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Mazdaspeed Motorsports Rotary Weekend Wrap-Up
Submitted by Dan Mazzella on Sunday, April 17, 2005 - 9:43pm

It was another exciting weekend for Rotary race car fans, with coast to coast action! Over on the East coast, at the Grand Prix of Atlanta the car's first outing Mazdaspeed LMP-2 class B-K Motorsports Courage 3Rotor placed 2nd in class. This after a tough qualifying and skipping a morning practice session. Also in Atlanta, Raphael Matos captured his second consecutive victory in the Star Mazda Championship.

On the West coast, at the NHRA Nationals, Able Ibarra ran a 6:74 @ 204 (World Record for Rotary Powered vehicle) on Friday qualifying, but broke off the line at the first round of elimantions on Sunday, when possibly a long stage time caused the engine to fail. Fellow Mazda Rotary racer Jesus Padilla made it into the final round in the All Motor class, but red-lighted, and gave the race to the challenger. Jesus is second in points and hopes to make up some of the points difference at the next NHRA round. Click through for the press releases for the ALMS race and Star Mazda race.

MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development today kicked off its return to top-level professional sportscar racing with a second place finish in the LMP-2 class at the Grand Prix of Atlanta, at the famed Road Atlanta circuit. The three-rotor RENESIS-based rotary engine was jointly developed by MAZDASPEED and SpeedSource, Inc., and was chosen by B-K Motorsports to power their Courage chassis because of its compact size and broad power-band.

Representing Mazda in the Sports Car Club of America's SPEED World Challenge Touring Car race on Saturday, Jeff Altenburg drove his MAZDASPEED/Tri-Point Motorsports MAZDA6 to second place. Starting seventh on the grid, Altenburg took advantage of a strong start and consistently competitive lap times to tear through the field. Finishing fourth was Charles Espenlaub's Mazda Protege, with Altenburg's teammate Randy Pobst bringing his MAZDA6 home in seventh.

"Another great weekend in the books," said Steve Sanders, manager, MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development and the man responsible for Mazda's North American motorsport operations. "There really is nothing in the world of motorsports quite like the sound of that Mazda rotary engine at 9,000 rpm, and it's a real thrill to know we'll hear that sound at every American Le Mans race this year. This weekend saw two very different Mazdas competing in very different classes, but they both had one thing in common: the soul of a sportscar that exists in every one of our vehicles."

The next weekend out for both B-K Motorsports' ALMS LMP-2 Mazda RENESIS-powered* Courage and the full complement of MAZDA6 and Protege SCCA SPEED World Challenge teams is the American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio on May 20-22. Stay tuned to for regular updates on Mazda's motorsport results.

Raphael Matos had his work cut out for him after falling to ninth position on the opening lap of Round Two of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear held today at Road Atlanta, but the Ocean Tomo Racing driver was up to the task, slicing his way through traffic to record his second consecutive victory in the championship ahead of Scott Jenkins and Matt Jaskol.

Matos, from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, topped the time sheets early for most of the weekend, and despite a qualifying setback that found him fifth on the grid he entered the race confident in his chances. "We had a little problem in qualifying but we had been fast all weekend so I knew that the crew would get it sorted out and we'd be fine for the race," Matos explained. "The Ocean Tomo Racing crew have been excellent all season and they came through once again. I dropped a few spots on the opening lap when I was forced off the track but once I got the momentum back I just started moving forward."

He would claim the lead on lap 24 of the 30 lap event, using lapped traffic to his advantage to close the distance to Jenkins and pressure him into a mistake, "We were coming up on the traffic as we came down the back straight and in trying to get passed the lapped car and hold me back it looked like he missed his braking point. Once he locked up the tires I was able to carry the momentum inside him and make the pass."

Jenkins, driving the Environmental Fibers International Team Bucknum Racing Mazda, would manage to hold off a hard charging Jaskol in the closing laps to wrap up his first podium of the season. "Qualifying on the pole position and finishing on the podium feels really good," the Portland, Oregon native revealed. "After the eighth place at Sebring we were a little disappointed so it was nice to come here and be right on the pace. I have to thank all the guys at Team Bucknum Racing for their work this weekend."

Third place finisher Jaskol was equally impressive in capturing his second consecutive podium finish of the season. Coming off his first victory in the ASA truck series, Jaskol spent much of his race nursing a damaged left front tire but still managed to challenge for second place by the end of the race. "Around lap ten we lost a big chunk out of the left front tire so for about 20 laps I was just holding on for dear life," Jaskol explained. "It's a little disappointing because Hearn Motorsports had given me a car that could've won the race today."

Fourth place was locked down by MJ Motorsports driver Jonathan Bomarito, a last-minute replacement driver when Bryan Sellers was signed to drive for Panoz Motorsports in the GT2 category for the remainder of the American Le Mans Series season. "We put the deal together for this race last Friday so it feels great to come out here and finish as well as we did," Bomarito said. "It can be a bit nerve-wracking racing with people that you haven't driven against before but everybody did a great job out there today."

Rounding out the top five was Ryan Justice in the Northwest Autosports Mazda. Justice, who joined Jenkins on the front row, making it an all Portland affair, would jump into the lead on the opening lap and hold the front of the field for the next 14 laps before fading to fifth. "We were really strong on those opening laps and I was able to create a little gap but Scott was able to close up on me when I came upon lapped traffic and work his way past," Justice said. "We had a fifth place car today but we learned a lot and I think this is the start of some strong races for us."

While the action at the front of the field was intense, the drive of the race would have to go to Jonathan Klein in his Andersen Walko Racing Mazda. A mechanical problem in qualifying would have Klein starting in the 34th spot. With the problem discovered and resolved Klein drove like a man on a mission working his way up to 13th by race end. "You just have to focus on one car at a time out there," Klein commented on his approach to working through traffic. "Each car ahead of you is like a carrot being dangled in front of you to chase down. Once you get that carrot you look at the next one and then the next!"

After two rounds Matos leads the championship with 89 points ahead of Jaskol with 77 and Jenkins with 69 points. In Expert Series competition, for drivers between the ages of 30-44, Micky Gilbert maintains the lead, capturing the class victory in his GIlbert Engineering Eurosport Racing Mazda, while in the Masters Series, for drivers aged 45 and older, John Pew extended his lead in the championship with the class victory in his NVG Velocity Motorsports Mazda.

The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear will now travel to the Mid Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, for Round Three of the championship on May 19-21. Round Two from Road Atlanta will be televised on Speed Channel on July 11th at 12:00 PM Eastern Standard Time.

(* The 3 rotor is not Multi-side-ported)

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