New engine, no problem for Matthew Brabham. The runaway leader in this year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires was forced to run a fresh SpeedSource Mazda rotary engine in his No. 83 MAZDASPEED/Team Andretti Autosport entry after his engine was collected for a routine verification yesterday evening. It made no difference as the 19-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla., once again won convincingly this morning in the second leg of the Allied Building Products Grand Prix of Toronto.
Brabham stayed with his team until almost 11:00 pm on Saturday night while they worked to install the fresh motor, then was allowed a solitary “hardship lap” at 7:55 am this morning to ensure that all was well. It was. Brabham made a fine getaway from the standing start – a first for Pro Mazda this season – and soon began stretching his margin over the remainder of the field.
“The team has worked so hard all year and it has all been coming together for us, and I am absolutely enjoying it while it lasts. I can’t thank the team enough. To have everything go to plan today and not have any problems on the track was fantastic. It was a great weekend for us in the championship and right now I am speechless. It has been awhile since I have done standing starts and after watching IndyCar’s attempt yesterday, I was a bit nervous and my foot was shaking on the clutch a little bit. I just wanted to get a good start and be safe and not jump it or have any problems. I really like standings starts. It’s exciting for everyone – the fans, the drivers and the teams. I have to thank Mazda for giving me the opportunity to do this year, Allied Building Products for supporting the race and all the Toronto fans. This race has a great atmosphere.”
Scott Anderson initially gave chase for Juncos Racing before making a mistake in Turn 1on lap 2 and slipping to the back of the field. Colombian Juan Piedrahita (JDC MotorSports) stepped into the breach but was unable to keep pace with Brabham, who stretched his advantage by more than a second per lap.
Diego Ferreira, in the second Juncos Racing entry, finally found a way past Piedrahita on lap 5but was unable to make any impression on the leader. The Venezuelan’s hopes were raised by a full-course caution on lap 16 after Spencer Pigot’s miserable weekend with Team Pelfrey ended with contact against the wall at Turn Three, but once again Brabham was in a class by himself at the restart, posting a series of fastest race laps before taking the checkered flag five seconds to the good. Brabham’s seventh successive win catapults him to a 65-point margin over Ferreira in the battle to earn a scholarship to graduate into Firestone Indy Lights via the Mazda Road to Indy for 2014. It also leaves him just one shy of the single-season record of eight established by last year’s champion Jack Hawksworth.
Ferreira finished as runner-up for the second straight day, while Brazilian Nicolas Costa once again took third for Team Pelfrey after passing Piedrahita on Lap Nine, only to be penalized 25 seconds at the end of the race for having overtaken a lapped car under yellow flag (no-passing) conditions. Costa’s penalty dropped him to sixth place and elevated Piedrahita to the final podium position.
Zack Meyer (JDC MotorSports) made a bold maneuver to pass Shelby Blackstock (Andretti Autosport) on lap 2 and held off a strong challenge from Kyle Kaiser (World Speed Motorsports) in the final stages with both drivers claiming career-best top-five finishes.
Walt Bowlin claimed expert honors for the second straight day, finishing a lap down in eighth for M1 Racing.
Contingency awards included the Quarter Master Hard Charger Award which went to Kaiser for advancing five positions, the Staubli Award to Meyer and the PFC Award to the winning team of Andretti Autosport.