Rookie Jack Hawksworth's Crowned Star Mazda 2012 Champion
The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear is part of the Mazda Road to Indy, the official driver development program for IndyCar. The 2012 schedule included 17 races on 10 weekends, most in conjunction with IndyCar events. Rising stars from around the world competed on road courses, street circuits and ovals in front of more than a million fans as they raced for prizes valued at $1.2 million, including a scholarship to move up and race in the 2013 Firestone Indy Lights series. The final race of the 2012 season was contested at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Georgia where a race winner and series champion were crowned.
Colombian hot-shoe Gabriel 'Gabby' Chaves, finished his rookie season in the Star Mazda Championship in the best possible way, with a win from the pole that cemented his second-place finish in the championship battle. It was his second consecutive win from the pole. Chaves drove a flawless race with a top competitor filling the mirrors of the #19 JDC Motorsports / CLARO / Marca Colombia / Tecpro Mazda at every turn.
"I knew that as soon as the race started I had clinched second in the championship, but that actually freed me to take an all-or-nothing attitude toward the race; I was going to win it or spin it," says Chaves, who was born into a racing family and is a member of the prestigious 2012 FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy. "Even though I led all the way, it was a very tight race with Sage's car always there in my mirrors. I was fortunate that he was never able to get a run on me and try to pass, which might have worked out well for Connor, but probably not for Sage or I. I'm so happy to be able to repay the JDC Motorsports team for all their hard work during the season, and my family and sponsors for all their help and faith."
The bright red #88 Andretti Autosport / Comfort Revolution Mazda of Sage Karam was tailing Chaves until — just for 'style points,' as he put it — Karam spun and continued in turn 7 on the last lap of the 37-lap race. Luckily an 18-second gap between 2nd and 3rd allowed Karam to retain possession of second place ahead of Connor De Phillippi and the #2 Juncos Racing / ModSpace Racing / One24 Mazda. Trying to make the best of a bad situation that nearly destroyed his car in qualifying and dropped him to 9th on the starting grid, De Phillippi drove a smart, disciplined race to finish on the last step of the podium.
Looking at the big-picture it was Jack Hawksworth's day as the English rookie had already wrapped up the Star Mazda championship crown with 397 points, followed by Gabby Chaves in second with 360. Sage Karam and Connor De Phillippi tied with 325 points, but third place in the championship goes to Karam by virtue of his three wins to De Phillippi's two. Finnish racer Petri Suvanto, the 2011 USF2000 champion who moved up to race in Star Mazda this season with scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy, finished 5th with 271 points.
"I think the race was an ideal end to a historic season of growth for the Star Mazda Championship and the Mazda Road to Indy," said series founder and President Gary Rodrigues. "It showcased extremely close and smart racing between drivers who are fierce competitors but also respect each other. We have an extremely worthy champion in Jack Hawksworth, and a deserving race winner in Gabby Chaves. We know they both, along with the other rising stars in this year's field, will make us proud in coming years."