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Mar 12, 2003
Irvine, Calif. - MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development, Mazda's motorsports division, has high expectations for World Challenge this year, vying for the Manufacturer's Cup that barely eluded them last year. MAZDASPEED expects to see as many as 12 Mazda Protegé-based cars running in the Touring Car (TC) class of the SCCA Pro Racing Speed World Challenge (WC) series this year. The company's hopes are high that they will top Acura and BMW, who finished first and second respectively in last year's closely decided Manufacturer's Cup Championship.
The SPEED World Challenge pits production-based racecars against each other over a seven-race season on tracks from Florida to California, and from Texas to Canada. Vehicles compete in either GT or Touring Car based on their performance potential.
"MAZDASPEED entered World Challenge in 2001, and it was primarily a developmental year," said Steve Sanders, manager of MAZDASPEED motorsports development. "2002 was our first fully committed year in the series and with only eight cars entered we still finished in third place, only four points behind the leader."
With the help of teams like Tri-Point Motorsports, OPM Motorsports, Elder-Benner Motorsports and SpeedSport LLC, as many as 12 cars will be entered under the MAZDASPEED flag for 2003, all of which are built on the Mazda Protegé platform. Along with these teams come high-profile drivers like Jeff Altenburg (Tri-Point), Chuck Hemmingson (OPM) and Christian Elder (Elder-Benner) from the NASCAR Busch series, adding extensive racing experience and tenacious competitiveness to the program.
Jeff Altenburg, the first driver ever to win Solo II, Valvoline Runoffs and SCCA Pro Racing Championships all in the same year, missed half the World Challenge Touring season last year and still finished 13th in season point standings. With four Touring Car World Challenge wins under his belt, one of which was last year at Trois-Rivieres, Chuck Hemmingson is the veteran of the MAZDASPEED group and finished fifth in overall point standings in 2002. Christian Elder comes to World Challenge as a series rookie, but with considerable NASCAR Busch Series wheel-to-wheel experience.
The 2003 season kicks off Friday, March 14, at Sebring International Raceway in Florida and will air on SPEED Channel Saturday March 29.
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.