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MAZDA RACERS LEAD THE PACK IN TOPEKA
IRVINE, Calif., October 18, 2006 - It was nearly impossible to visit the 2006 SCCA National Championship Runoffs® at Heartland Park Topeka without noticing that Mazda is the grassroots motorsports vehicle of choice. Mazdas outnumbered the competition: 167 of the 719 total entries. Mazdas ran in more classes: 13 of 25. Mazdas won more races: four; and had more top-three finishes: 14; than any other brand. Mazda drivers took championships in the open classes of Touring 3 and F Production, as well as the two Mazda-exclusive classes, Spec Miata and Formula Mazda. Four Mazda racers are now competing for the biggest single contingency prize ever made at the runoffs, a new Mazda MX-5 to race in 2007.
Believing in pay for performance, Steve Sanders, Manager, MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development, noted, "Mazda will be awarding a total of $31,000 in contingency prize money to our latest collection of stars. They worked hard to get to the Runoffs and they really performed well and carried the Mazda banner proudly, with many of the results in difficult wet track conditions."
In the Touring 3 race the Mazda RX-8 was the pacesetter in the newly formed category with a total of 10 of the 21 starters. Rick Gilhart led a 1-2-4-9 RX-8 finish for the four-car Robert Davis Racing team. Gilhart led the race from flag-to-flag followed home by his teammate Scott Shelton, with Joel Lipperini third in a 2004 MAZDASPEED MX-5.
F Production was a battle of generations as modified Miatas took on Lotus Super 7s, MGs and Triumphs, among others. Following in the large shoes of his six-time SCCA champion father, Jesse Prather scored his first championship after a very close battle with 2002 F Production champion Steve Sargis. This was the first F Production Championship for the Mazda Miata.
The largest growth in SCCA Club Racing in the past two years has been in Spec Miata, where identically prepared first- and second-generation Miatas battle door-to-door. The number of competitors has risen so quickly that a total of 55 racers took the green flag, each aiming to become the first ever Spec Miata national champion. This was by-far the largest field of the 25 classes at the Runoffs, nearly twice the size of the next-largest. Eighteen-year-old Andrew Caddell from Graham, Wash. drove a skilled race that belied his youth, leading every lap, and on dry-weather tires on a damp track that caused many of his competitors to spin off. Following Caddell across the finish line were Brad Rampelberg of San Jose, Calif., and Matt Cross of Folsom, Calif., making for a West Coast sweep of the class.
As one of the premier single-seat ladder series, Formula Mazda has seen series graduates move on to Champ Car and the Indy Racing League. Second-generation racer James Goughary dominated the race, leading all 18 laps. Behind him, Mike Anderson was victorious in a close battle for second place over Scott Rettich.
Showroom Stock C was a fierce MAZDA 3 versus Mini-Cooper versus Honda fight. Veteran racer John Saucier drove his MAZDA 3 to a career-best second place finish. Saucier's long history at the Runoffs began ten years before Mazdas were even imported to the U.S.A.!
Seventeen of the 38 starters in E Production raced first- and second-generation RX-7s, with stiff competition from Honda, Nissan and others. The race was run in alternating damp and wet conditions such that grip was the key factor. Thomas Thrash qualified his RX-7 on the pole and led the first 11 laps before slipping to second. Bob Neal completed multiple passes to secure third place in a similar RX-7.
In GT-1, a traditional battleground for 600+ hp American V-8s, Glen Jung drove his RX-7 to an impressive third place, despite a huge power deficit. It was the first-ever podium finish in GT-1 for a rotary engine.
Caddell, Gilhart, Goughary, and Prather are now in another competition to see which one will be given the keys to a new Mazda MX-5 to race in 2007. In what is the biggest single contingency award ever made at the Runoffs, MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development is awarding a new Mazda MX-5, along with a few "optional" accessories, like a rollcage, a special racing suspension and a very large box of MAZDASPEED parts with which to turn the street car into a racecar.
The four eligible drivers will be completing proposals for the 2007 racing season and Mazda will select one driver to make the jump to the pro level to compete in the SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by Hankook. An announcement of the selection will be made later this year.
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, MAZDA 3 , MAZDA 6 , RX-7 and other 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.
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.
For more information on Mazda products, visit the online Mazda media center at www.MazdaUSAmedia.com
For more information on MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development, visit www.MazdaspeedMotorsports.com
For more information on the Mazda MX-5 Cup, visit www.mx-5cup.com
For more information on the SCCA National Championship Runoffs®, visit www.scca.com