RACE: Caddell wins special Mazda award

SCCA Champion Caddell Wins Biggest Prize in Runoffs History IRVINE, Calif. (Feb. 3, 2007) -- Andrew Caddell won a unique competition hosted by MAZDASPEED Motorsports to score the biggest prize in amateur road racing: a new Mazda MX-5 which he'll...

SCCA Champion Caddell Wins Biggest Prize in Runoffs History

IRVINE, Calif. (Feb. 3, 2007) -- Andrew Caddell won a unique competition hosted by MAZDASPEED Motorsports to score the biggest prize in amateur road racing: a new Mazda MX-5 which he'll race in the 2007 SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by Hankook.

There is a racing expression about driving at "eleven-tenths", slang for 10% over the maximum that is possible. In real racing the winner is usually the person or team who can be closest to their maximum without exceeding it. That was the case for Caddell, who aced ten out of eleven categories in a unique "shootout" of Mazda-powered SCCA National Champions.

"This award was the result of our core belief in the club racer," Manager of MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Steve Sanders said. "Mazda continues to develop more options for driver development than any other automaker. We are delighted that Andrew will be taking the skills he learned to win the Spec Miata race at the Runoffs to his first opportunity on the professional level."

"This is great," Caddell said. "So many people have helped me since I started racing karts. I'm excited about winning this car against tough competition and know that the Mazda MX-5 Cup is a huge step in my driving career. We have had many calls from friends offering to help us in 2007 as we look forward to the first race in Houston this April."

"This is an excellent opportunity for Andrew," SCCA Vice President of Marketing and Communications Eric Prill said. "It's a great example of how racing with SCCA can become a springboard to the professional ranks. Already an SCCA Champion, Andrew is ready for the next level in his racing career and we're proud to be a part of helping him achieve that goal."

At the end of the 2005 season of competition a casual conversation between Steve Sanders from Mazda and Eric Prill from the SCCA led to a unique competition -- a way to help propel a would-be racer from the grassroots ranks to the professional category.

The competition would be open to anyone who won a National Championship at the 2006 SCCA Runoffs, provided they were in a Mazda car, or Mazda powered car. This meant that 169 drivers from the 700 plus entries would be eligible. After three days of racing, four of the 25 class champions were Mazda powered, more than any other brand. These four drivers were then invited to submit proposals to Mazda. The winner would be given the keys to a new Mazda MX-5 to compete in the 2007 MX-5 Cup series.

In addition to the car, Mazda would also give the winner a few "optional" accessories, like a special racing suspension, cold air intake, exhaust header and system, and a very large box of MAZDASPEED parts to turn the street car into a racecar. SCCA Pro Racing offered to comp the entry fees for the entire 2007 season, and Hankook offered a set of tires for each of the eight races, bringing the total value of the prize to well over $50,000.

Three drivers, six judges, and a few Mazda staffers gathered up on a cold January morning in Buttonwillow for the competition.

The three drivers were Andrew Caddell, Rick Gilhart, and Jim Goughary. Caddell drove his Miata to victory in the Spec Miata class, while Gilhart drove an RX-8 to the T3 championship, and Goughrary took the checkered flag in Formula Mazda. Jesse Prather, who won the F production class in a Miata, declined to compete, preferring to stay on the grassroots side of the sport for now.

The judges for the competition represented motorsports from both an on-track perspective and a business standpoint. The judges were Craig Nagler from Tri-Point Engineering, SPEED World Challenge MAZDASPEED6 drivers Jeff Altenburg & Charles Espenlaub, journalists Andy Bornhop from Road & Track and Richard James from SportsCar, and vintage F1 racer John Delane.

The contestants were judged in 11 categories that took into account the total person, on the track and off.

On the track they were scored for fastest lap time and lap time consistency driving a 2006 Mazda MX-5 Cup car. Related to their driving they were quizzed on technical feedback, suspension knowledge, and data analysis -- or, simply put, do they have what it takes to optimize a racecar?

Off track, in classroom interview sessions, each driver was reviewed on their written and oral sponsorship proposal, their racing resume and future goals, and a mock media interview. These were a test of whether the driver has what it takes to manage the business side of the sport and succeed as a professional.

The judges were impressed with all three drivers. Each driver had proven himself a National Champion at the Runoffs, making this a real challenge to find the best of the best. All three drivers were very fast and very consistent; it came down to which driver had the fewest weaknesses. Andrew's 10 for 11 was just enough better to secure the prize. Now he'll be working flat out to prepare the car for racing and to secure the additional budget he'll need to make all eight races in 2007.

-credit: MAZDASPEED

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Series SCCA
Drivers Rick Gilhart , Charles Espenlaub , Jeff Altenburg , Jesse Prather , Jim Goughary , Andy Bornhop , Andrew Caddell