Mazda set for a huge, important weekend at Mazda Raceway

All photos: Mazda Motorsports
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This weekend, it’s a big weekend for Mazda at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, even more than normal.

It always is whenever Mazda heads to its “home track” – yes, its corporate offices are in Irvine, Calif. but Monterey, at Mazda Raceway, has represented the spiritual home for the brand because that’s where it gets its “Zoom Zoom” on on track.

And this weekend has the potential to be overflowing in new and fascinating Mazda story lines across three different series.

Mazda Prototype program has its best chance yet

Start first in the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship, where its two Mazda Prototypes have something they haven’t had the last two years at Mazda Raceway: a chance.

The SKYACTIV diesel program was always a groundbreaking effort for Mazda, in taking road car technology from its production models and putting it into racing.

But with the program always a developmental effort hamstrung by reliability gremlins, and lacking for outright pace when it was running, it was never going to get much in the way of results. Joel Miller and Tristan Nunez overachieved in 2014 before getting taken out but last year, when hopes were higher for the team, neither car made inroads compared to the leaders. Not long after was when rumors began percolating that an engine switch might be in order.

Now with the Mazda MZ-2.0T gasoline engine in the back along with the refined, fully developed chassis, Mazda has four finishes in the last two races – sixth and eighth at Sebring and fourth and fifth at Long Beach – with its No. 55 and 70 cars.

Tom Long
Tom Long

The best part of those results for the SpeedSource-run Mazda Motorsports program, featuring Jonathan Bomarito and Nunez in the No. 55 car and Miller and Tom Long in the No. 70 car, is that they want more – and can taste the prospect of podium or win success.

“The whole team has a renewed amount of energy,” Long said in the team’s pre-race release. “We all see that ‘hey, we’re in this, and we’ve got a shot.’ It’s never been a question of how much hard work and dedication everyone has put forth, but when you see the results on paper – that proof – it really drives the momentum.

“For a driver, to have that confidence to not only to race for the win but to know the team’s behind you and all of the integral pieces are working… that motivation is huge. I’m hoping we have a lot more of that in Monterey.”

GlobalMX5CupThe new Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car makes its series debut

Long heads to Monterey this weekend having also played a hugely valuable – and integral – role in the development of the new 2016 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup car, which makes its series debut this weekend after testing all throughout 2015.

It’s the flagship single-make series for the #MRT24 – Mazda Road to 24 – which is Mazda’s internal sports car ladder program. It’s also just the MX-5 Cup car featured; the prior Skip Barber class was not retained into 2016.

The 2016 Mazda MX-5 Miata has received rave reviews and multiple awards since its 2015 debut, including World Car of the Year. On the racing side, 94 orders have been placed for the $53,000 MX-5 Cup race car. Sixty-four of those orders have already been delivered to customers, with additional deliveries scheduled in the weeks to come. This Friday, forty of those cars will be taking the green flag at Mazda Raceway in the first race of the 2016 Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires. 

John Doonan, director of motorsports, Mazda North American Operations (MNAO), noted, “This MX-5 Cup race weekend represents almost two years of hard work by hundreds of people.  Having great partners like Battery Tender, BFGoodrich Tires, Long Road Racing and the many engineers within Mazda, both here and Japan, makes this a very special weekend. The rush of cars going into turn two on Friday afternoon will be an amazing sight. Those not in Monterey can tune in to the livestream. I predict epic racing action.”

One note on the entry list: Kenny Murillo will fill in for Brent Mosing in the No. 13 ALARA Racing entry.

The first two MX-5 Cup races will be this Friday and Saturday, both at 12:00 p.m. Pacific. Both races will be streamed onwww.mazdalive.com as well as www.iRacing.com and www.fanschoice.tv. A teaser is linked below:

Mazda MX-5 looks for more glory in Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ST class

The road to winning in the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge ST class at Mazda Raceway, understandably, goes through the Mazda MX-5 – which has been the standard bearer of success in class here for the last five years.

Freedom Autosport enters on the heels of a 1-2 last year, when Andrew Carbonell passed Long – there’s that name again – on the final lap to bring he and U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Liam Dwyer their first win as co-drivers. Dwyer and Long won at Lime Rock in 2014 for Dwyer’s first career win.

