WASHINGTON, July 19 /PRNewswire/ -- Mazda North American Operations (MNAO) today announced the extension of its relationship with the Star Mazda Series and the American Le Mans Series. The contract extends through the 2008 season, with The Star Mazda Series North American Championship continuing to be a featured support event to the American Le Mans Series.
In 2004, the Star Mazda season prize package will grow to an estimated $500,000, and the Star Mazda Series also will campaign a new chassis featuring a more powerful, next generation Mazda rotary engine. Called Renesis, the new twin-rotor, side port rotary powerplant goes into production for the 2004 Mazda RX-8 sports car.
Prototypes of the new Mazda and Elan Motorsports Technologies (EMT)- developed Star Mazda vehicle will be unveiled later this year at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. The racecar will feature a monocoque built to FIA standards, the new Renesis rotary engine and a six-speed sequential gearbox. A rigorous testing program has been developed for two prototypes, which will spend the majority of the 2003 season being tested and developed at tracks around the country.
"The support of racing programs such as Star Mazda is a prime example of Mazda's commitment to furthering its motorsports heritage," said Charlie Hughes, president and CEO of MNAO. "Our increased commitment to the Star Mazda Series, our recent World Challenge successes, and our future motorsports endeavors demonstrate why we can say there is the soul of a sports car in every vehicle we build."
The Star Mazda Series North American Championship is one of the most successful racing series in the U.S. with an average of more than 40 cars starting each of the Star Mazda Series events in 2001. All series races are broadcast on Speed Channel.
"The partnership with Mazda and the Star Mazda Series is an extremely significant agreement," said Don Panoz, owner of the EMT group, the world's largest manufacturer of racing cars. "The American Le Mans Series will be greatly enhanced by having the Star Mazda Series as a regular part of the race schedule."
Star Race Cars first started the Star Mazda North American Championship in 1991. The goal of the Star Mazda Series is to develop driving talent by acting as a feeder for many of the professional racing series in the U.S., including American Le Mans, CART and the Indy Racing League by showcasing talented young drivers at important professional racing events.
Formula Mazda develops new racecar driving careers by providing an opportunity for drivers to compete on the same racetracks that are used for major league events. Today, more than 300 Formula Mazda racecars compete in a combination of club and professional races. Many well-respected drivers are rising through the ranks from Star Mazda, including Formula Atlantic Rookie of the Year Joey Hand, ALMS 675 class winner Jeff Bucknum and Le Mans 24-hour GT class winner Bruno Lambert.
"We've been working with Mazda for 12 years, and with the American Le Mans Series since its inception," said Star Mazda Series President Gary Rodrigues. "With Mazda's continued support of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship, we are able to focus on ways to build upon our successes and continue develop racing's stars of the future."