Mazda Champion: Ben Albano

“I think the series is a great launching point for anyone that really wants to become a racecar driver, either club or pro,” says Ben Albano of the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Challenge, of which he was the 2013 champion. “As far as the instructors and the feedback you get from them, it really provides a great learning experience and allows anyone in it a great base platform to become a better racecar driver. It’s very competitive and it’s pretty realistic as far as what you’re going to see later in your racing career.”

After starting in indoor karting then moving to outdoor karting, high school student Albano began looking for the next step in 2012. The Skip Barber Summer Series was the step that made the most sense for him.

“I couldn’t really find an alternative. Just the ease of operation of Skip Barber and the way they coach you into becoming a better driver,” he explains.

“For me it was just a matter of learning. I didn’t come into the championship thinking I was going to win. It was really just a learning experience and I was able to synthesize all the information given to me by the instructors and all the corner workers and even the mechanics. I was able to combine all that into my driving experience and it really helped me thrive in the series.”

Albano didn’t win that first year, but he also had some pretty stiff competition like Kenton Koch and Bryan Hixon to battle against. He obviously learned a thing or two just as intended, and came away with the championship in 2013. A lot of that is thanks to a great weekend at Mid-Ohio.

“It’s definitely one of my favorite tracks. It combines all the aspects of a track with a long back straight and also some tight sections. I won three of four races – I ended up doubling that weekend because I missed one due to illness. Mid-Ohio was a great place for me. It was also raining for one of the races and racing in the rain is a completely different ballgame”

The next step is the MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge, the series within the Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich that uses the Skip Barber MX-5s, as he seeks to follow 2013 champ Koch up the ladder. The eventual goal, even as he works to choose a college, is professional sports car racing and, within 10 years, the 24 Hours of Le Mans. He plans to stay on the Mazda ladder as long as he can as he works his way through the grassroots pro series.

“It’s been very beneficial to a lot of drivers that have gone through the ladder system. Many successful drivers have gone through the Mazda ladder system,” he says.

Look for Albano in the MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge in 2014 when it kicks off its season at Sebring International Raceway on March 12-14.