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Star Mazda Series: Round 6 and 7
Submitted by Dan Mazzella on Sunday, July 17, 2005 - 9:58pm

July 17, 2005. Sonoma, California. Wrapping up an intense double race weekend at Infineon Raceway, James Hinchcliffe of Oakville, Ontario, Canada, captured Round Seven of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear this afternoon in his Emexis Racing AIM Autosport Mazda to earn his first series victory, edging out Raphael Matos by 1.033 seconds at the end of the 25 lap event. Joining Hinchcliffe and Matos on the podium was round seven polesitter, and winner of the first race of the weekend, Pablo Donoso.

Hinchcliffe, who posted the second fastest time in Sunday's qualifying session, was penalized one starting position when he missed the pre-race driver's meeting, but shot into the lead on the opening lap, diving inside Donoso and Matos as the green flag came out. "As we took the green flag it looked like Pablo was focused on protecting his position from Raphael and I was able to slide through ont he inside to take the lead," Hinchcliffe explained. "I had really wanted to start on the outside, as that sets you up for the inside of turn two, so losing the second starting spot motivated me at the start of the race."

As Hinchcliffe was jumping into the lead, Matos was able to take his Ocean Tomo Racing Mazda into second place ahead of Donoso as they came into turn two. He would pursue Hinchcliffe for the remainder of the event but could not gain any ground. "James drove a great race today and was able to keep a consistent gap between us throughout the race," Matos said. "My car started out well but got loose as the race went on as the rubber from the different series ahead of us today, as well as the heat, made the track a little different from yesterday's race."

Donoso, in the Cristal Beer Andersen Walko Racing entry, captured the pole positions for both races, setting a new track record for Sunday's race, but was disappointed to not be able to bring the car home in the top spot once again. "After winning yesterday I really wanted to win again so a third place finish is not what I hoped for," the Santiago, Chile-native explained. "Yesterday my car had understeer which I prefer, but today the car would oversteer through turn six and I wasn't able to attack for position."

Finishing just off the podium was SAI Hydraulics Andersen Walko Racing driver Robbie Pecorari, who was also battling a loose car during the race. "Early in the race the leaders were able to open up a gap to me and I had some space behind me but the car was really loose," the Aston, Pennsylvania-resident said. "I tried different settings with my sway bars and worked on different lines through the corners to see if I could gain a tenths of seconds anywhere around the track."

Making his first top five finish in the series was the youngest driver in the series, Adrian Carrio. The sixteen-year old from Monument, Colorado, driving the Rockford Fosgate World Speed Motorsports entry would move up from seventh on the grid to the fifth spot. "This was my first top-five but it won't be my last," explained an excited Carrio. "I was running on my own for a lot of the race and just had to focus on hitting my marks and keep running fast laps to see if the opportunity to move up would happen. I have to thank my parents, sponsors and everyone at World Speed Motorsports for all their work this weekend."

Round Seven marked the opening of the second half of the season and James Hinchcliffe hopes this victory will start a run to the championship. "It feels great to have the victory under our belts and it seems like AIM Autosport has picked up momentum lately with their first pole position at Pikes Peak, podium finish here yesterday, and today we have our first victory," he stated. "There's a lot of racing left and this series has so many competitive drivers that that we have to stay focused on our goals for the season but a win is nice."

With seven of the twelve rounds complete Matos remains in first place with 277 points, Pecorari holds onto second place with 241 and Hinchcliffe sits in third with 234 points. In the expert series championship, for drivers aged 30-44, Micky Gilbert captured the victory in his Eurosports Racing Mazda and continues to lead the championship with 123 points while Mike Anderson is currently second with 97 points.

In the Masters Championship, for drivers aged 45 and older, Doug Peterson would come out on top in his 3-Dimensional Services Mazda to earn his third Masters class victory of the year. John Pew would finish third on the day in his Velocity Motorsports Mazda to keep his place atop the championship with 110 points, while John Faulkner sits second with 106 points and Peterson third with 101 points.

