05/18/2009 Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca - The SpeedSource Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 endured a heat soaked California day to take the GT-Class win and regain valuable championship points in Round 4 of the Rolex Sports Car Series at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The team arrived on setup day with a determination to succeed while sporting the new 2009 RX-8 R3 edition front end. A clear crowd favorite, the SpeedSource Mazda sat near the top of early practice sessions foreshadowing what was to come race day.
Nick Ham started the No. 70 Mazda from the pole position after setting fast time in Saturday's qualifying. This was the third time this season that the car led from the top spot at the start of the race. Managing a congested race start, Ham held off contenders to maintain the GT lead in the opening laps of the race. "I had a good race with Leh Keen at the start and then again on one of the restarts after a caution, but was eventually able to put a little distance on him and pull away. I always enjoy racing with Leh, he's a tough racer but very fair," Nick commented.
An early caution 15 minutes into the race presented an opportunity for the team to run a two stop strategy. Pitting from the lead, a great stop by the crew got the car out of the pits faster than the other competitors to rejoin the race in second position. Ham regained the class lead after only five laps under green and would continue to hold his position. "Hats off to our engineers and the entire crew for giving Sylvain and I such an awesome car all weekend. The car was fast right out of the truck and we continued to fine tune it right up to the race. This was a huge win for SpeedSource, Mazda and Castrol especially at Mazda's home track," Ham said.
Nick Ham brought the car back to pit lane on Lap 60 to hand over driving duties to Sylvain Tremblay. With a little over an hour remaining in the race, Tremblay would have to compete with some very strong running GT cars to bring the car to the checkered flag. The two stop strategy eventually returned the car to the lead position as competitor cars cycled through their pit stops. "When you have a car that is this good to drive, you really need to concentrate on running a clean race. We had a fantastic setup for the race and the SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 was phenomenal," Tremblay said. A few late yellow flags near race end repacked the GT field, however great restarts by Tremblay were enough to hold off any charge for the lead. Tremblay commented: "The strategy by our engineers and excellent pit stops by the crew put the car in prime position for the race win. It is good to be back on the top spot of the podium and I am really happy for the guys on the team and our great sponsors for all of their work and support."
Running an equally great race, the No. 69 FXDD SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 of Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal finished the race fifth in GT. Emil kept the No. 69 running at the front of the GT field up to the halfway point of the race before handing over control to his co-driver. "It was pretty hot out on track but the guys gave Jeff and I a great car to drive," Assentato recalled.
The SpeedSource Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 currently sits 18 points from the championship leader. The next round of the Rolex Sports Car Series will take place at Watkins Glen International Raceway for a 6-hour endurance race on June 6th. Catch the action live on SPEED at 2pm EST.
NICE POST RACE INTERVIEW WITH SYLVAIN AND NICK @ MOTORSPORT.COM
MORE EVENT PICS:
MRLS Photo Album 1
MRLS Photo Album 2