From the climbing esses to the Boot to victory lane, Mazda’s Road to 24 was well on display this weekend at Watkins Glen International.
The Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires has long proven to be a great place for drivers to develop their speed and racecraft as well as further their sports car careers. This past weekend saw several current and past series drivers compete in IMSA competition at Watkins Glen International resulting in some noteworthy finishes.
The Global Mazda MX-5 Cup overall champion takes home $200,000 to put toward their budding career.
2017 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup Champion Patrick Gallagher earned $275,000 – after also winning the series’ Global Challenge – and is now competing full time in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge alongside his previous Global Mazda MX-5 Cup team owner, Chad McCumbee.
Saturday’s Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race saw Gallagher and McCumbee take their first overall victory of the season after starting from the outside pole position.
“Chad (McCumbee) did a great job all day and the guys at Multimatic and ModSpace gave us a good rig, so hats off to them and all the guys in the heat changing our tires,” said Gallagher. “We were knocking on the door of a win at Mid-Ohio and I’m glad we finally got one here. I’d have liked to win at Mid-Ohio being a Buckeye, but I’ll take this one too.”
The TCR category of the IMSA CTSC saw several familiar faces including Bryan Ortiz, Tom Long and Kenton Koch.
Serving as Global Mazda MX-5 Cup development driver and driver coach, Tom Long found himself returning to IMSA competition at the Glen as he stormed to a TCR class victory – his second of win of the season.
“During the opening laps of the final restart I was able to pass for the lead and never looked back,” said Long. “It was an exciting dash to the finish where everyone was in full-on sprint mode. Watkins Glen is a physically demanding circuit and combined with the extreme heat and the sprint pace to the finish it was really intense. Pulling into the winner’s circle felt so sweet after the ups and downs of the season so far.”
Competing in IMSA competition for the first time this year was Ortiz who is currently sitting second in the 2018 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup championship after winning the opening race of the season at Circuit of the Americas along with two following podium finishes.
Ortiz, who was on board a Volkswagen Golf GTI TCR machine, came home with a fifth-place result in his first IMSA CTSC outing of the season.
“We ended the race P5 after my teammate having to serve a penalty that put us a lap down that we couldn’t recover from,” said Ortiz. “I got in the car for almost the last two hours and never gave up even knowing it was impossible to get in the same lap as the leaders, but it was an awesome opportunity to get to drive this weekend.”
Also competing in the TCR category was 2014 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup champion Kenton Koch. Koch who has spent the majority of his career competing on board Mazdas — Mazda Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Powered by Mazda and IMSA Prototype Challenge Presented by Mazda Series – had his first entry of the season in CTSC competition where he finished fourth in the TCR class driving an Audi RS3 LMS.
Finally, 2017 Global Mazda MX-5 Cup alumni Max Faulkner returned behind the wheel of his Porsche Cayman competing in the ST class to secure a third-place result – his third podium finish of the 2018 season.
“P3 was a solid result but not what the team deserved,” said Faulkner. “A 2-mph mistake in pit lane led to a drive through penalty towards the end of the race and took away our chance for the win we wanted. But Bodymotion Racing did a great job as always so big thanks to them for giving us a car capable of winning.”
“Since 2007, Mazda has prided itself in being THE brand that gives young drivers a clear path to the top of the motorsports world,” said John Doonan, director, Mazda Motorsports. “Today, the Mazda Road to 24 and the Mazda Road to Indy are world-recognized and world-acclaimed programs that have allowed dozens of drivers achieve their dreams. The Continental Series race at Watkins Glen was an absolutely perfect example of the fruits of our labor and a true validation of our strategy. Huge congrats to Chad, Patrick, Britt, Tom and the race teams that got them to victory lane. Days like that, when the graduates of the Mazda system have success, make us very proud.”
The next round of Global Mazda MX-5 Cup competition will continue with Rounds 7 & 8 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on July 27–29.