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Spec Miata Challenge

June 16, 2003 - Monterey, Calif. - Star Mazda Series and Spec Miata Challenge, two of the support series for the Grand Prix of Monterey, gave race fans much to cheer about over the weekend at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca (MRLS). The Grand Prix of Monterey was the seventh round of the ChampCar World Series but proved to be a lot more for race fans as they were treated to heart-pumping wheel-to-wheel action in the rotary-powered Star Mazda Series and Spec Miata Challenge.

The Star Mazda Series, which uses Mazda rotary engines like those found in normally-aspirated 1987-1995 RX-7 sports cars, develops racecar driving careers by providing an opportunity for drivers to compete on the same racetracks used for professional events and is one of the most successful racing series in the U.S. Many well-respected drivers have risen through the ranks from Star Mazda, including Formula Atlantic Rookie of the Year Joey Hand and Le Mans 24-hour GT class winner Bruno Lambert.

The weekend saw Caracas, Venezuela native Luis Schiavo climb to the top spot on the podium, deftly maneuvering his Racers Edge Motorsports/Rotelli Restaurants Mazda from flag to flag to win round three of the 2003 Star Mazda Series North American Championship. John Green drove his Red Line Oil Mazda racer to a second place finish in his pro series debut fending off a hard-charging Moses Smith. Smith nearly overtook Green in a late restart but failed to make the pass and took home third place for Team Tomlin.

In closed wheel action, the Spec Miata Challenge pits identically-prepared Mazda Miatas against each other. The field consists of 1990 to 1997 model year Miatas with limited modifications other than the suspension. Because rules are consistent race to race, there is no need for vehicle changes. And since the Miata is already one of the most reliable vehicles around, there's little maintenance. Pro Spec Miata allows the amateur racer to compete in a Pro series for prize money and contingencies and still maintain a modest operating budget.

Barry Hartzel of Hartzel Automotive won the Spec Miata Challenge for his first-ever pro win. "I was beginning to wonder if I would ever win one of these major pro events," said the Spec Miata champion. "I'm extremely happy with the support Mazda has given to the series and to racing."

Tom S. Olivier, driving in his Marin Brewing Company Spec Miata, finished a close second to Hartzel and Randy Evans took third for Hoover Racing rounding out the podium for the class.

Mazda North American 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.

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