Toronto: Qualifying report

CALIFORNIAN, CANADIAN ON FRONT ROW FOR START OF ROUND 7 In racing's version of the United Nations, a Californian, a Canadian and an Australian -- all series rookies -- make up the top-3 starters for Saturday afternoon's Round 7 of the Star Mazda...


In racing's version of the United Nations, a Californian, a Canadian and an Australian -- all series rookies -- make up the top-3 starters for Saturday afternoon's Round 7 of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear at the Steelback Grand Prix of Toronto, July 6 -- 8.

Scoring his fourth pole of the year, series points leader Dane Cameron capped a dominant performance in practice, where he led every session, by taking the Toronto pole with a lap of 1:08.755 (94.248 mph) in his #19 JDC Motorsports/Finlay Motorsports Mazda. Cameron has won two races so far this year (VIR and Houston) and leads the Star Mazda championship with 218 points. Cameron brings some experience to this track, having raced here in a Formula Ford 2000 'double header' in 2006, finishing 2nd in both races.

"Having some experience with the track was a big help in getting up to speed quickly, and in steadily improving the car during practice," says the 18 year-old native of Sonoma, California. "Having won on the street circuit in Houston is also a big psychological advantage because I now know how to attack a street circuit lined with concrete walls. I'm looking forward to the race because the new Goodyear racing tires we're using for the first time here this weekend should allow us to run hard for the full race distance rather than playing a tire conservation game."

Sitting beside Cameron on the front row will be Toronto's own Marco Di Leo, driver of the #21 Maxwell Paper Products Mazda. Di Leo, who won the season opener in Sebring, qualified second with a lap of 1:09.280 (93.533 mph).Di Leo was the 2006 Skip Barber National Championship runner-up, 2005 Skip Barber Scholarship winner, Team Sunoco Ultra 94 member and F2000 Bridgestone Series champion. He won the Star Mazda season-opener in Sebring and is currently third in the championship battle with 190 points."Being a single car team and never having raced here before, we've been playing catch-up all weekend," says Di Leo. "The team did a great job overnight to produce the best car we've had all weekend for the qualifying session, and I think it will be a good car for the race conditions this afternoon."

Starting third, directly behind Cameron on the grid, will be Australian racer James Davison, driver of the #7 Velocity Motorsports/Easternats Mazda. Davison has scored two poles so far this season and is 5th in the championship with 184 points. He set his 3rd-place time, a 1:09.326 (93.326 mph) on his first flying lap in the qualifying session, before brushing the wall with the rear tire."The contact upset the handling and I wasn't able to improve my time during the session, so I finally parked it early to save the tires for the race," says the Melbourne native. "I raced here last year in the Atlantic series, and the experience was useful from the standpoint of knowing the circuit layout, but the cars are so different that there really wasn't anything in the setup or driving style that translates. I'm feeling confident about my chances in this afternoon's race because I know I have a good car and tires with less laps on them than any of the other front runners."

Starting 4th will be Ron White of Santa Clara, California. He turned a lap of 1:09.388 in the #69 Team G.FRO/Wunder-Bar Mazda. White has scored two podium finishes so far this season and is 4th in the championship with 187 points.

In fifth is the next Canadian in the field, Devin Cunningham of Saint-Bruno, Quebec, driving the #33 Discovery Channel/AIM Autosport Mazda. Cunningham, who won Round Five at Portland and is 8th in the championship with 163 points, turned a lap of 1:09.411.

Rounding out the Canadian contingent in the 22-car starting field are Vancouver's Lorenzo Mandarino, driver of the #23 Newway Forming/Team G.FRO Mazda and race winner at Round Four in Salt Lake City. Mandarino will start from the 8th position on the grid with a lap of 1:09.785. He is currently 6th in the Star Mazda Championship with 165 points.

Making his first start in the Star Mazda series is young Kyle Marcelli of Barrie, Ontario. With just one day of testing in a Star Mazda pro car under his belt, Marcelli qualified 10th with a lap of 1:09.856 in the #43 Trudel & Sons Roofing/John Walko Racing Mazda.

And here's the story on what they're all fighting for; forty years ago, on May 31, 1967, Mazda introduced the first street car with a rotary engine, the Cosmo Sport. Since then, they've built two million rotary-engined vehicles and the company has built its very identity on the idea of Zoom-Zoom and every vehicle they produce having the soul of a sports car.

In pursuit of that ideal, Mazda has created a unique, company-sponsored 'motorsports ladder' that reaches all the way from karting to Champ Car. This year's Star Mazda series champion will receive a Mazda-sponsored full-season drive for 2008 in the next series up the ladder, the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. And the 2008 winner of the Atlantic Championship gets a $2 million sponsorship to help them move up to Champ Car.

So... they're racing for their dream, and for the opportunity of a lifetime. And it all comes to a head in the 45-minute Star Mazda Championship race scheduled to take the green flag at 3:30 pm Saturday, July 7.Toronto is the seventh round of the 12-race 2007 Star Mazda Championship schedule and the first of three Star Mazda races in Canada over the next two months, including Trois Rivier0x00e8s, Quebec (where Star Mazda is the feature race) on August 18-19, and at Mosport in Bowmanville with the American Le Mans Series on August 24-25.Star Mazda races are broadcast tape-delayed on SPEED TV. Date and time (all times stated are Eastern and subject to change) for the one-hour broadcast is available at The Toronto race is scheduled to air on Saturday, July 21 at 12:00 pm with a re-broadcast on Monday, July 23 at 3:00 pm.

The next event on the Star Mazda schedule is at Road America, with the American Le Mans Series, on August 10 -- 11.

-credit: smazda

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Series Pro Mazda
Drivers Skip Barber , James Davison , Ron White , Dane Cameron , Devin Cunningham , Lorenzo Mandarino , Kyle Marcelli