30 Cars Headed To Sebring For Doubleheader Opener
Mar. 13, 2012 - SEBRING, Fla. - The SCCA Pro Racing Playboy MX-5 Cup Series opens 2012 with a maiden voyage to Sebring International Raceway and a doubleheader at the 60th Anniversary Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida.
Dean Copeland is just one driver with a shot at this year's title (Weber photo)
Each of the drivers in the field are chasing the series’ ultimate prize – a Championship win and the MAZDASPEED prize of a funded ride higher up the motorsports ladder next year. An Atlanta Motorsports Group driver has taken the prize the past three seasons, with defending champ Michael Cooper, of Syosset, N.Y., stepping into a MAZDASPEED3 Touring Car in Pirelli World Challenge for 2012.
Among the many teams hoping to wrestle the title away from Atlanta Motorsports Group in 2012 is a five-car effort from CJ Wilson Racing. The team, owned by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pitcher of the same name, has been chosen by MAZDASPEED Driver Development ladder driver Elliott Skeer, who will drive the No. 17 MAZDASPEED/Sparco/Milgard Windows & Doors/Pelican Windows & Remodeling Mazda MX-5. Skeer won the MAZDASPEED Ladder Shootout for club racing champions last December as a 17-year-old, and will be joined by rookies Stevan McAleer (No. 28 CJ Wilson’s Children’s Charities/Blue Mercury Capital/RUfocused.com,/Sambo Website Design MX-5), 19-year-old Emilee Tominovich (No. 19 TrueCar MX-5) and second-year driver Charles Paquin (No. 27 CJ Wilson Racing MX-5). The team has also announced an extended team partnership with ModSpace, with Ari Strauss driving the No. 29 Monticello Motor Club/ModSpace MX-5 at Sebring.
ALARA Racing returns with an effort that currently sits at five cars. The team is headed by Playboy MX-5 Cup veteran Ara Malkhassian in the No. 11 ALARA Racing machine, rejoined by fellow veterans Tim Probert (No. 26 ALARA Racing MX-5) and Harrison Williams (No. 00 Albrecht & Associates/Morgan Keegan MX-5). The veteran trio is joined by series rookies Brent Mosing (driving the No. 10 Frank’s International machine piloted last season by his brother, Jeff) and Lyonel Kent, a three-time race winner who returns to the team to pilot the No. 12 MX-5 at Sebring.
While Cooper has moved on, Atlanta Motorsports Group is bringing two drivers back to the series. Dan Bender, driving the No. 06 Atlanta Motorsports Group MX-5, and Alfred Caiola, driving the No. 9 B&L Management MX-5, will be on hand at Sebring for the team.
The series isn’t just retaining veteran teams, but adding new ones. A combined effort from ProMoMo Speed and Sick Sideways has two cars at Sebring, including former open-wheel racer Christian Szymczak in the No. 34 Sick Sideways Mazda. Joining Szymczak is a pro racing rookies from Sebring and at his home track: John Dean in the No. 16 Projections Research/Sick Sideways Mazda MX-5.
There is a good chance that the multi-car teams may end up chasing a single-car competitor for the season, however. Dean Copeland, driving the No. 7 Copeland Motorsports MX-5, won back-to-back races a season ago at Lime Rock Park and Road America to demonstrate his potential to win races at significantly different race tracks. The team has made some investments in new equipment this season, may add a teammate for Copeland, and have eyes on contending for a title after finishing fourth in the points a season ago.
Plenty of other single car teams are in on the action, though. Randy Hale is a series veteran and returns in the No. 83 Hole In The Wall Camp MX-5. Beth Chryst returns in the No. 2 Chryst Motorsports MX-5 after her rookie season in 2011. Christian Tetzlaff got a taste of the series a year ago and returns in his own No. 23 Lanier Tech/MAZDASPEED MX-5. Richard Picut returns in the No. 6 LIQUFLOW MX-5, and two additional rookie drivers are joining the series, with Nathan Sparks driving the No. 3 OOTSK Performance MX-5 and Tom Neel driving the No. 15 Parts Group/NEO machine for their first seasons as pro racers.
In addition to the more than 20 cars already scheduled to compete in the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup, an additional eight cars will participate in the Skip Barber Racing School MAZDASPEED Pro Challenge. The arrive and drive program features identical MX-5 machines with slightly fewer modifications than the Playboy MX-5 Cup class, providing a stepping stone for drivers wishing to enter into the pro ranks and running as a separate class in the race.
Mechanically, all MX-5 Cup cars will remain essentially stock, as delivered from the dealer, with only bolt-on modifications to the intake and exhaust systems. While the stock MX-5 Miata produces 170 hp, an MX-5 Cup car will produce in excess of 200 hp. All MX-5 Cup vehicles will be equipped with a six-speed manual transmission and may be run with the optionally available limited-slip rear differential.
Suspension will incorporate a fully-adjustable coil-over kit with double-adjustable shock absorbers and specified spring rates, as well as adjustable anti-roll bars front and rear. All cars will run a 17x8” wheel of a specified weight – again, to level the field and minimize costs, as well as the spec BFGoodrich g-Force R1 Tire. Additionally, brake pads, fluid and lines will be upgraded to racing components.
All MX-5 Cup cars will run with full safety equipment, including an eight-point roll-cage welded into the car, a racing seat, racing seatbelts and will incorporate a fire-extinguishing system.
As always, all components for the cars will be sold directly through MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development, which also supports the program monetarily with contingency awards to successful drivers.
Sebring International Raceway
17-turn, 3.7-mile road course
Race 1: Thursday, March 15, 11:10 a.m. EDT
Race 2: Friday, March 16, 8:00 a.m. EDT
Race 1: Thursday, March 15, 5:10 p.m. EDT
Race 2: Friday, March 16, 12:00 p.m. EDT
Race Length: 45-minute timed race.
Track records will be established in 2012. This is the first visit of the Playboy MX-5 Cup to Sebring International Raceway
This is the first visit of the Playboy MX-5 Cup to Sebring International Raceway.
Television: Playboy MX-5 Cup races will be televised as part of the Mazda Motorsports Hour on Velocity Network.