Grand AM Rolex Series Championship Weekend
Mazda nabs third in Grand AM Rolex manufacturer points
The Grand AM Rolex Series Championship Weekend not only signaled the end of the 2012 season it also marked the end of an era for Mazdaspeed and Mazda racing. The finale at Lime Rock Park was the last professional event for SpeedSource's Mazda RX-8 GT race car.
Since hitting the track in 2007, the SpeedSource-built Mazdas have achieved every measure of success including 18 race wins, numerous pole positions and the 2010 Grand-Am GT Championship. Impressively, two of those race wins came at the grueling Rolex 24 at Daytona. At Lime Rock the SpeedSource car was adorned with a commemorative hood, listing each of the victories and the drivers who achieved them.
The #70 Castrol ModSpace Mazdaspeed RX-8 GT closed out the 2012 campaign with an 11th place finish in the event that featured a short, two-day format with qualifying and the two hour, forty-five minute race on Saturday.
The weekend got off to a good start for the SpeedSource team, setting quick times in practice. Unfortunately, SpeedSource driver Sylvain Tremblay suffered a crash in qualifying, but not before setting the fourth fastest time. The top-caliber SpeedSource crew was able to repair the front-end damage with time to spare before the race start.
Trouble would strike again, however, just before the green flag fell. An off-track excursion on the warm up lap left the #70 Mazda trapped in the wet grass. The race started under caution due to the incident. Tremblay was able to rejoin the race with little mechanical damage, but lost a lap in the process. To make matters worse, GRAND-AM incorrectly scored the car two laps down. Regaining the lost time would prove difficult on the tight, 1.5-mile course. Tremblay worked up to 13th place before handing the car over to Jonathan Bomarito. The team gained another position before being punted off track by a fellow GT competitor. The contact sent the #70 nose first into the Armco barrier. The impact caused significant driver's side bodywork damage.
Once back on course, Bomarito continued running consistent lap times and benefiting from other team's misfortunes. The #70 Castrol ModSpace MazdaSpeed RX-8 GT car would take the checkered flag in 11th position.
This result was just enough for Mazda to retain their third place position in the 2012 GRAND-AM Rolex GT Manufacturer's Championship, a scant three points ahead of Porsche. Jonathan Bomarito and Sylvain Tremblay ranked fourth in driver's points while SpeedSource also took fourth place in the team standings.
The RX-8's last trip to victory lane was at none other than Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, when Dane Cameron and Wayne Nonnamaker gave Team Sahlen's its first-ever GT class win. While it may be the end of the road for the RX-8, which concluded production in 2011, the rotary will live on in the Star Mazda Championship next year.
"Lime Rock will be the end of a chapter, but not the book, for the Mazda rotary," said John Doonan, Mazda Motorsports director. "While rotary production is on hiatus in Hiroshima, the program is far from dead. Work continues on the next-generation rotary engine, and we look forward to sharing information about it with the public when we can.
While the career of the iconic matte-black SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 has come to a close, it marks the beginning of an exciting new racing program as the team is set to field a new SKYACTIV-CLEAN DIESEL powered, GX-class racer at the 2013 Rolex 24 at Daytona on January 26th.