White tops Cameron in Star Mazda
The back-to-back Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear races at Road America and Trois Rivières took place in different countries and on completely different kinds of tracks - a natural terrain road course vs. an urban street circuit - and while the details of the two races were different, the results were exactly the same.
Ron White (right), who started 6th, won his second in a row; points leader Dane Cameron, starting 4th, kept his championship hopes healthy with a 2nd-place finish; and newly-emerging talent Nick Haye scored his second-straight podium finish after starting 7th.
Russell Walker, driver of the #29 Pavecon/John Walko Racing Mazda, turned only one lap in qualifying, started last and moved up through the field to finish 4th. Quebec newcomer Yannick Hofman, driving his first-ever Star Mazda race after two seasons in Formula BMW, showed he will be a force to be reckoned with when he joins the series full-time next season after moving up from 8th on the starting grid to finish 5th in his #00 Jig-A-Loo/Andersen Racing Mazda.
"I took the outside line into the first turn and was fortunate to get through the carnage with no damage," said White, driver of the #69 Maxwell Paper Products/Maxwell Racing Mazda. "After everything got sorted out I was in 5th, and just kept focused and drove the wheels off the car like I did at Road America. I was able to move up during the re-starts after full-course yellows, and when I took the lead, I went from third to first in a matter of about two hundred feet. This is my second year in Star Mazda, my second win of the season and I'm second in the championship. now I just need to convert all that into Number One."
The race started predictably enough with the 24-car field attempting to enter the first turn all at the same time, with the result that three cars were immediately knocked out of the race, several more were severely damaged, including front-row starter Marco Di Leo' #21 Maxwell Racing/Nugget Mazda who ultimately retired with mechanical failure.
And still more subtle damage conspired to influence the outcome of the race in the form of a damaged front wing on Dane Cameron's #19 JDC Motorsports/ Finlay Motorsports car and bent suspension on Nick Haye's #37 JDC Racing/ Quantum Sphere Mazda.
"We struggled a bit during practice but were right on the pace in qualifying and I thought we had the car to win the race but with the damage to my front wing during the first turn accident, we'll never know just how good a car was," said Cameron, the series points leader and winner of three races and four pole positions so far this season. "After the contact, I thought the car was OK, but then the shock cover flew off down the back straight, so I was a bit concerned but just stayed out there and drove as hard as I could to get as many points as possible."
Cameron's JDC Motorsports teammate Nick Haye, of Huntington Beach, California, put together a string of four top-10 finishes in the first four races of the season, then hit a patch of bad luck and finally bounced back with his first podium of the season in the last race at Road America.
"I'm so happy to be on the podium here because it finally feels like my luck has turned around, though I was worried at the start," said the native of Huntington Beach, California. "I had some contact in the first-turn incident, and it felt like my suspension was just a little bent during the race, but not enough for me to take it to the pits. I just stayed out and tried to keep my championship hopes alive."
Other events of note in the race include pole-sitter Alex Ardoin, driver of the #51 Mundill / Oral & Facial Surgery Center Mazda, who was apparently channeling Gilles Villeneuve for most of the race with broad, opposite-lock, tail-out powerslides through the corners. He led the early stages, slipping back to second when a too-wide line through a turn let Toronto native Lorenzo Mandarino slip by in his #15 Team G.FRO/Newway Forming Mazda.
Mandarino led several laps until tangling wheels with Ardoin and getting pitched into the Turn Six tire wall on lap 20. Ardoin, muscling his way back toward the front, tried a 'hail Mary' pass in the closing stages of the race that nearly took out himself, Dane Cameron and Nick Haye. Contact with Haye caused a suspension failure and Arodin, after a drive that had the crowd on its feet, was finally credited with a 18th-place finish.
Finishing first in the Expert class for drivers aged 30 to 44 was Dan Tomlin III, who finished 10th overall in his #56 Team Tomlin Mazda. Steve Hickham drove his #17 HB Turbo/Hickham Motorsports Mazda to an 11th-place finish overall and first in the Master class for drivers 45 and older. Interestingly, Chuck Hulse, a 54 year-old Californian who joined the series at Road America, while not technically entered in the Master class championship battle, has scored back-to-back top-10 finishes (10th at Road America and 9th at Trois Rivières) in the #68 Silicon Salvage/Team G.FRO Mazda.
The GP3R was Round 9 of the 12-race 2007 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear and is scheduled to air on the SPEED Channel on Monday, August 27 at 3:00 pm. To confirm the time and find out when future Star Mazda races will air, log on to www.speedtv.com/programs.
The next event on the schedule is Round Ten, the Mobil 1 Presents Grand Prix of Mosport, August 24 - 27. On-track action at Mosport begins with a pair of practice sessions on Thursday, August 24, followed by one more practice session on Friday the 25th. Qualifying to set the starting grid takes place from 9:15 am to 10:00 am, Saturday, August 26. The 45-hour Star Mazda Championship race is scheduled to take the green flag at 3:50 pm Saturday afternoon.