Road America start of 3-in-row Competitors in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will be facing a test of both their hunger -- and their ability to satisfy it -- during an intense August that will see them doing battle on back-to-back weekends at Road America, Trois Rivières and Mosport.
Drivers of all ages (17 to 64), both sexes and from a veritable UN of countries (U.S., Canada, England, the Philippines, Australia and Switzerland), will be battling for pride, honor, money, TV time and the ultimate prize - Mazda's ladder program scholarship that will help the 2007 series champion move up to the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.
First up is the Generac 500 Champ Car/American Le Mans event at Road America, August 9 - 11. Star Mazda championship points leader Dane Cameron (#19 JDC Motorsports/Finlay Motorsports) comes to this event with the advantage of having tasted victory here in 2006, driving in the Formula Ford 2000 series. Cameron has won three Star Mazda races so far in 2007, started from the pole four times and scored two 'hat tricks' - fastest in every practice session, qualified on the pole and led every lap on his way to victory.
"The nature of the track, with long straights followed by fairly tight turns, makes Road America a great place," says the 18 year-old native of Sonoma, California. "You can set somebody up a couple of turns ahead, get a big tow and pass them under braking without having to muscle them over. But the length of the track, more than four miles, and the long lap times, makes it critical to get your setup right as soon as possible and turn your fast lap in qualifying early because if there's a red flag or full-course yellow, it uses up so much time. There have been some changes to the track - wider in places, with more runoff areas and bigger curbs -- that should make it even faster this year."
Cameron leads the championship battle with 263 points, but hot on his heels is Australian racer James Davison (#7 Easternats/Velocity Motorsports) with 216 points. Davison has started from the pole twice, finished on the podium twice and scored four top-5 finishes so far this season. Rounding out the top-5 are American Jonathan Goring (#14 Skip Barber Racing/Andersen Racing) with 214 points, Canadian Marco Di Leo (#21 Maxwell Paper Products/Maxwell Racing) with 213 and American Ron White (#69 Wunder-bar/Team G.FRO) with 206.
Also of note in the Star Mazda field is Natacha Gachnang, a native of St. Gingolph, Switzerland, driving the #35 AIM Autosport Mazda. Gachnang is the lone female driver in the Star Mazda Championship and has made series history by finishing on the podium in back-to-back races.
With two of the three upcoming races taking place in Canada, interest in Canadian drivers is high - and three of them, all rookies, each with one win so far this season, will be among the rising stars competing in Rounds Eight, Nine and Ten of the 2007 Star Mazda Championship.
Heading the list is Toronto's own Marco Di Leo, driver of the #21 Maxwell Paper Products Mazda. Di Leo was the 2006 Skip Barber National Championship runner-up, 2005 Skip Barber Scholarship winner, Team Sunoco Ultra 94 member and F2000 Bridgestone Series champion. He won the Star Mazda season-opener in Sebring and is 4th in the championship with 213 points.
Next is Burnaby B.C.'s Lorenzo Mandarino, driver of the #23 Newway Forming/Team G.FRO Mazda and race winner at Round Four in Salt Lake City. Currently 9th in the championship battle with 182 points, Mandarino was the 2005 SKUSA (Super Karts USA) Supernational Winner in the Super Pro class and an 11-time karting champion since 1996.
Rounding out the trio is Devin Cunningham of St. Bruno, Quebec, who won the 2006 Discovery Channel competition, called 'Star Racer,' designed to find the next great Canadian racing driver and is now making the most of his prize, a full-season sponsorship in the 2007 Star Mazda Championship. He won Round Five of the Star Mazda Championship in Portland driving the #33 Discovery Channel/AIM Autosport Mazda and is currently 6th in the championship with 203 points.
At the other end of the age spectrum, Star Mazda Championship "Master Class" racers include 50 year-old Steve Hickham of Corpus Christi, Texas (#17 HB Turbo/Hickham Motorsports) and 56 year-old Dan Tomlin Jr. of Dallas, Texas (#56 Team Tomlin). Tomlin races with his son and business partner, 42 year-old Dan Tomlin III (#58 Team Tomlin). Also in the Master Class is Gerry Kraut, 56, from North Oaks, Minnesota (#55 Dougherty and Company/JDC Motorsports). These 'gentlemen racers' may not be fighting for the win, but do run regularly in the top half of the field - and they love to race, happy to be out there and mixing it up with drivers who will be the stars of tomorrow.
And here's the story on what the young lions are all fighting for; forty years ago, on May 31, 1967, Mazda introduced the first street car with a rotary engine, the Cosmo Sport. Since then, they've built two million rotary-engined vehicles and the company has built its very identity on the idea of Zoom-Zoom and every vehicle they produce having the soul of a sports car.
In pursuit of that ideal, Mazda has created a unique, company-sponsored 'motorsports ladder' that reaches all the way from karting to Champ Car. The winner of a shootout among 2007 karting champions will get a scholarship in the 2008 Skip Barber series, while the Skip Barber champion moves up to Star Mazda, the Star Mazda champion moves up to the Champ Car Atlantic Series Powered by Mazda and the Atlantic champion gets $2 million toward a Champ Car drive. So they're all racing for a dream, and the opportunity of a lifetime.
On track action at Road America - where Star Mazda shares the weekend with the American Le Mans Series -- begins with two practice sessions on Thursday, August 9 and a 45-minute qualifying session starting at 4:30 pm on Friday, August 10. The 45-minute Star Mazda Championship race is scheduled to take the green flag at 11:40 am on Saturday, August 11.
Road America is Round Eight of the 12-race 2007 Star Mazda Championship schedule. Star Mazda races are broadcast tape-delayed on SPEED TV. Date and time (all times stated are Eastern and subject to change) for the one-hour broadcast is available at www.speedtv.com/programs. The Road America race is scheduled to air on Saturday, August 18 at 3:00 pm with a re-broadcast on Monday, August 20 at 3:00 pm.
The 60-minute Trois Rivières race - where Star Mazda is the featured event -- will take place on Sunday, August 19, at 1:00 pm. The race is scheduled to air on Saturday, August 25 at 12pm (noon). The Mosport event (again with ALMS) takes place at 3:50 pm, Saturday, August 25 and will be broadcast on Saturday, September 1 at 12pm (noon).