The win was made extra special because Dwyer’s fellow Marine Staff Sergeant Aaron Denning, the man who saved Dwyer’s life in Afghanistan, was on site during the weekend.

And for good measure, it was Carbonell’s third straight win at the track. He’s finished on the podium there every year since 2009.

Andrew Carbonell
Andrew Carbonell

“It’s almost a phenomena,” Carbonell laughed. “I don’t have a good explanation for it. It’s crazy!”

The Freedom 1-2 last year with Alara Racing (Christian Szymczak and Justin Piscitell) made the second straight Mazda MX-5 podium sweep.

Additionally, Mazda’s win streak and Freedom’s have coincided. They’ll look to extend it to a six-pack this weekend with three entries: Carbonell and Dwyer in the No. 26 car, defending series champions Chad McCumbee and Stevan McAleer in the No. 25 car and Danny Bender and Britt Casey Jr. in the No. 27 car.

Alara’s pair of Szymczak and Piscitell make it four Mazdas entered this weekend.

2023 SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston: Eli Tomac retakes 450 lead, Hunter Lawrence tops 250s

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After his Anaheim 2 crash, Eli Tomac was surprised he was not injured, but despite getting knocked down momentarily, he picked himself up, rode to last week’s win and reascended to the top of the SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. This is the third time in three weeks Tomac has topped the rankings.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jason Anderson has back-to-back podiums to his credit and sits second in the Power Rankings. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

Last week, Tomac finished second in his heat before winning the Main – and that translated to near-perfect points in the Power Rankings, which award 100 for a win in the feature and 90 for a heat victory. Tomac’s average was marred by the Houston accident when he finished 13th in that heat before settling just outside the top five in overall standings. Racing is about bouncing back and last year’s Supercross and Motocross champion Tomac did just that as he chases a third consecutive title.

Jason Anderson earned his second consecutive podium finish with a third at Houston. He momentarily rolled past Aaron Plessinger into second during a restart following an accident involving Dylan Ferrandis and held that position for four trips around the track until he was tracked down by Chase Sexton. Afterward Anderson faded and finished 12 seconds off the pace, but along with a heat win, he easily leapfrogged Ken Roczen and Cooper Webb, who struggled in the fourth race of the season.

MORE: Eli Tomac rebounds from Anaheim 2 crash with Houston win

Webb held his position by passing Roczen in NBC’s SuperMotocross Power Rankings after Houston. Webb has been solid in 2023 with a worst moto result of seventh in the first Triple Crown race at Anaheim 2, but in order to be considered a solid challenger to Tomac he needs to win either a heat or main this week in Tampa.

Roczen was involved in the incident that sidelined Ferrandis in Houston. Racing for eighth at the time, his bike may have sustained some damage when Ferrandis landed on his back tire, but he was not overly impressive in his heat either with a fifth-place finish. That was enough to drop him three positions in the standings, but he still has Tomac in sight.

After his disappointing heat in San Diego when he crashed and sustained enough damage to place him last, Sexton has roared back. He won the overall in Anaheim 2’s Triple Crown format and narrowed the points’ gap slightly on Tomac. Last week he yarded the field in his heat race and won by a wide margin. A modest start in the Main kept him from getting to Tomac’s back wheel early in the Houston round, and he lost a little ground in the championship.

450 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Eli Tomac
[3 Main; 3 Heats Wins]
85.20 2 1
2 Jason Anderson
[2 Heat Wins]
82.60 4 2
3 Cooper Webb 82.10 3 0
4 Ken Roczen 81.70 1 -3
5 Chase Sexton
[1 Main; 3 Heat Wins]
80.70 6 1
6 Dylan Ferrandis 71.60 5 -1
7 Aaron Plessinger 71.30 8 1
8 Justin Barcia 70.10 7 -1
9 Justin Cooper 68.00 NA
10 Adam Cianciarulo 67.40 9 -1
11 Joey Savatgy 61.20 10 -1
12 Marvin Musquin 61.00 10 -2
13 Malcolm Stewart
[1 Heat Win]
58.75 11 -2
14 Christian Craig 57.20 13 -1
15 Colt Nichols 56.50 14 -1
16 Dean Wilson 49.30 15 -1
17 Justin Hill 39.67 18 1
18 Shane McElrath 36.33 22 4
19 Brandon Scharer 34.00 21 2
20 Logan Karnow 33.33 19 -1

Supercross 450 Points


The 250 East division debuted in Houston and with only one race – and therefore no chance yet to stumble – three of their riders jumped to the top of the chart.

