TWICE THE TRIUMPH
Mazda nabs wins in both of North America’s premier sports car series on the same day
Racing can be a heartless companion, capable of such intense temptation, heartbreaking disappointment and jubilant celebration. The key is to weather the low spots and milk the highs for all they’re worth.
August 7, 2010 was a high note for MAZDASPEED, as customer teams captured the checkered flag in two prestigious North American series at two iconic circuits.
In the American Le Mans Series’ Mid-Ohio Sports Car Challenge at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, it was the stuff of movies for Dyson Racing -- the classic plotline of a tired driver and eager car holding a late-race charge to take not just the LMP class, but the overall victory as well.
Chris Dyson held off Patrón Highcroft Racing’s Simon Pagenaud by a thin 0.506 seconds in the race. Dyson and Guy Smith each won overall in the Series for the first time, as did their Castrol-liveried, Mazda-powered No. 16 Lola B09/86 coupe running on isobutanol.
Dyson Racing has been suffering the heartbreaking side of racing in recent months so the Mid-Ohio result was a real shot of adrenalin for the whole team. It was Mazda’s first Prototype class win in the ALMS; the team fielded an LMP2 car last season.
After Intersport Racing’s Clint Field dominated for the first two hours, Dyson led the final 24 laps of the 119-lap race in one of the best races the Series has seen.
The team was bringing Dyson in for the team’s final pit stop when the race went under its second caution period. The car exited pit lane right as the pits closed, and the Patrón Highcroft HPD ARX-01c ducked in three laps later once the pits had reopened, putting the No. 16 Dyson Racing BP Mazda on point to stay.
The script-writers were at full boost in New York state as dramatics were the order of the day in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series’ Crown Royal 200 at Watkins Glen. And the team at center stage in the GT class was right at home in the limelight, Dempsey Racing, owned by actor Patrick Dempsey.
The stars of the show at the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen were co-drivers James Gue and 2009 Rolex Series GT champion Leh Keen in the No. 41 Mazda RX-8 for Dempsey Racing/Team Seattle. Keen made the most of a restart with fewer than 15 minutes remaining and fought his way past the No. 70 Castrol Syntec Mazda RX-8 of Jonathan Bomarito to take the lead.
From there, Keen quickly sped away to score the first Rolex Series GT class victory for Dempsey Racing and Gue. Keen described the scene as "pretty intense" as he chased down Bomarito, while his mirrors were being filled by Jeff Segal in the No. 69 Mazda RX- 8 and John Edwards in the No. 68 Mazda RX-8.
"Really, the last 10 or 15 minutes of the race, it's always a total dogfight," said Keen. "Everybody is 110 percent, borderline about to crash. It's an exciting time of the race and then to be able to make a pass for the lead, it's definitely very exciting."
It was an exciting finish befitting of the team co-owned by Dempsey and Joe Foster. And while Dempsey wasn't at Watkins Glen to co-drive the team's No. 40 Mazda RX-8with Foster or celebrate with the team on this occasion, he was definitely thrilled with the victory.
"I've had a busy summer working on Grey's Anatomy, Flypaper and Transformers 3, and it's caused me to miss several races," said Dempsey. "I keep up with Joe and the team on a daily basis and certainly feel like my presence is felt in the shop every day as it always has been. In fact, I call so much that I bet I bug them sometimes!
“I just like to keep current on what is going on now and - just as importantly - on how our long-term plan for the future is progressing. We took a big step in fulfilling those plans with the team's first victory."
The victory was also special for Gue, who has visited Victory Circle three times in the GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, but hadn't tasted Rolex Series victory champagne until the Crown Royal 200 at The Glen.
"I'm really excited to get my first win in the Rolex Series with Dempsey Racing/Team Seattle," Gue said. "We came close to winning the six-hour race (at Watkins Glen) earlier in the year, so to come back and win at Watkins on the short course is really satisfying."
Mazda RX-8s took no prisoners at The Glen claiming first, second, fourth, sixth, seventh, eighth, and tenth places in the race. After 10 of 12 races, Mazda racers are looking for a potential clean sweep of the 2010 GRAND-AM GT championships – driver, team, and manufacturers.
The top four GT drivers are all Mazda RX-8 racers. SpeedSource FXDD RX-8 Teammates Jeff Segal and Emil Assentato are tied for first, having scored two wins and nine top-four finishes in the first 10 races. They hold a slim four-point advantage over Sylvain Tremblay, and 23 points over Jonathan Bomarito.
Mazda teams are currently ranked first, second, and third, while Mazda leads the manufacturers’ championship over Chevrolet, Porsche, BMW, and Ferrari.