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MAZDA MOTORSPORTS POISED FOR PODIUM IN 2004
Mar 18, 2004
IRVINE, Calif. - On any given weekend, there are more Mazdas racing on the racetracks, dragstrips and parking lots of America than any other brand of vehicle-and Mazda will continue to support that enthusiasm into 2004. Understanding that the love of motorsports is stronger than ever for fans in North America, Mazda is committed to supporting racing from the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) grassroots level to the SPEED World Challenge and Pro Formula Mazda professional series.
"Mazda has all the makings of another stellar year in 2004," said Steve Sanders, manager, MAZDASPEED motorsports development. "Mazda fans should keep an eye out for our RX-8s in the Grand Am Cup Sports Touring Series, Ed Bergenholtz's 1000-horespower MAZDA6 drag car, blisteringly fast MAZDA6 cars in the SPEED World Challenge Touring Class, and more great competitive action from our Pro Formula Mazda series."
SPEED World Challenge
Mazda will continue to play a significant role in the SPEED World Challenge series, a production-car-based racing series that supports most American Le Mans Series (ALMS) races. Founded 14 years ago by the SCCA as a competitive arena to showcase production-based sedans and sports cars, World Challenge races are made up of 50-minute timed races in an all-out sprint format, and feature the only standing start in North America. The 2004 SPEED World Challenge series kicks off March 19 at the 12 Hours of Sebring and sets the Mazda Protegé head-to-head against Acura RSXs, BMW 325s and Nissan Sentras for pure motorsports excitement from flag to flag. Mazda plans on upping its podium stake when it introduces the new MAZDA6 racecar later in the season.
Mazda's presence and involvement in the SPEED World Challenge is another example of the company's commitment to high-octane, adrenaline-pumping racing. Mazda's involvement will extend beyond simply entering cars, as the company offers the richest contingency program of all manufacturers. Monetary rewards totaling $46,400 per event are awarded to cars finishing in the top 20 spots, with an $8,000 purse going to the winning driver. With such large prizes available, it's no wonder Mazda has developed an almost fanatical following in the SPEED World Challenge and is known to bring a high level of action-packed racing to the series.
In 2004, Mazda will concentrate its World Challenge resources on the Tri-Point Engineering team and its drivers Shauna Glorioso Marinus and Jeff Altenburg. Located in
Canoga Park, Calif., a hub among the high-performance automotive aftermarket, Tri-Point Engineering boasts a long-standing dedication to Mazda and a track record of excellence in design and fabrication that has established Tri-Point as one of the industry leaders in the Mazda aftermarket.
Glorioso Marinus turned in a solid 2003 campaign, finishing in the top six in five out of six races during the season. In addition, she made SCCA SPEED World Challenge history last year during Touring Car qualifying, when she became the first female driver to win the pole for an SCCA SPEED World Challenge event. Alternburg tallied four top-three finishes for Mazda, including a title-winning performance at the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Pro Formula Mazda
Mazda continues to build racing history with its involvement in one of the most popular domestic racing series for aspiring drivers, the professionally organized Pro Formula Mazda Series. Featuring an open-wheel racing format, Pro Formula Mazda is a breeding ground for developing drivers. A favorite among sponsors and spectators alike, the series runs on the same race tracks used for major-league events (such as the American Le Mans Series) and offers an attractive championship prize package of $500,000. All cars feature an advanced carbon-fiber body and use the critically acclaimed production Mazda RENESIS rotary engine found in production RX-8s. Drivers in the series can pursue any one of the five divisional championships based on geographically determined schedules (east, west, central, southwest and rocky mountain) in addition to the overall North American Championship. Numerous professional drivers have used the Pro Formula Mazda Series as a jumping-off point, such as Formula Atlantic Series Rookie of the Year Joey Hand, ALMS 675 Class winner Jeff Bucknam and Le Mans 24 Hours GT Class winner Bruno Lambert.
