Star Mazda Championship Announces 2011 Schedule
The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear today made the first in an upcoming series of major announcements with the release of the series' 10-weekend, 11-race schedule (with one TBA) for the 2011 season; included are five IndyCar weekends, two with American Le Mans, one with USAC and one where Star Mazda will race a double-header as the co-feature. Rising racing stars from around the world will hone their driving skills at three road courses, four street circuits and three ovals.
The first Star Mazda Championship race of 2011 will be at one of IndyCar's most high-profile events, the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 26-27. Also on the schedule, as they will be at many races this season, are the other series in IndyCar's 'Road to Indy' program: the Cooper Tires Presents the USF2000 National Championship Powered by Mazda; the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear; and the Firestone Indy Lights series.
The Star Mazda Championship made its first appearance in the streets of St. Petersburg in 2010, a hotly-contested race won by Conor Daly. This was the first victory of Daly's 2010 season and the first of a 4-race winning streak. Daly went on to win the Star Mazda championship with a total of seven wins and a series-record nine poles.
From there, the Star Mazda Championship has an April TBA date that will be announced shortly.
Three oval races in a row distinguish the next stretch of the 2011 schedule; the Night Before the 500 at O'Reilly Raceway Park with USAC on May 27-28, the Milwaukee Mile with IndyCar on June 18-19 and Iowa Speedway, also with IndyCar on June 24-25.
The Night Before the 500 is a high-profile event on the schedule, with Star Mazda Championship drivers taking part in a comprehensive 'Road to Indy Summit' that includes an autograph session at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and meetings with top officials, teams and drivers of the Firestone Indy Lights and IZOD IndyCar series. 2010 was the first pairing of Star Mazda and the Night Before the 500, with Indianapolis native Conor Daly winning the inaugural event.
Star Mazda last raced at the Milwaukee Mile in 2009 with the NASCAR Nationwide Series; Norwegian driver Anders 'The Viking' Krohn won that event and returned for a second season of Star Mazda competition in 2010 and went on to finish 6th in the championship.
2011 will be Star Mazda's third consecutive visit to the 7/8ths-mile Iowa Speedway oval in Newton, Iowa; the series ran with the ARCA/RE MAX cars in 2009, a race won by Irish driver Peter Dempsey, and in 2010 with IndyCar, where Conor Daly won from the pole.
After three races in a row on ovals, the drivers and teams of the Star Mazda Championship head to one of Canada's premier road racing circuits for the Mobil 1 Presents the Grand Prix of Mosport. This round of the American Le Mans series has historically been held at the end of August, but for 2011 moves to July 22-23. Conor Daly scored his final victory of the 2010 season, from the pole, at this event.
After the wide open spaces of Mosport, the shotgun-barrel confines of the legendary street circuit at Trois-Rivières in Quebec, Canada on August 6-7 will provide the drivers with a challenge, but the incredible energy and enthusiasm of the fans always makes this one of the most popular stops on the circuit. It will be a double-header / double-points weekend at the 42nd annual GP3R in which Star Mazda will be the co-feature with another high-profile open-wheel series. In 2010, this race provided one of the season's most memorable moments as the 2009 winner, Louisiana racer Alex Ardoin, on hand as a driver coach for Team GDT, found himself in the team's spare car and, starting from the outside of the second row, went on to win the race for the second year in a row.
The next three races on the calendar will see the Star Mazda Championship team transporters cross-crossing the country… several times. From Trois-Rivières, the circus moves out to the West Coast for the IndyCar Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon Raceway August 26-27; and then it's back to East Coast street circuits with an appearance at the inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix September 3-4.
While Baltimore will be new to all involved, the Star Mazda Championship has a long history at Infineon Raceway, though the last visit there was for a double-header with IMSA in 2005. The winners will be familiar to fans of the Indy Lights series; Chilean driver Pablo Donoso and Canadian James Hinchcliffe (he finished 2nd in the 2010 Indy Lights championship). And the 2005 Star Mazda Champion, was Brazilian racer Raphael Matos, now racing for the deFerran Dragon team in IndyCar.
The 2011 Star Mazda Championship season will wind up at the series' traditional year-end venue, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca with the American Le Mans Series Presented by Patron. The series has a long and dramatic history at the legendary road course in Monterey, California, including the dramatic 2009 victory by English racer Adam Christodoulou (his third of the season) to win the championship.
||GP of St. Petersburg
||O'Reilly Raceway Park
||The Milwaukee Mile
||Baltimore Grand Prix
In addition, there will be an authorized Star Mazda Championship series pre-season test at a track to be announced, as well as the Milwaukee Mile (prior to the beginning of the 3-oval stretch) and at Infineon Raceway. Teams and drivers will, as always, be allowed an unlimited number of test days, but new rules for 2011 will help reduce costs by discouraging excess travel; testing at tracks listed on the Championship schedule will restricted to only those days specifically authorized by the Series.
"Next year will be our twenty-first season of competition and this schedule represents a huge step forward for the Star Mazda Championship, and more big announcements to come in the next few days," says Series founder and CEO Gary Rodrigues. "Our mission is to provide the top young racers from around the world with the most comprehensive education and most high-profile opportunities available in any driver development program in the world today. In concert with the announcements soon to be made, the Star Mazda Championship will be the logical place for any serious driver to accelerate his or her career.