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Mazda support of racing grows in 2012 with "Motorsports Hour," B-Spec competition, and more

Frequently some of the best racing in the world is not in the headline contest but in a weekend's support series featuring the stars of tomorrow. Mazda knows this too well, having helped more developing road racers over the past decade than any other automaker. Now it aims to bring some of that oft-overlooked excitement and drama to the small screen in yet another measure of racer endorsement.

It emerged at the sixth annual Mazdaspeed Motorsports Pre-Season Overview that the company is backing "The Mazda Motorsports Hour" in 2012, a 24-episode arc on the Velocity television network that casts the spotlight on competition in Mazdaspeed's Motorsports Ladder driver development series. The broadcasts will be a regularly scheduled 60-minute weekend show aired on a tape-delay basis from April through November.

The content will be a variety of Mazda-centric series with emphasis on the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, the Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear, and the Cooper Tires USF2000 Championship Powered by Mazda. Award-winning motorsports broadcaster Rick Benjamin hosts the show and joining Benjamin in the booth will be racers Randy Pobst for MX-5 Cup and James Hinchcliffe for Star Mazda and USF2000 coverage; Todd Lewis will be the pit reporter. To find Velocity on your local cable system, go to Velocity.com.

Along with the TV programming, Mazdaspeed's 2012 plans call for continued support of its racers across existing Motorsports Ladder championships, with an expansion on the production/sports car side of the system. This year marks the first for the B-Spec Class, an affordable, accessible motorsport built entirely around showroom stock subcompact, or "B segment," front wheel-drive vehicles. With the aid of the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA), B-Spec groups are set to run on Grand-Am, Pirelli World Challenge and Canadian Touring Car Championship (CTCC) stages in 2012, as well as at assorted SCCA events.

The CTCC involvement is in fact also part of a new program launched by Mazda Canada that offers contingency support to Mazda teams in the touring car series and the Toyo Tires Spec Miata Championship. Furthermore, champions from both will now be included in Mazdaspeed's yearend club racer shootout for a chance at a funded season in the MX-5 Cup.

The growth outlook comes as Mazda concludes another remarkable year in motorsport. Highlights from 2011 include Manufacturers, Team, Drivers and Green X titles for Dyson Racing in the top-tier American Le Mans Series and a Manufacturers championship in the Street Tuner Class of GRAND-AM's Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge. Mazda remains the most road-raced brand in America, a fact aptly illustrated at the 2011 SCCA Runoffs where Mazda outnumbered the combined efforts of Toyota, Nissan and Honda.

Again in 2011, Mazda helped advance the careers of many a hot shoe. Ladder graduates included Skip Barber Champion Scott Anderson, Skip Barber Shootout Champions Tristan DeGrand and Danilo Estrella, MX-5 Cup Champion Michael Cooper, Club Racer Shootout Champion Elliott Skeer, USF2000 Champion Petri Suvanto, and Star Mazda Champion Tristan Vautier. They join the likes of alums Andrew Caddell, Dane Cameron, Adam Christodoulou, Conor Daly, Connor DePhillippi, John Edwards, Nick Evans, Eric Foss, Trent Hindman, Justin Piscitell, Sage Karam, Todd Lamb, Joel Miller, Spencer Pigot, Brad Rampelberg, Jason Saini, Felix Serrales, Scott Shelton, and Court Vernon among others in charting a course under Mazda's guidance.

With the Mazdaspeed Motorsports Ladder and the open-wheel-only Mazda Road to Indy, Mazda has funded 33 seasons of racing for 26 drivers since 2007. Twenty percent of the 2011 Indy 500 field had previously raced in a Mazda series, as names like Andretti, Rahal, Mansell and Brabham all chose to move up through racing the Mazda way.

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