Its not just the IZOD IndyCar Drivers going down to Daytona to represent. As if you needed any more reason to watch the Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona, 24 drivers who have previously competed in the Star Mazda Championship are down at Daytona now to compete in both the DP and GT classes. Here’s the full release from the Star Mazda Championship:
January 27, 2011 / Daytona, FL – When the 49 cars entered in this weekend’s 49th annual running of the Rolex 24 at Daytona – 17 Daytona Prototypes and 32 GTs — take the green flag at 3:30 pm on Saturday, January 29, there will be twenty-four drivers entered who are alumni of one of the most prolific and successful driver development series in the world, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear.
Included in this remarkable group are seven series champions – one a double champion – as well as two drivers who are defending their victories in the 2010 Rolex 24, Terry Borcheller in the #9 Action Express Racing Riley DP and Jonathan Bomarito, who co-drove the GT-winning #70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8.
Bomarito, a veteran of the 2005 Star Mazda Championship season, will be teamed this weekend with two Star Mazda champions who moved up through the ranks via the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder; American John Edwards won the 2008 Star Mazda Championship driving for AIM Autosport, then moved up to win the 2009 Atlantic Championship. English racer Adam Christodoulou won the 2009 Star Mazda Championship with JDC Racing and he and Edwards teamed in 2010 to campaign a SpeedSource-prepared Mazda RX-8 in the Grand-Am GT class, winning at Lime Rock and scoring four podium finishes.
“Given that we are entering out 21st season in 2011, I find it both remarkable and perfectly reasonable that there are so many graduates of our series competing this weekend at the Rolex 24,” says Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear founder and President Gary Rodrigues. “We designed to Star Mazda Championship to be an affordable driver development series and to provide a comprehensive motorsports education that would prepare our graduates
to compete at the top level in many forms of motorsports, from IndyCar to NASCAR to F1 and Prototypes. I would say this list of drivers is an eloquent testimonial that we have achieved our goal. And starting this season, as part of the new Mazda Road to Indy, we’ll be taking that process to the next level, helping the hottest young drivers from around the world accelerate their careers.”
Other Star Mazda Championship alumni competing in the GT class this weekend include 2007 series champion Dane Cameron, who also won his title driving for JDC Motorsports. He will be racing the #41 Dempsey Racing / Seattle Children’s Hospital Mazda RX-8, and his car will be the one with the hearts all over it, as part of the team’s “Buy a Heart, Save a Life” fundraiser program (Learn more and make a donation at www.teamseattle.com/2010/10/buyheart/).
“The Buy a Heart, Save a Life program has been going extremely well,” says Cameron said. “We just surpassed 200 hearts sold, which will be on the car for the race, a huge benefit and showing of support for Seattle Children’s Hospital. So many things happen over the course of the Rolex 24, it is virtually impossible to plan and predict for everything, but the team has prepared our car well and we have a fantastic group of guys who are up for the task. We just need to use our heads, race smarter than the rest and stay as clean as possible. If so, we’ll be right there at the front.”
One of Cameron’s co-drivers will be James Gue, who raced in Star Mazda in 2002. And the #36 Yellow Dragon Motorsports Mazda RX-8 will have three Star Mazda veterans co-driving, including Vancouver, B.C. racer Chris Cumming, who won the back-to-back championships in the 2008-2009 Star Mazda Expert Series for drivers 30 – 44 years old driving for World Speed Motorsports. Cumming will co-drive this weekend with fellow Vancouver racer Taylor Hacquard (the son of Vancouver Mazda dealer Mike Hacquard), who also drove Star Mazda in 2007-2009. And Mikel Miller, another driver in the #36 car, finished second in the 1998 Star Mazda Championship, engineered Scott Bradley’s 2001 championship then went on to work for Standing Start and was Chris Cumming’s driver coach during his championship seasons.