Hunter Lawrence had a perfect week with wins in both his main and heat. It wasn’t without drama, however, as he was forced to jump wide early in the feature to avoid contact with Tom Vialle, who was making his Supercross debut. Without a former 250 champion in the field, it is guaranteed someone new will grace the top of the box at Salt Lake City after the season-ender and it looks like it’s going to be Lawrence’s to lose.

SuperMotocross Power Rankings Houston
Jordon Smith’s last podium before Houston came four years ago in Detroit. – Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media

It was more than four years ago that Jordon Smith scored his last Supercross podium in Detroit. Despite finishing second that afternoon, he was battling a wrist injury that eventually sidelined him. More injuries have followed, but Smith was a favorite to win the title in 2019 and he’s shown how well he can ride when he’s healthy.

Debuting third in the Houston SuperMotocross Power Rankings, Max Anstie moved from the 450 class last year to 250s in 2023 and the change has gone better than he anticipated. Finishing second in both his heat and main, Anstie was edged by Smith because he finished second behind that rider in their heat. That is Anstie’s first top-10 since finishing sixth at Southwick, Massachusetts last year on his 450. In that race, he scored fifth-place results in both motos.

Supercross 250 Points

Haiden Deegan proved the hype surrounding his graduation into the 250 class was well deserved and he landed fourth in his division and fifth overall in the SuperMotocross Power Rankings. In his first professional Supercross race, he finished fourth in his heat. In a field with twice the talent, he finished fourth again in the main. At Houston, he balanced aggression with patience. Now that he has a taste of that success, everyone will be watching him closely at Tampa to see if he can continue tiptoeing on the line.

Michael Mosiman, Jeremy Martin, and Vialle are tied for fifth in the 250 East division and seventh overall.

Vialle is the most notable of these three because he challenged for a podium position during the Main before making a mistake and falling in a turn. Significantly, this was not only his 250 debut, but his first time in Supercross. As with Deegan, he has generated a lot of attention for the coming weeks.

250 Rankings

This
Week
Rider Power
Avg.
Last
Week
Diff.
1 Hunter Lawrence – E
[1 Main; 1 Heat Win]
95.00 NA
2 Jordon Smith – E
[1 Heat Win]
90.50 NA
2 Max Anstie – E 90.50 NA
4 Jett Lawrence – W
[2 Main; 2 Heat Wins]
89.13 1 -3
5 Haiden Deegan – E 81.50 NA
6 Cameron McAdoo – W
[1 Heat Win]
77.63 2 -4
7 Mitchell Oldenburg – W 77.00 3 -4
7 Michael Mosiman – E 77.00 NA
7 Jeremy Martin – E 77.00 NA
7 Tom Vialle – E 77.00 NA
11 Stilez Robertson – W
[1 Heat Win]
76.75 4 -7
12 Chance Hymas – E 74.50 -12
13 Levi Kitchen – W
[1 Main Win]
73.75 5 -8
14 RJ Hampshire – W
[3 Heat Wins]
70.00 6 -8
15 Max Vohland – W 69.29 7 -8
16 Cullin Park – E 66.00 NA
17 Chris Blose – E 65.50 NA
18 Derek Kelley – W 63.75 8 -10
19 Enzo Lopes – W 63.25 9 -10
20 Pierce Brown – W 61.29 10 -10

* The NBC Power Rankings assign 100 points to a Main event winner and 90 points for each Heat and Triple Crown win, (Triple Crown wins are included with heat wins below the rider’s name). The points decrement by a percentage equal to the number of riders in the field until the last place rider in each event receives five points. The Power Ranking is the average of these percentage points over the past 45 days.

POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 3 AT ANAHEIM 2: Consistency makes Ken Roczen king
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 2 AT SAN DIEGO: Roczen moves up, Chase Sexton falls
POWER RANKINGS AFTER WEEK 1 AT ANAHEIM 1: Eli Tomac, Jett Lawrence gain an early advantage