Ostella (who scored a podium finish in Round 7 on the Iowa Speedway oval); he turned a lap of 1:20.992 (99.476 mph) in the #71 AIM Autosport/Global Precast Mazda.
Also of note is the performance of Giancarlo Vilarinho, a Brazilian Formula BMW racer making his first start in the Star Mazda Championship; he was 3rd-quick in practice on Friday and his lap of 1:21.040 (99.418 mph) in the #73 AIM Autosport Mazda was good for 7th on the starting grid. Its worth noting that the quality of competition in the Star Mazda Championship is such that the top-5 qualifiers are all within about half a second of each other, and the top-10 are within about a second. J Among the Master (ages 45 and older) and Expert (ages 30-44) Series drivers, Expert racer Patrick O'Neill was quickest, starting 16th on the 23-car grid with a lap of 1:22.018 ((98.232 mph) in his #64 O'Neill Construction Mazda. The championship battle in the Expert series also comes down to two drivers -- Vancouver, B.C. racer Chris Cumming (the reigning Expert Series champion from 2008), who will start 17th with a lap of 1:22.590 (97.553 mph) in the #16 World Speed Motorsports Mazda; and Japanese driver Toshihiro Deki, starting from the last row with a lap of 1:26.013 (93.904 mph) in his #80 Juncos Racing / D-Techniques Mazda.
The quickest Master driver was Mike Guasch, who has already clinched the Master Series championship with six in-class wins. He turned a 19th-fast qualifying lap of 1:22.723 (97.395 mph) in his #91 JDC Motorsports / Molecule /MG4 Manufacturing Mazda.
The field of 23 Star Mazda Championship cars and drivers will take the green light for the 45-minute 2009 season finale at 12:50 pm.