Also competing in the GT class are Quebec racer Jean-Francois Dumoulin in the #56 for Bennett Racing, Tom Nastasi in the #11 TPN Racing/Blackforest car and Scott Rettich in the #30 Racer’s Edge Mazda RX-8. American open-wheel and sports car standout Bryan Sellers will be at the wheel of the #48 Paul Miller Racing entry. Sellers was a Star Mazda racer in 2005, driving the MJ Motorsports car when he signed to finish out the season for Panoz in the GT2 class and his Star Mazda seat was filled by… Jonathan Bomarito.
In the Daytona Prototype ranks are still more Star Mazda champions. In addition to defending Rolex 24 winner Borcheller is the winner of the 1999 Star Mazda championship, Joey Hand; he’ll be co-driving the #01 Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates car with IZOD INDYCAR star Graham Rahal, who finished 4th in the 2005 Star Mazda Championship season.
2005 was a remarkable year for the Star Mazda; drivers on the roster included Marco Andretti (who finished 5th in the championship) and championship winner Raphael Matos. Now a full-time IndyCar driver, Matos will co-drive the #95 Level 5 Motorsports Riley DP car this weekend. Also part of the Star Mazda ‘class of 2005’ was Mark Wilkins, co-driving the #55 Level 5 Motorsports car, as well as John Pew, who will be sharing the driving chores in the #60 Michael Shank Racing Riley DP. Other ’05 alums include Doug Peterson, who will be found co-driving the #7 Starworks Motorsport Riley DP and Mark Patterson, co-driving the #23 United Autosports with Michael Shank Racing Riley DP.
If 2005 was a particularly prolific year for the Star Mazda Championship, the seasons on either side are also handsomely represented among the Rolex 24 driver roster. 2004 Star Mazda champion Michael McDowell (right), who has gone on to race IndyCars, prototypes and is currently a regular in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series, will co-drive the #6 Michael Shank Racing with Curb/Agajanian Dallara DP. Also part of the 2004 Star Mazda season were Colin Braun, also competing in NASCAR and co-driving the #8 Starworks Motorsport Riley DP and Brian Frisselle, who will be sharing the #77 Doran Racing Dallara.
And from the Star Mazda class of 2006 comes Ricky Taylor, son of SunTrust Racing team owner/driver Wayne Taylor, who has won both the Rolex 24 and the Grand-Am Daytona Prototype championship. Taylor will co-drive with his father in the #10 SunTrust Racing Dallara.
The historic Rolex 24 At Daytona, the season-opening event for the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16., kicks off the 2011 sports car racing season with 14 hours of live coverage from Daytona International Speedway starting Jan. 29 at 3 p.m. ET/Noon PT. This year’s broadcast includes a special Rolex 24 preview show slated for Sunday, Jan. 23 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT, which also premieres on FOX family network, F/X, Jan. 22 at 11 p.m. ET/8 p.m. P.T.
The 2011 Star Mazda Championship season begins with sharing the track with IZOD IndyCars and Firestone Indy Lights during INDYCAR ‘Spring Training,’ March 14-16 at Barber Motorsports Park. The 2011 Star Mazda season-opener takes places at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg IndyCar weekend, March 25-27.
As a part of the 2011 Mazda Road to Indy, drivers in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear are competing for a prize fund valued in excess of $1.5 million – including a scholarship to help the series champion move up to the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights series.
About Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear
For 2011, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will be sanctioned by IndyCar and will feature a 10-weekend, 11-race schedule, all on major race weekends and most with IndyCar. Two weekends are with the American Le Mans series, and one is a double-header with Indy Lights. Rising stars from around the world will be watched by more than a million fans as they compete for prizes valued at $1.5 million. Drivers 16 and older are welcome to compete and the Star Mazda Championship also features the Expert Series for drivers 30 and older. The Star Mazda Championship features standing starts, wheel-to-wheel racing at 160 mph and budgets a fraction of other top open-wheel ladder series. For more information on the Star Mazda Championship please visit www.starmazda.com.