The 2004 Pro Formula Mazda Series has begun and includes high-profile events where Pro Formula Mazda cars appear as the opening act to some of America's top-drawing racing series. For the North American Championship dates, the Pro Formula Mazda Series appears with the prestigious American LeMans Series at eight road-course venues coast to coast, such as Road America, Sebring and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
Grand Am Cup
Mazda is continuing to extend its racing reach with a new presence in the Grand American Road Racing Association's Grand Am Cup Sports Touring division. SpeedSource Race Engineering returns to the Mazda racing family and is campaigning a five-car fleet of Mazda RX-8s this season in a bid to claim the Manufacturers' Championship. The five-car fleet will be led by professional champion Sylvain Tremblay and rising star David Haskell. The hotly contested Sports Touring division of the Grand Am Cup consists of production cars driven straight off the showroom floor with limited racing modification and improved safety features. SpeedSource Race Engineering's five Mazda RX-8s are ready for paint-swapping, head-to-head action against Lexus IS300s, BMW Z4s and 328s and Acura RSXs. With one race of the 2004 season completed, SpeedSource is sitting pretty in third place for manufacturers' points.
MAZDASPEED Miata Cup
Mazda's proprietary series, the SCCA Pro Racing MAZDASPEED Miata Cup returns for its second year in 2004. With four race weekends initially scheduled for the Atlantic Tour and two scheduled for the Pacific Tour, fans should be on the lookout for more race dates in the coming months. By supporting both a Pacific and Atlantic schedule, Mazda further demonstrates its commitment to all motorsports levels and ensures that as many interested participants as possible have access to full-throttle racing excitement.
Spec Miata is wildly popular at both the pro and amateur levels. Nowhere is Mazda's commitment to motorsports more evident than in the Spec Miata class, a series designed to provide an affordable, nationwide class in which all regions are using similar rules and regulations. Spec Miata class participation is so rampant that, on any given weekend, more Miatas are raced at the club level than any other vehicle. The Spec Miata is the perfect class for the grassroots racer and the agile Miata is the perfect car with which to learn road-racing dynamics.
Mazda continues to have a dominant presence in club racing. The two most prominent races of the regular and post season will feature significant participation from Mazda-involved clubs. The June Sprints and SCCA Runoffs, the two not-to-be-missed races of the year, are integral to Mazda's leadership role at the club level.
The June Sprints is the biggest SCCA National Race during the Club Racing regular season and serves as the first leg of the organization's highly coveted Triple Crown. The 49th annual June Sprints take place June 17-20, 2004, at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
The SCCA Runoffs, held in mid-September, is widely known to be the Super Bowl of amateur road racing, bringing together drivers, crews, workers and manufacturers from all over the country. Even Car and Driver magazine recognizes the Runoffs as one of the world's top-10 racing events. Just as racing fanatics will descend on the Mid-Ohio Sportscar Course for seven days of road racing, so too will Mazda be present to further demonstrate its devotion to motorsports. With more racers competing than any other import manufacturer in more than half of the classes, Mazda is sure to have another successful year at the Mid-Ohio course.
Mazda's presence in drag-racing will be represented by drivers Abel Ibarra and Ed Bergenholtz. Ibarra, 2000 NIRA Pro Import Champion, 2000 IDRC Pro Import Champion, NIRA Pro Import speed record holder and the Mazda world e.t. record holder, drives a Mazda RX-8. Bergenholtz, whose vehicle was the first import to grace the cover of the Road & Track, is well known and respected among the import-tuning crowd for being the first person to affix a wheelie bar to a front-wheel drive (FWD) dragster and for being the first person to take a full-bodied FWD car into single-digit quarter-mile times. Bergenholtz competes with an in-line, four-cylinder MAZDA6 with a wild paintjob and an estimated 1000 horsepower.
Mazda North America Operations is responsible for the sales and marketing, customer parts and services support of Mazda vehicles in the United States. Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., MNAO has more than 700 dealerships nationwide.