Mazda podium sweep in Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge and the largest MX-5 Cup race highlight the weekend.
The 2.2-mile racetrack just outside Monterey, Calif., city limits has carried the name Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca since 2000. But this weekend it was more like Mazda MX-5 Raceway.
On Saturday afternoon, U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer and his teammate Andrew Carbonell grabbed victory in the ST category of the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge (CTSCC) in their MX-5 racecar. This was the fifth-consecutive victory at Mazda Raceway for Freedom Autosport, whose Mazda MX-5 cars finished first and second. Carbonell passed leader Tom Long just two turns from the end of the final lap to take the checkered flag.
Dwyer, who lost his lower left leg and suffered many other severe injuries when he stepped on an IED in Afghanistan in 2011, had a special guest at the track, Sgt. Aaron Denning, the man who saved Dwyer’s life and earned the Bronze Star for valor for his efforts. This was his first time seeing Dwyer race. Denning threw the green flag to start the race and was the Grand Marshal for Sunday’s TUDOR United SportsCar Series race.
In the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge, four Mazda MX-5s filled all but one of the top five positions in a class filled with Porsches, BMWs, Hondas and MINIs.
|1st||Freedom Autosport||Mazda MX-5||Liam Dwyer / Andrew Carbonell|
|2nd||Freedom Autosport||Mazda MX-5||Britt Casey Jr./ Tom Long|
|3rd||ALARA Racing||Mazda MX-5||Justin Pisctitell / Christian Szymczak|
|5th||C.J. Wilson Racing||Mazda MX-5||Stevan McAleer / Chad McCumbee|
The win propelled Dwyer and Carbonell to third in season points.
Other Mazda highlights from the weekend included:
- Mazda SKYACTIV Prototype Progress – For the second time in four races, the Mazda SKYACTIV Prototype led the race. The No. 70 car of Tristan Nunez and Jonathan Bomarito started eighth and took the lead after the 45-minute mark, heading the field for seven laps. They finished sixth in class and seventh overall, matching the best-ever finishes for the Prototypes. The No. 07 car of Tom Long and Joel Miller started ninth but retired with mechanical problems.
- The weekend’s races included a doubleheader for the Battery Tender® Mazda MX-5 Cup Presented by BFGoodrich Tires. The Sunday MX-5 Cup race included a class for 20 National Auto Sport Association (NASA) champions competing for the title of Mazda NASA Champion. With a total entry of 48 cars, this was the largest MX-5 Cup race in the 10-year history of the series. MX-5 Cup wins were captured by John Dean II and Patrick Gallagher. In the Skip Barber MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge class, the winners were Sam Adams and Ben Albano. The NASA checkered flag was captured by Matthew Powers.
- This weekend saw the first-ever public on-track appearance of the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup racecar. Mazda racers Tom Long, Andrew Carbonell and Kenton Koch tested the car extensively in the Thursday and Friday practice sessions.
- Representatives from Project Yellow Light were on-hand ahead of the announcement of the 2015 Hunter Garner Scholarship winners on Monday, May 4. Mazda Motorsports has partnered with Project Yellow Light since 2012 to help educate young drivers on the dangers of distracted driving with Mazda racers acting as safety ambassadors. Mazda racer Ben Albano presented Project Yellow Light a check for $4,600, money raised from a high school karting competition.