The series now heads north to Portland, Oregon, for Round Eight of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, joining the American Le Mans Series for the American Le Mans Series Portland Grand Prix on July 28-30. Round Six from Infineon raceway is scheduled to be broadcast on Speed Channel on August 7th at 2 PM Eastern Time while Round Seven will be aired one week later on August 14th at 1:00 PM Eastern Time



Round Six
Pablo Donoso earns first victory of season at Infineon Raceway

July 16, 2005. Sonoma, California. Pablo Donoso, of Santiago, Chile, went wire-to-wire in his Cristal Beer/Andersen Walko Racing Mazda to record his first series victory in Round Six of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear today at Infineon Raceway. Donoso, under fire from series points leader Raphael Matos in the closing laps would pull away to a 2.055 second victory over fellow series rookies Marco Andretti and James Hinchcliffe, when Matos suffered a mechanical problem on the final lap.

Donoso, a protege of former Formula One and IndyCar Driver Eliseo Salazar, credits a computer game with helping him on his first visit to the circuit. "This year is my first season racing in the United States and I have been learning the circuit from a NASCAR game on my computer," Donoso explained. "I would spend several hours a day driving the track so when I got here it was like I already had hundreds of laps on the track." The experience paid off as Donoso was able to hold off the hard-charging Andretti in the early laps and series points leader Matos in the closing laps to capture his first victory in the United States.

The race for the podium became a two lap shootout when the full-course caution flag flew on lap 20 as both Graham Rahal and Phil Saville suffered spins in different locations on the 2.53-mile circuit. The green flag came out once again on lap 23 with Donoso leading Matos by two-tenths of a second with Andretti and Hinchcliffe poised to strike if the opportunity arose. Halfway through the final lap they would get their chance as Matos' Ocean Tomo Racing Mazda suffered a hesitation in turn seven allowing both drivers to slide past before Matos could recover.

Andretti, from Nazareth, Pennsylvania, driving the Vonage/Best Buy/Hersheys MJ Motorsports Mazda, had an inspired drive in the first of two races at Infineon Raceway this weekend, jumping from fifth on the grid to the second position on the opening lap and leading the charge to catch Donoso for much of the event. "We had to make a guess on the setup for the race as we had missed the final practice session yesterday so to finish up here on the podium feels pretty good," Andretti explained. "I could tell something was wrong with Raphael's car as we came into turn seven on the last lap and we almost hit, but I was able to avoid him and move back into second."

James Hinchcliffe, of Oakville, Ontario, Canada, would finish also work his way past Matos on the final lap to make his first appearance on the podium. "Everybody at AIM Autosport has worked really hard all season to get us onto the podium and after qualifying on pole at Pikes Peak and leading the first sixty laps of that race only to come up short in the final fifteen, it is nice to come back with a podium," Hinchcliffe said. "The Emexis Racing Mazda was working great today and I'm looking forward to the race tomorrow."

Despite his brief mechanical bobble, Matos, from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, was able to recover and bring his car home in fourth place, one position ahead of his closest championship competitor Robbie Pecorari. "We still aren't sure what happened out there," Matos said afterwards. "We had a similar problem in qualifying and the car the crew had given me a great car once again for the race. I was chasing down Pablo at the end when it cut out on me in turn seven and Marco and James got through, but once I completed the corner it came back to life. It's disappointing to give up a podium but we were still able to increase the championship lead."

Rounding out the top-five for the first race was Aston, Pennsylvania-based driver Robbie Pecorari in the SAI Hydraulics/ Andersen Walko Racing Mazda. Pecorari, the winner of the previous round at Pikes Peak International Raceway, was battling an oversteering car for much of the race. "My car was so loose it was like riding a bull," Pecorari said. "I think we just went too soft with the bar."

As the series reached the halfway point Matos continues to lead the championship with 237 points while Pecorari sits in second place with 207. Hinchcliffe jumps into third place with 190 points while Rahal, who was able to continue to a 31st place finish after corner workers helped his car off the curbing, falls to fourth place with 184 points. Andretti jumps into the top five now with 182 points.

In the expert series championship, for drivers aged 30-44, Huntington Beach, California resident Brian Thienes in the Hearn Motorsports Mazda earned the victory and moves into third in the championship with 80 points while Golden, Colorado native Micky Gilbert finished second in his Eurosports Racing Mazda to maintain first place in the championship with 103 points. Mike Anderson remains second in the championship with 81 points.

In the Masters Championship, for drivers aged 45 and older, John Faulkner would bring his Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda at the front of the field for the second consecutive event but remains in second place with 94 points as championship leader John Pew would finish second in the event to finish the first half of the season with 96 points.

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