De Phillippi Earns Valuable Points and Experience in Star Mazda Debut
|Conor De Phillippi|
American Connor De Phillippi officially commenced his Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear campaign this past week (March 19) at the opening round of the series, which was held at Sebring International Raceway as part of the famed Sebring 12-Hour event. The highly regarded junior formula car racer enjoyed his series debut and exited the Florida season-opener with valuable points and experience thanks to a solid seventh place result.
A little over a month after an impressive debut with JDC MotorSports during official pre-season testing, De Phillippi was back behind the wheel at the historic Sebring International Raceway for the Star Mazda Championship season-opener. The Californian immediately displayed his intentions to challenge for top honors in pre-event testing, turning a fast time under the current lap record en route to fourth overall in the session. Focusing on finding the ideal race setup for the fast and bumpy road course, the afternoon session saw De Phillippi continuing to post quick times, although he was not able to better his morning effort.
Returning to the cockpit of his No. 11 MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development/Justice Brothers/Sparco/Rock View Farms/Oakley/Power Balance/Redline Athletics/Red Line Oil JDC MotorSports entry one day later, both practice sessions proved frustrating for the talented teenager. Battling handling issues throughout the day, De Phillippi was unable to match the increased pace of the front-runners, falling outside the top-10 for the first time. This trend unfortunately continued on Thursday in the lone qualifying session. Battling to get the most from his JDC MotorSports entry throughout the 45-minute session, De Phillippi ended with the 10th quickest time, earning a fifth-row start position for his series debut.
Although he was not able to lay down the qualifying effort that he was looking for, De Phillippi entered Round One confident that he could make his mark. The 17 year-old Californian got a good launch from his first-ever Star Mazda standing start and the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development driver immediately began working his way forward. Making the most of every opportunity around the 3.7-mile road course, De Phillippi found himself involved in a heated multi-car dice for fifth through eighth place. He battled for position throughout the 21-lap affair, displaying a great mix of patience and aggression. In the end, De Phillippi crossed the stripe in seventh, gaining both valuable points and experience in his Star Mazda Championship debut.
“Overall, it was a big learning week for both myself and the team,” said De Phillippi. “At times it seemed to be a bit of an uphill battle, but in the end we produced the best result we could with what we had for the race. I'm really looking forward to St. Pete, and building on everything we learned at Sebring.”
The 2010 Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear resumes for De Phillippi and JDC MotorSports this coming weekend (March 27-28), with Round Two taking place on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in conjunction with the IndyCar Series. The talented Californian enters the event third in the chase for Rookie of the Year honors and seventh overall in the championship fight.