STAR MAZDA CHAMPIONSHIP THE HOTTEST OPEN-WHEEL DRIVER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM WITH MORE THAN TWENTY CARS EXPECTED FOR SERIES TEST THIS WEEKEND AT SEBRING Sebring, FL (January 21, 2010) -- The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, now in...
STAR MAZDA CHAMPIONSHIP THE HOTTEST OPEN-WHEEL DRIVER DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM WITH MORE THAN TWENTY CARS EXPECTED FOR SERIES TEST THIS WEEKEND AT SEBRING
Sebring, FL (January 21, 2010) -- The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, now in its 20th year, proves again it is the hottest open-wheel driver development program with more than twenty cars expected for this weekend's three-day test at Sebring International Raceway. And it promises to be an international gathering of rising stars with drivers from the U.S., Canada, Sweden, Columbia, Brazil and Venezuela -- with more to come.
Driving the car count for both the test and the 11-weekend 13-race 2010 season -- in addition to the Series long record of graduating drivers to the top levels of motorsports -- are the two driver development programs that converge in the Star Mazda Championship; the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder and the Indy Racing League's 'Road to Indy" program. The MAZDASPEED Ladder provides scholarship funding for champions to move up into the Star Mazda Championship, and for the Star Mazda champion to move up to the next level of Mazda-powered competition. The Road to Indy is designed to provide a clear path for top young drivers who set their sights on competing in the Indy 500.
Among those participating in the Sebring test will be the first driver to announce his 2010 Star Mazda program was Scandinavian racer Anders 'The Viking' Krohn. Now entering his second year of Star Mazda competition, Krohn won his oval track debut on the famed Milwaukee Mile in 2009; he went on to score two podium finishes and seven top-6s, finishing 6th in the championship. In 2008, he was the Rookie of the Year and won the championship in the F2000 series with nine victories in 14 races driving for Andersen Racing; he will re-unite with Andersen for his 2010 Star Mazda campaign.
bComing back to the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear for another season was a total no-brainer for my partners and me," says Krohn, 23, of Stavanger, Norway. "Star Mazda is obviously the most competitive feeder series for moving up to IZOD IndyCar, but there are several reasons why I chose to come back. With the recent announcement of the Road to Indy program, it made the series even more attractive for up and coming drivers such as myself because it's easier to impress potential new sponsors when a ladder system is in place; they can put themselves in our shoes, count the steps to the top, and know that their investment is well spent. I'm very excited and honored to be part of the Star Mazda Championship, the MAZDASPEED ladder and the Road to Indy program. Let's go racing!"
Also on the list are two rising champions, both from open-wheel series one level below the Star Mazda Championship and both driving for the same championship-winning team, JDC Motorsports. Connor De Phillippi (left), winner of the 2009 BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda (and winner of the prestigious Walter Hayes Trophy at the Silverstone circuit in England) will compete test with the team at Sebring and Chris Miller, the 20 year-old American from Edina, Minnesota who won the 2009 F2000 Championship driving for JDC will mount a full-season campaign in the #85 Miller Milling/Red Line Oil/JDC MotorSports Mazda.
Also at the wheel of cars fielded by JDC Motorsports, the team that won the Star Mazda Championship in 2007 with Dane Cameron and again in 2009 with Adam Christodoulou, will be talented young Brazilian Caio Lara, returning for his second season with the team. Lara's 2009 season included four top-5s, eleven top-10s and an 8th-place finish in the championship. Also on the roster are veteran Master Series (drivers 45 and older) competitor Gerry Kraut, the chairman and CEO of investment banking firm Dougherty & Company and Dougherty Funding; Kraut is also a co-owner of the JDC team. Testing with the team with a view toward a full-season campaign is Canadian karting star and Skip Barber racer Zack Meyer.
Andersen Racing, one of the top teams in the Star Mazda Championship, will field cars for Anders Krohn, Master Series racer Dom Bastien (at 64 likely to be the oldest driver in the Series) and Canadian phenom Mikael Grenier. A native of Stoneham, Quebec, Grenier, who started racing at age 5 and is now 17 years old, tested the waters in the Star Mazda last season by running in six of its 13 events as a member of the Palmetto, Fla.-based Andersen team. He scored two podium finishes, as well as a top-4 in front of his home province fans at the legendary GP3R street race in Trois-Rivieres. Grenier's sponsors for the 2010 season include NAPA Auto Parts, CAA Quebec, HS Talacome, Desharnais Pneus & Macanique and 66graphx. In addition to Star Mazda, Andersen Racing fields a team in the Firestone Indy Lights series and is the organizer of the new USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda (also a Road to Indy series).
