Englishman Scott Relishes Damp Conditions to Claim Pro Mazda Win
Italian-based RP Motorsport Racing Team Scores First Mazda Road to Indy Triumph
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Harrison Scott, from Chelmsford, England, and RP Motorsport Racing profited from a mistake by Mexican teenager Andres Gutierrez to claim victory in treacherous conditions this morning at Barber Motorsports Park. The Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Alabama Presented by Cooper Tires finished under caution when a light drizzle turned into a little more serious precipitation with the entire Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires field still running on slick tires.
Yesterday’s winner, Parker Thompson, from Red Deer, Alb., Canada, capped an impressive weekend by finishing second for the Canadian-based Exclusive Autosport team. Carlos Cunha, from Campinas, Brazil, rounded out the podium for Juncos Racing.
The picture-perfect conditions of Saturday were replaced this morning by a heavy overcast and predictions of significant rain. Thankfully, despite a few sprinkles prior to the start, everyone started on dry-weather Cooper Tires, with Thompson making full use of his pole position, earned yesterday in qualifying, to maintain his advantage at the green flag.
Scott leapt from fourth on the grid to second on the opening lap, followed by 17-year-old Gutierrez, who had charged from sixth on the grid for Team Pelfrey. Gutierrez’s teammate, Rafael Martins, from Brazil, ran fourth in the early stages, chased by front row qualifier David Malukas (BN Racing) and Dutch rookie Rinus VeeKay (Juncos Racing), who still held the championship points lead following his double victory last month on the streets of St. Petersburg.
After Thompson went wide and lost a couple of positions, the man to watch in the early stages was Gutierrez. As more spots of rain began to fall on the challenging and undulating 2.3-mile road course, Gutierrez placed the vastly more experienced Scott under intense pressure before, on Lap 10, moving alongside on the straightaway prior to Turn Nine and sneaking through on the inside under braking.
Gutierrez looked comfortable in the lead as he actually extended a small margin over the pursuing pack which comprised Scott, Thompson, Martins, Malukas, VeeKay and Cunha. The youngster stayed in front until Lap 21, when the rain intensified just a little more and caught him out under braking for Turn Nine. At virtually the same time, race officials called for the Mazda Safety Car to be dispatched due to the poor conditions.
The race duly finished under caution, with Scott taking the win ahead of Thompson and Cunha, who had recovered superbly after falling from third on the grid to seventh in the early stages. Teammate VeeKay finished fourth, earning himself the Tilton Hard Charger Award after starting from ninth. He was followed across the line by Malukas, Robert Megennis (Juncos Racing), who had closed up onto the tail of the leading train after starting eighth, and the unfortunate Gutierrez.
For the second day in a row, a new team, RP Motorsport Racing, claimed its first PFC Award.
Thompson’s strong weekend has moved him into the championship lead by a four-point margin, 102-98, over VeeKay as the Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires heads next to Indiana for the Royal Purple Synthetic Oil Grand Prix of Indianapolis supporting the Lupus Foundation of America on May 11-12.
Harrison Scott (#10 epicura/Masterpack Innovative Printing-RP Motorsport Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “I am so happy to come away with the victory for myself and the team in only our second round together here in America. We only received the cars in March and so much hard work has gone into this behind the scenes, to be standing in Victory Lane already is great. It was very unpredictable today but being British, we’re used to this weather – a lot of rain and changing conditions. I know what to expect and how to go about it. I started P4 and got into second at the start, going around the outside in Turn 1. I got around Parker but it’s so hard being out in front – you just don’t know how the conditions are evolving. Andres passed me and he was quite quick, but as soon as the rain came down we both slid, though I managed to keep it on the black stuff and come out in the lead. Thankfully, the safety car came out.”
Parker Thompson (#90 Exclusive Autosport Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “It was so tough! I had a little moment out there – I left my tear-offs on and when it started to rain, I didn’t see it. I went into Turn 12 and I’m surprised I’m still standing here. Harrison was adapting to the conditions a little better, which is usually the case when you’re in second place and you can watch the lines the leader is taking. He found more grip and made a very nice pass. We had a car set up for more dry conditions so I’m happy that I kept the car on track, and happy that the yellow came out as it was getting worse by the moment. We’re not looking at points, we’re looking for solid positions. We have the points lead, so it’s all about momentum now.”
Carlos Cunha (#1 Juncos Racing Tatuus-Mazda PM-18): “It was crazy out there, but I like the rain. I’m from Brazil and we have a lot of rain there so I am used to this. I was just trying to be careful, then going faster and faster but trying to relax inside the car and do everything right. We were a little bit lost when the weekend started, and I was trying to find my way on this track but we found a good setup in time for the second race. It’s a long championship and we still have a lot of races. We have a fast car for the next races, so we are getting there.”
About Pro Mazda: The Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires debuted in 2013 as a new series, replacing the Star Mazda Championship which ceased operation in 2012 after 22 years. The series is sanctioned by INDYCAR and owned and operated by Andersen Promotions. It is the second official step on the Mazda Road to Indy Presented by Cooper Tires ladder system with the series’ champion awarded a scholarship package from Mazda to advance to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires competition the following year. For more information, visit promazdachampionship.com.
About Mazda, Mazda Motorsports: Mazda Motorsports boasts the most comprehensive auto racing development ladder system of any auto manufacturer in the world. The Mazda Road to 24 program offers a number of scholarships to advance drivers up the sports car racing ladder, beginning with the Global MX-5 Cup series and culminating with the Mazda Prototype team. The Mazda Road to Indy is a similar program that includes Mazda-powered categories of USF2000, Pro Mazda and Indy Lights. In grassroots road racing, more Mazdas race on any given weekend in North America than any other manufacturer. Mazda is also the title sponsor of the renowned Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Monterey, Calif. Follow all of the latest news at MazdaMotorsports.com, @MazdaRacing on Twitter, and MazdaMotorsports on Instagram and Facebook.
About Cooper Tire & Rubber Company: Cooper Tire & Rubber Company is the parent company of a global family of companies that specializes in the design, manufacture, marketing and sale of innovative, great-performing tires that you can count on to last for thousands of miles, getting you where you need to go, and back again. Cooper is proud to be the spec tire for all three levels of the Mazda Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires, a development program within the Verizon IndyCar Series. Cooper tires can also be seen on the track as a sponsor in the short course off-road TORC Series. Headquartered in Findlay, Ohio, Cooper, with its subsidiaries, has manufacturing, sales, distribution, technical and design operations in more than one dozen countries around the world. To connect with Cooper, visit www.coopertire.com, www.facebook.com/coopertire or www.twitter.com/teamcoopertire.