De Phillippi Wins Star Mazda Road Atlanta
On a very fine day indeed for motor racing, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear wound up its 20th anniversary 2010 season with an ending that could scarcely have been scripted better by Hollywood; pole-sitter Connor De Phillippi won his first race of the season, from the pole, and clinched the much-coveted 'Rookie of the Year' award, along with 3rd in the championship racing the #11 JDC Motorsports / MAZDASPEED Motorsports / Skip Barber Mazda. His drive was a study in excellent execution and he led from start to finish, crossing the finish line with 4.5 seconds in hand over the 2nd-place finisher.
Anders 'The Viking' Krohn finished second, his 6th podium – and 13th top-5 -- of the season, locking in second place in the championship. Krohn pilots the #47 Andersen Racing / Norse Cutting & Abandonment / Trallfa / Colosseum Mazda.
And Conor Daly, who clinched the series championship with a win from the pole in Round 12 at Mosport in his #22 Juncos Racing / INDECK / The College Network / Merchant Services Ltd. Mazda - bringing his record for the season to seven wins and nine poles - took the last podium spot and added another title to his resume; the VISITFLORIDA Cup, a 7-race championship-within-a-championship sponsored by the official tourism and marketing corporation for the state of Florida.
After a race-long battle in which the outcome teetered first one way and then the other, Andersen Racing won the Team Championship. Finally, with the Expert Series championship for drivers aged 30-44 already clinched, Texan J.W. Roberts finished out his title-winning season with another in-class victory at Road Atlanta at the wheel of his #65 Team GDT / General Data Tech Mazda. The Master Series (drivers 45 and older) was won by West Palm Beach racer/CEO Dom Bastien, driving the #37 Andersen Racing Mazda to his first in-class victory of the season.
"We've been building up to this result during the last half of the season with teamwork and strong practice, qualifying and finishes," says De Phillippi, of San Clemente, CA, driver of the #11 JDC Motorsports / MAZDASPEED Motorsports / Skip Barber Mazda. "The JDC Motorsports team worked extraordinarily hard and smart at this race and then it was up to me to execute the plan, which I did. We got a great start, managed the tires, managed the distance back to the second-place car and won the race. This is obviously a great way to end my rookie season in and I'm hoping to be back in Star Mazda next year and run for the championship."
De Phillippi, the 2009 Skip Barber Pro Series champion, won his drive in the 2010 Star Mazda Championship courtesy of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder, the unique automaker-backed program that provides funding for champions from karting to the top levels of the sport to move up the ladder.
Rounding out the top-5 were Argentine rookie Martin Scuncio, who finished 4th in his first-ever start in the Star Mazda Championship, and Frenchman Tristan Vautier, who won two races this season in the #38 Andersen Racing / Moulin TP / Cecibon / Circuit du Laquais / Fontanel Mazda and clinched 5th in the championship.
The race itself had the usual few moments of drama, but no full-course yellows, so the racing was hot, close and clean… mostly. Conor Daly, running second at the time, was penalized for blocking and moved behind the driver he was obstructing, Anders Krohn; he crossed the finish line in 2nd-place but the penalty had already been applied, and series officials handed him the bronze medal while Krohn got the silver. Krohn actually spun at one point in the race, punted from behind by another car, but was able to gather it up and continue.
Martin Scuncio, the USF2000 racer making his first-ever Star Mazda start who had the paddock sitting up and taking notice with his pace in practice, qualified 5th during the 2-lap, rain-shortened session on Thursday and was running as high as 3rd until he spun and dropped back to 6th before battling his way back up to 4th with a very 'twitchy' car, perhaps slightly damaged during his spin. He waged a race-long battle with Tristan Vautier, who finished 5th and Brazilian Caio Lara (#19 JDC Motorsports / MLD / ATW / Molecule Mazda) who finished 6th. The only other drama came in the tech tent after the race where Colombian racer Tatiana Calderon, the lone female driver in the series this year, was moved back to 18th and last place when her car was found to be under-weight… by just four pounds. Seems harsh, but the rule is clear.
All the Star Mazda race action will be broadcast to more than 150 million homes worldwide, courtesy of VISITFLORIDA, the official tourism and marketing corporation of the state of Florida. For further information on VISITFLORIDA, please go to www.VISITFLORIDA.com. To find out where and when Star Mazda Championship races are being broadcast, go to www.StarMazda.com > TV INFO, or visit www.MazdaRacing.tv.
||Connor De Phillippi