The Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear held its first open test today at Barber Motorsports Park in preparation for the season opener on the Streets of St. Petersburg later this month. For many of the drivers, it was the first time being out in traffic in the Star Mazda cars. The testing results weren’t too surprising. JDC MotorSports is a strong team, especially in Star Mazda where they’ve won the championship with Dane Cameron in 2007 and with Adam Christodoulou in 2009, and they’ve shown that they’re serious about reclaiming that championship title with Tristan Vautier. Tristan posted the best lap time of both sessions in the morning with a 1:20.831. To put that time in perspective, the IndyCars earlier that day were posting times in the mid 1:12s with four times the horsepower.
Team GDT showed that they’re going to be competitive this season with Patrick McKenna. They finished third on the time sheets with a best time of 1:21.626, just behind Juncos Racing’s Martin Scuncio who posted a time of 1:21.557. Martin has already shown that he has skills with the Star Mazda car by finishing P4 at Road Atlanta last year in his debut race. Martin wasn’t the only Juncos Racing driver to show well today. Both João Horta and Tatiana Calderon posted strong times slotting up in P4 and P5, repsectively, at the end of the day.
Andretti Autosport looks like they’ll need a little more testing to fully come to grips with the Star Mazda machine. Sage Karam was more than two seconds off the pace in the morning session, only managing a 1:23.046. In the afternoon, when the track had lost some grip, Karam posted the third best time of the session, so he and the team can be quick. It may be that they’re not the quickest early in the season, though.
Of course, the caveat to all this is that it is just testing. However, this close to the beginning of the season, I think we can take these times as being genuinely reflective of who has speed and who doesn’t. On the “who doesn’t have speed” side, Connor De Phillipi and Team Pelfrey appear to have some work to do. Connor is a quick driver, to be sure. He did with the 2010 season finale at Road Atlanta, after all, but Team Pelfrey, in spite of having an experienced crew, is new to the Star Mazda Championship. Like with Andretti Autosport, its likely going to take them a few race weekends to get comfortable with the car.
Testing continues through Wednesday, so we’ll keep and eye on the results and see how things change. Perhaps we’ll see some teams figure out the car faster than we’d expected and see some new names at the top of the time sheets.
Star Mazda Championship Press Release
Barber Motorsports Park, Birmingham AL / March 14, 2011 – French racer Tristan Vautier, who scored two wins and finished 5th in the 2010 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, set the pace in the first day of pre-season testing for the 2011 Star Mazda Championship at the IndyCar ‘Spring Training’ event at Barber Motorsports Park today.
Driving the #5 JDC Motorsports / Cecibon / Circuit du Laquais Mazda, Vautier turned a lap of 1:20.831 (102.436 mph) on Lap 29 of the 45 minute morning session. This is the first time the Star Mazda Championship cars have run on the 17-turn, 2.38-mile Barber Motorsports Park track, so his time stands – until tomorrow morning – as the unofficial lap record (official lap records in Star Mazda are recorded only in qualifying or the race).
Hot on his heels in the morning session when cooler temperatures and a thicker cloud cover kept track temperatures, and lap times, down was Chilean racer Martin Scuncio, who ran only the Star Mazda season finale in 2010 but very nearly stole the pole at Road Atlanta and figured heavily in the outcome of the race. He turned a 1:21.557 (101.524 mph) in his #60 Juncos Racing / Fuerza Chile Mazda. Third quick in the morning was Irish rookie Patrick McKenna making his Star Mazda debut after a runner-up finish in the 2010 USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda. Driving the #48 Team GDT / Motorsport Ireland / Irish Sports Council / General Data Tech Mazda, he turned a lap of 1:21.626 (101.438 mph).
“What a great track this is! There are so many great corners that you don’t ever want to come into the pits,” enthused Vautier. “The track got very slippery in the afternoon with more sun, so the times were slower, but it was still so much fun to drive. It’s too early to tell anything about the drivers in the field or what the race will be like, but we’re happy to be fastest on the first day, and we’ll be working to keep it that way throughout the test.”
In the afternoon, on a slipperier track, it was Scuncio who set the quick time of the session with a 1:21.361 (101.769 mph), with Vautier second at 1:22.483 (100.384 mph). Sage Karam, the 2010 USF2000 national champion racing in the Star Mazda Championship with a scholarship from the Mazda Road to Indy, was third-quick in the afternoon with a lap of 1:22.502 (100.361) in his #88 Andretti Autosport / Comfort Revolution Mazda. And turning the 4th-quick lap of 1:22.754 (100.056 mph) in the #10 Juncos Racing / JAC Motors Mazda was the lone female racer in the field, Colombian Tatiana Calderon. A South American karting champion who made the jump directly to Star Mazda with Juncos Racing in 2010, she scored six top-10 finishes and was 10th in the championship.
Star Mazda Championship practice continues Tuesday, March 15, with sessions scheduled from 8-9 am and 1:00-1:45 pm; the final session of the test takes place 9-8 am, Wednesday, March 16th. The first race of the 2010 season is scheduled to get the green light for the traditional Star Mazda standing start at 4:10 pm Saturday, March 26 at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
About Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear
For 2011, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will be a major part of the Mazda Road to Indy 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, including a scholarship to move up and race in the 2012 Firestone Indy Lights series. 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.
For more information on the Star Mazda Championship and its drivers, as well as the Mazda Motorsports ladder system, please visit www.starmazda.com and www.mazdausa.com. For information, interviews and photos, please contact Star Mazda Communications Director Peter Frey at (818) 398-5733 or StarMazdaPR@aol.com.