DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Freedom Autosport started the 2014 IMSA Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season on Fridayat Daytona International Speedway, and the No. 26 Mazda MX-5 of Randy Pobst and Andrew Carbonell was the highest-finishing Mazda in the ST class.
Pobst and Carbonell finished 12th at a track that historically favors horsepower over handling. The long stretches of Daytona’s banking can be a challenge in the MX-5, but the car shows its prowess in the infield. The No. 26 ran as high as second after the driver change, a testament to Freedom’s superior crew and strategy.
Both Pobst and Carbonell were optimistic about the season’s kick-off, especially since it marked the first time they have driven together. Carbonell, who has been with Freedom Autosport since 2008, found himself giving MX-5 advice to Pobst.
“To be paired with Randy is such a great experience,” said the 24-year-old Carbonell. “And obviously there’s so much to learn from him. He’s been racing for so many years. It’s kind of funny: him coming in and asking for my help with this car! It was a great weekend. The cars are good and I’m looking forward to this year.”
Pobst, who qualified sixth, remarked, “What a challenge! This week was my first time driving a Freedom Autosport MX-5, and Andrew really helped guide me. I’ve been on a steep learning curve, but the MX-5 is so balanced. I figured it would be, and I haven’t been disappointed at all. It’s a really fun car to drive.”
Brothers Mark and Mat Pombo also made their Freedom Autosport debut at Daytona, co-driving the No. 25 Mazda MX-5. They ran strong throughout the duration of the 2.5-hour race, but had to settle for a finish of 21st when the full-course cautions did not play to their strategy. A caution began while the car was in the pits, and despite getting a wave-by to pass the pace car, the Mazda wound up at the back of the field.
“The problem is that everyone was pitting when I got that wave around, so I ended up going out in last place,” Mark commented. “It was frustrating: there were a lot of cautions and, for us, it let the higher-horsepower cars go by on the straights, but it was still fun.”
“We knew Daytona was going to be tough, but we all qualified well,” added Mat. “The car was well balanced. We had a good time. We just had a bad break. The Freedom guys did great and gave us an awesome car. I can’t wait to go to Sebring because I think we’re going to be great there.”
Freedom Autosport heads to round two at Sebring International Raceway from March 13-14.