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Old 04-22-2007, 01:00 PM
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Arrow Houston: Mazda preview


SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 Takes Top Five Finish at Hometrack

The Grand Prix of Houston -- Five Races With a Common Theme: Zoom-Zoom

April Sees Mazda Racers On The Road From Coast-to-Coast

The Grand Prix of Houston will roar back to JAGFlo Speedway at Reliant Park this weekend, but the Grand Prix isn't a single race. Rather, it's a three-day weekend showcasing the best of American sports car and open wheel racing. Each race is unique, but they all share a common link: Mazda, including three races that are 100% Mazda.

The Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda continues to be the premier open-wheel development series in North America. Now in its 34th season, the championship is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into Champ Car competition and has helped produce past Champ Car champions Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve. Recent Champ Car competitors include Alex Tagliani, Andrew Ranger, Katherine Legge, and A.J. Allmendinger. 2006 Series champion Simon Pagenaud and runner-up Graham Rahal also join the Champ Car ranks this season. Competing in Swift 016.a chassis powered by a 2.3-liter Mazda-Cosworth MZR engine while riding on Cooper Tires, competitors will fight for the 12-race championship and the unique $2 million Champ Car series champion's bonus. Houston will be round three for the series as the drivers chase points leader Raphael Matos who has won the first two races.

One step below the Atlantic Championship, the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear has become among the most competitive open-wheel development series in North America. The Pro Formula Mazda features a carbon-fiber chassis, six-speed sequential gearbox, and a 240-horsepower Mazda rotary powerplant, virtually identical to the production engine used in the Mazda RX-8 street car. The Championship is twelve races long, all broadcast on SPEED Channel in prime time. Recent series graduates include Marco Andretti, Raphael Matos, Graham Rahal, and Adrian Carrio.

The ideal first step for professional sports car racers is the SCCA Pro Racing SIRIUS Satellite Radio Mazda MX-5 Cup which begins its second season at Houston. Twenty-six identical Mazda MX-5s will go bumper-to-bumper in action that almost always generates close racing with frequent passes. New hardware for 2007 are Kumho Victoracer V700 tires and new dampers from ZF Sachs. A rookie to watch is 18-year old Andrew Caddell who won his car in a Mazda sponsored shoot-out among SCCA Runoffs champions who race Mazda powered cars.

In "open" competition, the rapidly developing B-K Motorsports Lola B07/46 Mazda MZR-R will once again go head-to-head against Porsche and Acura powered racers in the American Le Mans series LMP2 class. At the Long Beach race, the team suffered with problems in qualifying before storming through the field from last to third overall and second in class, within 30 laps. The great run was then set back by 10 laps while the team chased an electrical problem. The team is looking for a strong finish in the Saturday night race in Houston.

Finally, in the Champ Car World Series, Mazda is guaranteed to lead at least a few laps as Mazda is the official car of both the Champ Car World Series and the Grand Prix of Houston. Mazda will pace the field to the green flag as well as any laps run under caution.

Where else is Mazda racing in April & May?

* Koni Challenge round three at Iowa Speedway, on April 20th - 22nd (Mazda MX-5 and RX-8).

* NHRA Sport Compact drag racing round two, at Virginia Motorsports Park, on April 21st - 22nd (MAZDA6).

* Grand Am Rolex GT round four with Skip Barber rounds three and four at Virginia International Raceway, on April 26th - 29th (Mazda RX-8).

* The annual Mitty vintage races will feature historic Mazda racers, and round two of the MX-5 Cup at Road Atlanta, on April 27th -- 29th.

* Beginning the 50th anniversary celebration of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, racers will converge in Monterey, California on May 18-20 for the U.S. Sports Car Invitational delivered by Luggage Express. The weekend will feature the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series, the KONI Challenge, and the Mazda MX-5 Cup.

* On that same weekend, you'll find Mazda racers participating in the ALMS round five, SCCA SPEED World Challenge Touring Cars (MAZDA6) round two, and IMSA Lites (Mazda MZR powered) round two at Miller Motorsports Park, on May 18th - 19th.

On any given weekend, there are more Mazdas on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle. At the track, you'll see MX-5 Miata, RX-8, MAZDA3, MAZDA6, RX-7 and other vintage Mazda models competing, because every Mazda has the Soul of a Sports Car. In fact, the fastest growing road-racing class in the U.S. is the SCCA's Spec Miata class, with nearly 1,500 first- and second-generation Miatas tearing up America's racetracks, making it the most-raced production car in the world. Mazda's involvement in motorsports extends to its relationship with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one of the world's premier road-racing circuits, and the Skip Barber Schools for driving and racing.

Headquartered in Irvine, Calif., Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers. Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.

-credit: mazda motorsports

Source: [url=http://www.motorsport.com/news/article.asp?ID=249406&FS=ALMS-LEMANS]Motorsport.com[/url]
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