THE UNITED NATIONS OF RACING WILL LEAD THE FIELD IN SUNDAY'S STAR MAZDA CHAMPIONSHIP RACE AT THE GP3R (August 18, 2007 / Trois Rivieres, Quebec) -- The front of Sunday's Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear race at the GP3R will be ...
THE UNITED NATIONS OF RACING WILL LEAD THE FIELD IN SUNDAY'S STAR MAZDA CHAMPIONSHIP RACE AT THE GP3R
(August 18, 2007 / Trois Rivieres, Quebec) -- The front of Sunday's Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear race at the GP3R will be a virtual United Nations of racing; on the pole, a newly-emerging talent from Lafayette, Louisiana in the U.S. Next to him, a Toronto native who has started on the front row of all but one race in the 2007 season. In third, a fast and furious Australian racer who led the field across the finish line in the previous race at Road America, only to be moved back to 4th by an official penalty.
So, there will be drama aplenty as Alex Ardoin, who just turned 18, lines up his #51 Oral & Facial Surgery Center / Mundill Mazda on the pole position with a lap of 1L02.306. His season was nothing to brag about with finishes hovering around the top-10 until Round Seven in Toronto when he found something in his driving that unlocked the promise of a brighter second half of the season. He is currently 8th in the championship with 215 points, plus one point for his pole here today.
Asked what made the difference in his driving, he replied, "I looked over the tapes of the races early in the season and saw that my problem was I was being too nice a guy, letting everybody go by. At Toronto I decided that I would give them racing room, but not one inch more, and that decision transformed how I race. As for qualifying here at Trois Rivieres, the track was a lot looser than we thought going into the session, but that proved to be faster for us. I expected some red flags in the session, and there were two, so I put in a couple of fast laps early and that got us the pole. My car and tires are still in good shape, so I'm optimistic for the race tomorrow."
Starting next to Ardoin on the 25-car Star Mazda Championship grid will be the #21 Maxwell Racing / Nugget Mazda of Toronto native Marco Di Leo, who rewarded his new sponsor Nugget, with a pole position at Road America and a front-row start in Trois Rivieres with a lap of 1:02.341. Di Leo has qualified in the front row in every race but one this season, won the season opener at Sebring and currently stands 4th in the championship battle with 242 points.
"We've been kind of quite so far this weeknd, running 7th in practice on Friday, but we knew the car was good and we were just working on setups so we weren't worried," says the 20 year-old Canadian who was the 2005 Skip Barber scholarship winner and was runner up in the Skip Barber Pro Series in 2006. "We had some brake issues in qualifying, but got them sorted out in time to put in a couple of quick laps. Hopefully Lady Luck will be on the side of the Maxwell Nugget car in the race."
Starting behind Ardoin, third on the grid, will be Melbourne, Australia native James Davison, driver of the #7 Velocity Motorsports / Easternats Mazda. Davison has shown flashes of brilliance from the start of the season, leading across the finish line twice -- at the season opener in Sebring and again at the last race at Road America -- only to have both victories taken away by penalties imposed by series officials for on-track driving infractions. Still, he has a record of two pole positions, two podium finishes, three top-5 finishes and is tied for second in the championship battle with 250 points. J"I definitely feel like I've got something to prove here, and I feel that the team has given me that car to do it," says Davison, who competing in the Champ Car Atlantic series in 2006. "The top three are only 2/10ths apart, and that's pretty close racing on a circuit like this. I only did two fast laps, so my tires are in good shape for the race and I'm expecting to do well."
Other qualifiers of note include Californian Dane Cameron, the Star Mazda Championship points leader with three wins and four poles. He qualified on the outside of the second row with a lap of 1:02.513 in his JDC Motorsports/Finlay Motorsports Mazda. Qualifying 5th was Vancouver, B.C. native Lorenzo Mandarino with a lap of 1:02.564 in the #15 Team G.FRO/Newway Forming Mazda. Quebec native Yannick Hofman, in his first Star Mazda drive for top team Andersen Racing after two years in the Formula BMW series, qualified 8th in the #00 Jig-A-Loo/Andersen Racing Mazda with a lap of 1:03.168. Devin Cunningham, also from Quebec, qualified his #33 AIM Autosport/Discovery Channel Mazda 13th on the grid with a lap of 1:03.637.
The Star Mazda Championship is the Junior A hockey of open-wheel racing, an exciting, competitive and well-established training ground for future stars of the sport. The cream of the crop will graduate to the Champ Car Atlantic series (racing's equivalent of the American Hockey League), and from there to racing's NHL, the Champ Car World Series.JJGraduates of the Star Mazda Championship include such top open-wheel racers as Champ Car star Graham Rahal and IRL standout Marco Andretti, as well as Canadian Atlantic series racers James Hinchcliffe and Kevin Lacroix.JJAll the drivers in the 12-race 2007 Star Mazda Championship are racing identical high-tech open-wheel cars. The Star Mazda race car features a carbon fiber chassis, fully-adjustable suspension and paddle shifters on the steering wheel, just like both Champ Car and Formula One. Powering all of the Star Mazda race cars is Mazda's legendary rotary engine that produces 240 horsepower, top speeds of 150 mph and 0 to 60 mph acceleration of 2.4 seconds. And the engine is so reliable that it can last an entire racing season, or longer, between re-builds. This helps keep the cost of racing in Star Mazda down to a fraction of the budget required to compete in any other open wheel series in the U.S. or Europe.JJAnd here's the story on what the young lions are 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. The winner of a shootout among 2007 karting champions will get a scholarship in the 2008 Skip Barber series, while the Skip Barber champion moves up to Star Mazda, the Star Mazda champion moves up to the Champ Car Atlantic Series Powered by Mazda and the Atlantic champion gets $2 million, provided by Champ Car, toward a Champ Car drive. So they're all racing for a dream, and the opportunity of a lifetime.
The GP3R is Round 9 of the 12-race 2007 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear. The 36-lap/60-minute Star Mazda race scheduled to take the green flag at 1:30 pm, Sunday, August 19.