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-- Automaker has busy week on and off the track --
IRVINE, Calif. - Sebring isn't just a race. It's an endurance racing classic, backed up by over half a century of tradition. Support is provided by a great portfolio of sprint races for sports car and open wheel racers. There were more Mazda powered cars in more races than any other brand at Sebring this past week. A quick recap of the week:
In the feature event, the 55 th Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, B-K Motorsports debuted an all new turbocharged Mazda MZR-R engine that didn't even exist on paper just a few months ago. The team used the race as the ultimate test session - one with 175,000 spectators and ten hours of live TV. The team encountered a number of small, relatively minor problems related to the throttle linkage, and a failed external oil-line, resulting in three lengthy behind the wall pit stops. The car and the team kept going all race long in spite of the delays. After twelve hours the international driving team of American Jamie Bach, Englishman Ben Devlin, and Brazilian Raphael Matos completed 224 laps in their brand new Lola B07/46 Mazda MZR-R.
Robert Davis, Senior Vice President, Product Development and Quality, and the person responsible for Mazda's North American motorsports operations under the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development banner r emarked, "Given the fact that this engine program began just 17 weeks ago, the Mazda engineering team is proud of the collective efforts of B-K Motorsports, Advanced Engine Research (AER), Garrett by Honeywell, Lola, Kumho, ZF Sachs, and all of our technical partners. We could have taken the easy route and debuted mid-season, but we knew that we could learn more in 12 hours on the harsh Sebring track than weeks of conventional testing. With a points finish not possible after the off-track repairs, the team began doing valuable chassis tuning, testing various set-ups in order to prepare for the upcoming street races in St. Pete, Long Beach, and Houston. The problems we encountered are all quite simple and normal for a new powertrain. The best news is the team enthusiasm for the rest of the season; everyone is pumped on the potential in the package."
In other Sebring races:
In the SCCA Pro Racing World Challenge Touring Car Race, the Tri-Point Engineering team had a perfect start to their season with Jeff Altenburg and Randy Pobst qualifying and finishing 1-2 in a pair of MAZDASPEED6's. Jeff and Randy were chased across the line by a pack of Acuras, Audis, BMWs, Dodges, Volvos, and a VW. Mazda finished second in the 2006 manufacturers championship and is looking to move up the final step in 2007.
Naturally, Mazda realized wins in the four categories where they supply engines and sponsorship to the entire field (the spec series). The Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear season opener was won by Marco DiLeo, of Toronto, Canada. The pair of BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda races saw Timmy Megenbier and Ricky Taylor take the checked flags. In IMSA Lites, Mazda powers all of the cars in both the L1 and L3 classes. The L1 winner was Gerardo Bonilla; Richard Spicer was the L3 winner.
Off Track News:
Three major announcements were also made at Sebring.
- Mazda is becoming the first automaker to sponsor karting on a grand scale. Mazda is committing over $100,000 in sponsorship with the support being shared by the World Karting Association (WKA), Champ Car Rotax Kart Challenge, Snap-on Stars of Karting presented by IndyCar, Superkarts! USA (SKUSA), Newcastle Motorsport Park in Indiana, and the Rock Island Grand Prix.
- Mazda will be awarding fully-funded season-long rides in 2008 for the following series: BFGoodrich/ Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda; Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear; Cooper Tires Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda; SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio MX-5 Cup; and SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship. These awards will allow aspiring racers to connect-the-dots on the driver development ladder.
- Skip Barber announced a new racing school, devoted to Mazda MX-5 Cup cars. This is expected to grow the fields for the second season of the series. The first school will take place April 16-18 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Finally, Mazda participation at Sebring included hundreds of Mazda cars gathered in a Mazda-only car corral with 50 of them participating in parade laps on the track.
What's coming next for Mazda racers:
Grand Am Rolex GT round three at Homestead Speedway, on March 22nd - 24 th.
Koni Challenge round two at Homestead Speedway, on March 22nd - 24th.
ALMS LMP2 round two in St. Petersburg, Florida on March 30th - 31st.
NHRA Sport Compact drag racing series opener in Jupiter, Florida, March 31st - April 1st.
Champ Car Atlantic season opener in Las Vegas, on April 6th - 8th.
Star Mazda round two in Houston, on April 21st - 22nd.
SCCA MX-5 Cup season opener in Houston, on April 21st - 22nd.
Skip Barber rounds three and four at VIR, on April 27th - 29th.
The annual Mitty vintage races will feature historic Mazda racers at Road Atlanta, on April 27th - 29th.
SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Cars round two at Miller Motorsports Park, on May 18th-19th.
IMSA Lites round two at Miller Motorsports Park, on May 18th-19th.
On any given weekend, there are more Mazdas on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle. At the track, you'll see MX-5 Miata, RX-8, MAZDA3, MAZDA6, RX-7 and other vintage Mazda models competing, because every Mazda has the Soul of a Sports Car. In fact, the fastest growing road-racing class in the U.S. is the SCCA's Spec Miata class, with nearly 1,500 first- and second-generation Miatas tearing up America's racetracks, making it the most-raced production car in the world. Mazda's involvement in motorsports extends to its relationship with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the world's premier road-racing circuits, and the Skip Barber Schools for driving and racing.
Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.
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For more information on MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development, visit www.MazdaspeedMotorsports.com