Aussie takes pole for Star Mazda race
During a hot and humid qualifying session with air temperatures reaching into the 90s, Australian racer James Davison took the pole for tomorrow’s Round Eleven of the Star Mazda Championship at Road Atlanta with a lap of 1:18.956 (115.811 mph) in his #7 Velocity Motorsports / Easternats Mazda.
Davison is moving from strength to strength in the latter part of the 2007 season; he won Round Ten at Mosport and has been fast in every session of the last several races. He is currently 2nd in the championship battle with 319 points.
“We learned a useful lesson about setting our car up for hot and humid conditions at Mosport and we applied those lessons,” says Davison. “My engineer, Pete Mercier, has had the lap record at this track every year and he really put the pressure on me to keep his streak going. Thanks to the efforts of the Velocity team, I was able to oblige him with the only lap in the 1:18s. This is a daunting and risky track and you have to attack it with a great deal of commitment in the high-speed turns. I drove the wheels off on every lap, and it paid off. We’ll keep the setup the same for tomorrow, but I’ll drive with more of an eye toward managing the race and my tires… no point it vanishing off into the distance if you run out of tires before the race is over.”
Starting next to Davison on the front row of the grid is another driver whose season has had its ups and downs but also did well at Mosport. Burnaby, BC native Lorenzo Mandarino finished second at Mosport, and will start second at Road Atlanta with a lap of 1:19.240 (115.369 mph) in his #15 Team G.FRO / Newway Forming Mazda.
In third on the grid for tomorrow’s race is Hollywood, California resident Nick Haye, who finished 9th at Mosport, but preceded that with a pair of podium finishes at Trois Rivières and Road America. He turned a lap of 1:19.296 (115.315 mph) in his #37 JDC Motorsports / Quantum Sphere Mazda.
The JDC team will be burning the midnight oil tonight, however, trying to find some speed for Haye’s teammate and championship points leader Dane Cameron. The rookie phenom from Sonoma, California has had a difficult weekend, turning only a few laps in practice on Tuesday and never really showing the season-long speed that has won three races and scored five poles and put him in a position to clinch the championship tomorrow with a finish of 8th or better. Cameron turned a lap of 1:19.992 (114.311 mph) in his #19 JDC Motorsports / Finlay Motorsports Mazda to qualify 9th on the grid.
“The car is handling great, but down the straights it feels like I’m pulling a parachute,” says Cameron. “We’re more than four miles an hour down on top speed from Nick and the other front runners and haven’t figured out yet what the problem is. The team will be going over the car with a fine-toothed comb tonight and I’m sure we’ll be in good shape for the race tomorrow. I’m in the fortunate position of only needing to finish 8th or better to win the championship, but I’d prefer to do it with standing on the podium.”
The 45-minute Round Eleven of the 2007 Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will take the green flag at 1:50 pm Friday, October 5. The season finale takes place at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Northern California October 19 – 20.
Star Mazda races are broadcast on the SPEED Channel, with the Road Atlanta event scheduled to air on Saturday, October 13 at 12 noon ET. To confirm this air time and find out when future Star Mazda races will air, log on to www.speedtv.com/programs.
For more information on the Star Mazda Championship and its drivers, as well as the Mazda Motorsports ladder system, please visit www.starmazda.com and www.mazdausa.com.