New Jersey Sees SpeedSource Lead a Mazda Sweep of the Podium
The heat wave that has swept the East coast had no intention of letting up for Round 9 of the GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series. SpeedSource arrived at New Jersey Motorsports Park looking to carry their mid-season momentum and, as defending race winners, the pressure was on for crew and drivers. Even with a mid-afternoon start time, the blistering weather could do little to stop the charge of the #70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8 driven by Sylvain Tremblay and Jonathan Bomarito as the duo would claim the top podium spot in New Jersey for the second straight year. The #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 team car of Emil Assentato and Jeff Segal would finish sixth.
Knowing that managing the elements was an integral part of the race strategy, the SpeedSource crew opted for a dual driver change race. Bomarito started the #70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8 from 3rd on the grid. Following along the lines of conserving, tire preservation would be critical for the duration of the race; older tires lost almost 2 seconds of lap time. The #70 Mazda RX-8 maintained position at 3rd before heading to the pits for the first of two driver changes. Team owner Sylvain Tremblay drove a fantastic mid-race stint, extending the conservation strategy to a usable fuel window for the race's closing stint. A blazing fast full service pit stop that included fresh tires, fuel, and driver change allowed the #70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8 to leapfrog all competitors to 2nd place, behind the #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8. When Segal, in the #69 Mazda, pitted for tires Bomarito gained control of the race at the front of the GT class. Battling with former-SpeedSource driver John Edwards, Bomarito drove a brilliant closing stint to victory extending his margin to over a second.
Emil Assentato started his #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 by driving an opening stint that lasted the first hour of the race. The recent elimination of the 45-minute mandatory pit stop rule meant that the opening driver would have to endure longer stints in the car. As defending GT-Class champion, Assentato showed that he was more than up to the challenge and even brought the #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 into the first pit stop in the top ten. Upon taking over driving duties, co-driver Jeff Segal steadily climbed his way up to the front of the GT class, eventually leading late in the race. A caution with 20 minutes to go left opened up strategic opportunities. Segal and the crew elected to pit for fresh Continental race tires for the final sprint to the finish line. The team claimed a sixth-place finish.
Sunday's race in New Jersey was a great points day for the entire SpeedSource team. The defending Rolex GT class championship team now sits third and fourth in standings, with the #70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8 just a single point ahead of the #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8. More importantly, the win also gives Mazda its first win of the 2011 season. The valuable points pushes Mazda into first in the Manufacturer's championship. With three races left in the season, it is truly anyone's championship for the taking.
The SpeedSource team heads back to Watkins Glen International for a sprint race on the reduced-length NASCAR layout course. Follow the action live on SPEED on August 13th, 6PM EST.
NEW JERSEY RACE GALLERY 1
NEW JERSEY RACE GALLERY 2
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca Sees SpeedSource Score a Double Podium
Last week, the SpeedSource team packed up their trailers and headed to the West Coast for Round 8 of the Rolex Sports Car Series. Returning to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, where the series hasn’t been since 2009, teams looked forward to racing at the historic track under the warm California sun. The weekend proved to be a strong showing for both SpeedSource cars where the #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 captured a 2nd place finish and the #70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8 closed out the podium with a 3rd place finish.
Defending GT Co-Champion Emil Assentato drove his #69 FXDD Mazda RX-8 to 6th on the grid for his strongest qualifying result of the season, thus far. Starting the race next to his team car, Assentato was able to settle into an early race rhythm. When time came for co-driver Jeff Segal to take control, the car was very much in contention with the leading GT cars. Segal continued to push through, bringing the car up to 2nd by the final caution period. The reduced pace behind the safety car allowed Segal to conserve much-needed fuel and maintain his track position. The weekend’s 2nd place finish is the team’s third podium finish of the 2011 season.
Sylvain Tremblay started the #70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8 from 5th on the grid and quickly pushed it up to the front of the GT field. Early race lap times would indicate a very quick pace. At the half-hour mark a caution bunched the field with Tremblay sitting comfortably in 4thposition before pitting. A blisteringly fast pit stop by the crew, which included four tires, fuel and a driver change, sent the car past the entire GT field into the lead. From here Monterey, CA native Jonathan Bomarito took control and started to open a steady gap on the rest of the GT class.
Knowing that fuel range would be the limiting factor of the race, strategists on the #70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8 began formulating a plan. It would seem that their efforts would come to fruition when Bomarito was able to beat a late race caution to pit for a splash of fuel. However upon rejoining the field, now in 3rd position, trouble with the clean-up crews would cause GRAND-AM to extend the length of the caution from a standard 10-minute affair to a nearly 18-minute timeout. The delay would prove costly for the #70 as it allowed the rest of the GT field to conserve enough fuel to make the race end. Nonetheless, the #70 Castrol Edge Mazda RX-8 put on a strong dominant showing all race and captured the team’s second podium of the season with a 3rd place finish.
The collaboration of all Mazda teams for the Monterey Festival of Speed at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca further amplifies Mazda’s charge to the front of the manufacturers’ standings. Mazda sits second overall in points, trailing the leader by only 5 points.
The series will traveled north to the Jersey shore for Round 9 of the Rolex Sports Car Series at New Jersey Motorsports Park on July 24th.
MRLS RACE GALLERY 1
MRLS RACE GALLERY 2