Star Mazda announces 2008 Schedule
The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear today released its 12-race 2008 schedule, beginning the season with its traditional date at the 56th annual Mobil1 12 Hours of Sebring International Raceway on March 14 and winding up at the Monterey Sports Car Championships at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on October 18. The most substantial change to the schedule involves the series’ first-ever appearance at Watkins Glen with the Grand-Am Rolex Series on June 7.
“This schedule represents the best possible balance of exposure and experience for our teams, driver and sponsors,” says Star Mazda Championship President Gary Rodrigues. “Once again we will be sharing the center stage spotlight with the American Le Mans series, Champ Car and Grand-Am on a combination of road courses, street circuits and airport tracks. Our role as a major step up the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder, combined with the new crop of top North American talent and an influx of top International drivers taking advantage of the exchange rates, promises to make 2008 the most spectacular and hard-fought season in Star Mazda Championship history.”
The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear is set to begin its 18th season as one of the premier North American open-wheel driver development series and will feature an educational mix of circuits in both the U.S. and Canada, including three street circuits, two airport track and seven natural-terrain road courses.
Following the season-opener at the hugely-popular 12 Hours of Sebring, Star Mazda Championship teams and competitors will move on to the streets of Reliant Park for the combined American Le Mans/Champ Car World Series weekend on April 26 at the Grand Prix of Houston. The next stop on the schedule is the wide-open spaces of Miller Motorsports Park for the American Le Mans Series Grand Prix of Utah on May 14.
Houston will also see a reunion of the Star Mazda Championship with the series’ 2007 champion, Dane Cameron (who won from the pole in Houston last year), though he will be racing on the next step up the ladder. Thanks to the full-season sponsorship from the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder that was part of his Star Mazda prize, Cameron will be driving for the championship-winning Sierra Sierra/ ProWorks team in the 2008 Cooper Tires Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.
In June, the Star Mazda Championship races at two vastly different tracks. First up is the legendary Watkins Glen International Raceway road course for the Sahlen’s Six Hours of the Glen with the Daytona Prototypes of the Grand-Am series on June 7. On June 21, the series moves to the runways of Burke Lakefront Airport for the Grand Prix of Cleveland and the beginning of a four-race run with the Champ Car World Series.
After the freeway-sized runways of Cleveland, it’s back to the shotgun-barrel confines of the Toronto Grand Prix street circuit on July 5, followed by the 25th annual Mazda Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland on July 26.
August is a busy month for the teams and drivers of the Star Mazda Championship with three races in four weeks. This test of men, machines and morale kicks off with another combined American Le Mans Series/Champ Car weekend at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. On August 17, the Star Mazda Championship will share the spotlight with the Champ Car Atlantic series and CASCAR in the GP3R on the streets of Trois Rivières, Quebec. The following weekend, August 23, is the final Canadian event of the 2008 Star Mazda Championship, the American Le Mans Grand Prix of Mosport.
The month of September is a rebuild and regroup time for competitors in the Star Mazda Championship with no races scheduled. The home stretch of the 2008 season begins with Round Eleven at Road Atlanta on October 3, and the season finale at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on October 18. Both events are with the American Le Mans Series. All 12 races during the 2008 season will be broadcast on the SPEED Channel; go to www.speedtv.com/programs for dates and times.
Over the past seventeen years, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear has grown into one of the most prolific, successful and richest driver development series in all of auto racing. The 2007 prize fund approached $1.5 million U.S.; drivers and teams will be battling for a similar amount in 2008, including a full-season Champ Car Atlantic sponsorship for 2009.
Many top drivers began, or accelerated, their careers in the Star Mazda Championship. Recent alumni include such top open-wheel racers as Champ Car star Graham Rahal, IRL standout Marco Andretti and American F1 driver Scott Speed. And the 2005 Star Mazda Champion, Raphael Matos, graduated via the Mazda Motorsports Ladder to the Champ Car Atlantic series, won the 2007 championship and will move up to Champ Car in 2008. Dane Cameron, the 2007 Star Mazda Champion will drive a Mazda-sponsored full season in the 2008 Champ Car Atlantic Series while Joel Miller, the 19-year-old racer from Hesperia, California who scored five wins and finished on the podium in all 14 of the 2007 BF Goodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda Series races, has won a fully-sponsored ride in the 2008 Star Mazda Championship.
Also on the list is Michael McDowell, the 2004 Star Mazda champion who has raced Champ Cars, Daytona Prototypes, was Rookie of the Year in the 2007 ARCA RE/MAX stock car series and has signed to drive for Michael Waltrip Racing in the 2008 Nextel Cup.
The Star Mazda Championship is now a major step on the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder, adding to the already substantial array of benefits that come from racing in the series. The Motorsports Ladder is a unique scholarship program 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 from Champ Car toward a Champ Car drive.
“The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear offers an opportunity to race in the North America in one of the most successful and affordable manufacturer-supported driver development series,’ says Star Mazda Championship President Gary Rodrigues. “The Star Mazda Championship is also a gateway series to many other forms of racing because once you learn to drive an open-wheel car competitively, it becomes much easier to adapt to – and excel in – other kinds of cars. Graduates of the Star Mazda Championship have gone on to salaried rides in F1, Champ Car, Indy 500, prototypes, sports cars and stock cars. The racing world is full of Star Mazda graduates and we’re proud of them. But we also look forward every year to a new class of young hotshoes who will be the racing stars of tomorrow.”
Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear 2008 Schedule
||Salt Lake City