04/29/2009 - The SpeedSource Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 team looked to rebound from a somewhat uncharacteristic showing at the Rolex 24 and a podium finish at Virginia International Raceway is just what they needed. After qualifying on the pole the day before, Nick Ham continued where he left off to start the race. Ham and fellow Mazda driver Dane Cameron led the first ever all Mazda front row in Grand-Am competition to the green flag. Despite the 90+ degree temperatures Ham stayed cool and out of trouble and ran some very consistent and quick lap times. "Nick drove great this weekend" stated David Haskell, team Technical Director. "First with an awesome lap in qualifying and then with a very consistent and trouble free opening stint, when the car handles like it did at VIR it's so much easier to run fast consistent laps. I am so impressed with how the SpeedSource team has constantly worked on developing this car, it continues to improve every race" Ham added.
After leading 22 laps Nick called it a day on lap 35 and turned over the reins to his co-driver Sylvain Tremblay. Although dropping out of the top ten with the pit stop Tremblay was back up to third place by lap 47. Tremblay would continue his charge and, with a great last pit stop from the crew, was able to get within 7 seconds of the leaders before the yellow flag waived once again. When the race resumed with three laps to go Tremblay tried to move up the last two spots, but had to settle for third place, just 0.204 seconds behind the leader. After the race Tremblay had this to say: "This performance from the team after a long layoff proves how much this team wants to win; the preparation was flawless and the pit stops were fast and without mistakes. An all Mazda front row powered by SpeedSource built 20B rotary engines was a great achievement and to have 3 cars in the top 10 shows that all the Mazda teams are competitive. Nick did a great job with a fantastic Pole, shattering the track record. The race went well although on long runs we still struggle with tire wear, a problem that we faced all last year. I am proud of the effort and it is good for the team to be back on the podium. The Rolex 24 was so long ago that this race feels like the start of the 2009 season for us."
The day ended shorter than expected for the #69 FXDD team car. On lap six contact from behind caused Emil Assentato to spin coming on to the front straightaway. Justin Marks in the #67 car couldn't avoid Assentato and collected the #69 in the right rear corner. Before the race had ended the FXDD crew had already assessed the damage and began working to make sure they would make it to the New Jersey race only a few days away.
Picking up their third place finish SpeedSource moved five points closer to the GT championship leaders and now sits 16 points behind after only the second race of the season. They will be back in action at New Jersey Motorsports Park starting Thursday April 30. Watch them live on SPEED at 1:00pm EST Sunday, May 3rd.
ADDITIONAL VIR EVENT PICS
On any given weekend, there are more Mazda's on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle. At the track, you'll see MX-5 Miata, RX-8, MAZDA3, MAZDA6, RX-7 and other vintage Mazda models competing, because every Mazda has the soul of a sports car. In fact, the fastest growing road-racing class in the U.S. is the SCCA's Spec Miata class, with nearly 1,500 first- and second-generation Miata's tearing up America's racetracks, making it the most-raced production car in the world. Mazda's involvement in motorsports extends to its relationship with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the world's premier road-racing circuits, and the Skip Barber Schools for driving and racing.
Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.