Hello everybody! Thanks for taking some time to read about my first blog on my journey through the Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich. I got into the series by winning the NASA Teen Mazda Challenge West, which resulted in being invited to the Mazda Club Racer Shootout. I was very fortunate to have won the Club Racer Shootout, and be awarded a full ride in the Mazda MX-5 Cup. I recently had my rookie race in the SCCA Pro series, and would like to share with you some of my thoughts.
The first race of the Mazda MX-5 Cup was held at Sebring International Raceway. It was my first time to the Sebring track, which made everything very new to me. Being a rookie to the series, as well as to the track, made for a learning experience all the way through. The whole week I was just absorbing everything I could. Coming from only doing regional club races in the past to now sharing the weekend with the TUDOR United Sports Car series was a big culture shock! I was very happy to see that the field for the Mazda MX-5 Cup class was at its record, 27 cars. It was sure to make for a competitive race.
The week went well for me, I learned quite a bit about the series, what makes a good performance, how the series operates, and how the CJ Wilson Racing team operates. In the first few on-track sessions, I was just trying to learn the flow of the track and get comfortable on the unfamiliar course. When it came time for qualifying, I struggled a bit, placing myself 10th on the grid. I pushed hard in the races, finishing in the top 10 in both, and setting the fastest lap in Round 1.
Racing in this series is definitely a lot about qualifying; it’s pack racing for the whole 45 minutes, so you need to be up front from the start of the race. Consistency is a crucial factor as well. Making a small error behind the wheel can mean instantly being passed by one or more cars. It’s a chess game between the drivers the whole race, always defending your position to the car behind, while at the same time trying to pass the car right in front of you. I would say it’s quite an intense 45 minutes of racing, from green flag to checker.
These lessons that I learned at Sebring will come into play for the rest of the season, and I hope to find myself on the podium in the coming races. I’m learning how to set up the car, working with the CJ Wilson Racing crew. It’s been a great pleasure to work with these guys. I get along very well with my teammates, we have fun together off track and, on track, we really push each other to do our very best. I, as well as the rest of the team, are very motivated to do well this season. We struggled a bit at Sebring, but we have pinpointed most of the issues and we will bounce back for the next rounds at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, and the rest of the year.
I don’t forget that this year MAZDASPEED is providing me a rare opportunity to progress in racing, and I want to make sure that I don’t let it go to waste. I owe many thanks to MAZDASPEED, BFGoodrich® Tires, SCCA Pro Racing, Sunoco Fuels, Sparco and CJ Wilson Racing for giving me this exciting opportunity.