Another newly-emerged powerhouse team in the Star Mazda Championship is Juncos Racing, which scored four wins and five poles with the standout star of the 2009 season, Peter 'the Irish Steamroller' Dempsey. In its first season of Star Mazda competition, Juncos Racing finished second in the championship and established itself as a top championship contender.
For 2010 they have signed 16 year-old international karting star Tatiana Calderon. The young Colombian racer competed for the Juncos Racing kart team in 2005-2006 and has won several impressive titles over the past few years including making racing history as the first female competitor to win the Snap-on Stars of Karting Divisional Championship when she took home the JICA
Eastern Division title in 2008.
"The first time I tested a Formula Mazda was an amazing experience," said Calderon. "The car was so powerful, and I just felt very comfortable with it the whole time. I know I still have a lot to learn and a lot of experience to gain if I want to win, and that is why joining Juncos Racing is the best decision for me. I am really excited about this year and what is coming next in my life. I know what a high level of racing the Star Mazda Championship is, and I know how many experienced drivers there are going to be who are competing for the title. Knowing that motivates me even more and makes my challenge even bigger."
Canadian team AIM Autosport, winners of the 2008 Star Mazda Championship with John Edwards (who went on to win the 2009 Atlantic Championship), will field cars for brothers Anthony and Michael Furfari. While Anthony (15 years old) will be competing in the USF2000 series, Michael (who will turn 17 just before the Series season-opener at Sebring) will be in his second season of Star Mazda competition after scoring eight top-10 finishes in 2009 and winding up tied for 9th in the championship battle.
Also returning to the AIM team is second-year driver David Ostella, a young Canadian who scored finished on the podium at Autobahn in 2009, scored six top-10 finishes and wound up 13th in the championship. Adding to the Master Series contingent, AIM will also field a car for Florida racer Walt Bowlin. Like the rest of the team, he is a Star Mazda veteran who ran eight races in 2009 and finished third in the Master Series championship.
Veteran teams include Mitchell Motorsports with driver Rusty Mitchell returning for his third season. In 2009, he finished 12th in the championship with a record that included four top-10s and a 2nd-place finish after starting on the pole at the intensely technical and competitive GP3R street circuit in Trois-Rivi0x00e8res. He will once again drive the #66 car with backing from Motorola.
Also entering his third season of Star Mazda Championship competition is Expert Series competitor J.W. Roberts, owner of Team GDT. He finished 2nd in the Expert Series in 2008, 4th in 2009 and looks to have his most competitive season ever in 2010 with the addition of fast young newcomer Corey Lewis to the team. Lewis won eight Skip Barber Regional Series races in 2008 and has already competed with Team GDT, winning a race in the 2009-2010 Molecule Formula Mazda Challenge West Coast winter series.
New to the Star Mazda Championship is Team Apex, formerly a team in the now-defunct Formula BMW Americas series. Formed in 2004, Team Apex alumni include American superstar Alexander Rossi, now on his way to an F1 career in Europe. Team sponsors include Wabash Capital Investments, Apex Performance x3 Cryogenics and Indiana State University Motorsports Program. In moving up to Star Mazda, they bring with them a pair of fast young South American drivers; Venezuelan racer Jorge Goncalvez (left) moves over from AIM Autosport where he drove his rookie season in the series finishing tied for 9th in the championship and scoring three top-5 and seven top-10 finishes. His teammate is Brazilian driver Joao Victor Horto, who scored a Formula BMW podium with the team in 2009 and has signed for a two-year development program.
A number of additional teams and drivers -- bringing the total to 20+ -- are expected to put in an appearance when Star Mazda Championship testing begins on Friday, January 22. There will be morning and afternoon sessions Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and the Star Mazda cars will alternate on track with cars from the Patron GT3 Challenge and ALMS Prototype Lites Championship.
-source: star mazada