In the first day of track action at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Robert Noaker (No. 13 Robert Noaker Racing) turned the quickest lap in qualifying for rounds three and four of the Idemitsu Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires.
Technical difficulties at the temporary street circuit caused the cancellation of the first Mazda MX-5 Cup practice session on Friday morning. The schedule was adjusted to give the field a single 40-minute practice session, putting first timers at even more of a disadvantage with minimal track time before qualifying.
Experience paid off and Noaker, who raced and won at St. Petersburg in 2020, and who claimed pole position with a 1m24.753s. Noaker’s 2020 win was part of the series finale and his last bid for the championship, but he came up short and finished runner-up. Noaker stepped back from MX-5 Cup racing for more than a year before returning this season at Daytona.
“I wasn’t really concerned about the limited track time,” Noaker said. “The last race I ran in the MX-5 Cup was actually here two and a half years ago. I love this track. Daytona wasn’t exactly where we wanted to be, but we’re trying to pick up where we left off and there are some differences to the car with upgrades. We did some testing between here and Daytona and felt pretty good coming into here, so when we found out about the limited track time we were kind of happier than other people because we knew we were better off than them. I just want to thank Velocity Mazda, Slipstream Performance and all the crew at Robert Noaker Racing. Without any of them this wouldn’t be possible.”
Noaker will share the front row for Saturday’s round three race with Connor Zilisch (No. 72 Hixon Motor Sports), who’s best finish at St. Pete was second in 2022.
Round three goes green at 7:55am ET on Saturday. Round four is slated for 4:45pm ET. Both races will be streamed live on RACER.com and IMSA.com/tvlive.