MX-5 Cup Benefit: Driver Steward

Andrew Carbonell and Tom Long were the two primary development drivers for the 2016 Mazda MX-5 Cup car. For the 2016 season, Mazda Motorsports asked Mr. Carbonell to pull double duty: In addition to continuing his chase for the IMSA Continental Tire Series ST Championship in the No. 26 Freedom Autosport Mazda MX-5, he is serving as a Driver Steward for the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich® Tires.

To elaborate what a Driver Steward’s responsibilities are, we turned to Andrew Carbonell:

As many racers are already aware, a Driver Steward acts as a middleman between a sanctioning body and the drivers. As the Driver Steward for the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup Series, it will be my job to offer a driver’s perspective and provide fair, unbiased observations when determining the ruling for an incident. Decisions will be made in the moment as well as afterwards, when we can review video and data.

All of that sounds very official, but what’s great about it is that I’m not an official! I’m here to help both the drivers and the series. I won’t be issuing penalties—that is the chief steward’s job when applicable. I’m here to give advice based on what I see during on-track incidents, using my experiences in racing to help evaluate each situation. And if you do get penalized, I’ll be there to talk to you about how you can avoid that kind of setback during similar situations in the future.

I look forward to this, as it is my first time acting as a Driver Steward’ however, with eight years of experience as a pro racer and 12 years of racing overall, trust me, I’ve been there before; I’ve got a good idea of what’s right and wrong.

Like the saying goes, you’ve got to be one to know one. You have to be around the sport for a long time to understand this! Having a Driver Steward really helps sort out the details, and it helps the series determine the correct penalty for every unique situation. You can’t give a penalty without looking at the circumstances, and there are a lot of factors to consider. For one thing, how severe are the incidents? Mild, moderate, or severe? Penalties have to be handed out consistently. There are also racing incidents—things that aren’t necessarily someone’s fault—and only experience can help anyone learn the difference between those.

When I say unbiased, I mean it! I realize that in the heat of a race, any driver is prone to getting a little over-excited. Don’t worry about that, so tell me how you really feel! Venting to me about a ruling doesn’t affect how I judge a situation. I’m here to analyze the situation as if it was me in that car and will use my knowledge and experiences from over the years to give an unbiased opinion on the matter.

When you see me at the June Sprints or a future event, come over and say hi. Consider me one of your at-track-resources, and don’t wait until we’re discussing a ruling to get to know me! I’m here not only for Mazda and the series, but for you the drivers, and my goal as your Driver Steward is to help make the Idemitsu MX-5 Cup Series as fair, safe and competitive as it can possibly be.