Gabby Chaves wins Star Mazda season finale at Petit Le Mans 2012

Gabby Chaves wins Star Mazda season finale at Petit Le Mans 2012

20.10.2012: A tight fight done right - Gabby Chaves drives a flawless race to claim second win from the pole in the Star Mazda Season Finale during Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta 2012



A tight fight done right - Gabby Chaves drives a flawless race to claim second win from the pole in the Star Mazda Season Finale during Petit Le Mans at Road Atlanta 2012

Colombian racer Gabriel 'Gabby' Chaves, finished his rookie season in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear in the best possible way, with a win from the pole that cemented his second-place finish in the championship battle.  It was his second consecutive win from the pole;

 Chaves did it the first time in Race 2 at the previous event at Mazda Raceway and then, like today, he drove a flawless race with a top competitor filling the mirrors of the #19 JDC Motorsports / CLARO / Marca Colombia / Tecpro  Mazda every foot of the way between green and checkered. 

In this case, it was the bright red #88 Andretti Autosport / Comfort Revolution Mazda car of Sage Karam.  He, too, had a nearly-flawless race until - just for 'style points,' as he put it - he spun and continued in turn 7 on the last lap of the 37-lap race. 

Coming home third, and the potential beneficiary of Karam's mistake were it not for the 18-second gap between 2nd and 3rd, was Connor De Phillippi in the #2 Juncos Racing / ModSpace Racing / One24 Mazda.  Trying to make the best of a bad situation that nearly destroyed his car in qualifying yesterday and dropped him to 9th on the starting grid, De Phillippi drove a smart, disciplined race to finish on the podium.

"I knew that as soon as the race started I had clinched second in the championship, but that actually freed me to take an all-or-nothing attitude toward the race; I was going to win it or spin it," says Chaves, who was born into a racing family and is a member of the prestigious 2012 FIA Institute Young Driver Excellence Academy.

 "Even though I led all the way, it was a very tight race with Sage's car always there in my mirrors.  I was fortunate that he was never able to get a run on me and try to pass, which might have worked out well for Connor, but probably not for Sage or I.  I'm so happy to be able to repay the JDC Motorsports team for all their hard work during the season, and my family and sponsors for all their help and faith.  We'll go to the awards banquet tomorrow, take it easy for a few days and then get to work on what I'm going to race next year."

De Phillippi had a similarly forward-looking attitude about his season.  "The season started off just like we wanted, then we hit a really bad patch that tested the Juncos Racing team to the limits.  Like the champions they are, they pull themselves - and me - through it and we're happy to finish the season on the podium. 

Like Gabby, I'm going to be working harder than ever during the off season to make sure my open-wheel career continues on an upward path.  And I'd like to thank Mazda for the tremendous driver development program they put together; without it, I wouldn't be where I am today."

Though there was a considerable gap between the first two cars and De Phillippi, the rest of the field was a tight little scrum of cars battling wheel to wheel in every corner.  The on-track struggle for supremacy between Juncos Racing Team Viso Venezuela teammates Diego Ferreria and Bruno Palli had fans on their feet, as did the similarly no-quarter-given race between Team Pelfrey teammates Petri Suvanto and Gustavo Menezes. 

Zach Veach was higher up in the mix until an unforced spin dropped him out of the top-3 and down to finish 8th, and the multi-car battle between Ashley Freiberg and newcomer Scott Anderson saw them change places several times per lap. 

Throughout the race there were occasional single-car incidents, but every one was a spin and continue that brought out only local yellows.  Despite the close racing, no car hit another car and the race went green from start to finish.

Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear / Race Results / Season Finale at Petit Le Mans


1    19    Gabby Chaves    38    50:59.411            Claro/ Marca Colombia / Tecpro

2    88    Sage Karam    38    51:04.794    5.383    5.383    Comfort Revolution

3    2    Connor De Phillippi    38    51:19.767    20.356    14.973    ModSpace Racing / One24

4    57    Diego Ferreira    38    51:28.716    29.305    8.949    Team Viso Venezuela

5    15    Bruno Palli    38    51:31.001    31.590    2.285    Team Viso Venezuela

6    81    Petri Suvanto    38    51:31.397    31.986    0.396    Mazda Road to Indy

7    83    Gustavo Menezes    38    51:33.064    33.653    1.667    Team Pelfrey / Safety Park / Oakley

8    77    Zach Veach    38    51:35.541    36.130    2.477 / Zakosi Data Backup

9    9    Juan Piedrahita    38    51:40.247    40.836    4.706    Petrosur / Colombia es pasion / GFK Motors / Lamd Link

10    66    Zack Meyer    38    51:47.481    48.070    7.234    Partners III

11    91    Ashley Freiberg    38    51:59.163    59.752    11.682

12    16    Scott Anderson    38    51:59.779    1:00.368    0.616    Laser Nail Centers / Neuropathy Testing Centers

13    97    Juan Camillo Acosta    38    52:01.725    1:02.314    1.946    STF Group / Studio F

14    82    Ryan Tveter    37    51:09.695    1 Lap    1 Lap    CIMIER Swiss Watches / Motorola Mobility LLC

15    53    Andres Mendez    37    51:17.269    1 Lap    7.574 /

16    21    Camilo Schmidt    35    48:38.936    3 Laps    2 Laps   

17    23    Walt Bowlin    34    51:09.055    4 Laps    1 Lap    Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery

In the final analysis, it was English rookie Jack Hawksworth, who (though not competing this weekend) triumphed with 397 points, followed by Gabby Chaves in second with 360.  Sage Karam and Connor De Phillippi tied with 325 points, but third place in the championship goes to Karam by virtue of his three wins to De Phillippi's two.

 Finnish racer Petri Suvanto, the 2011 USF2000 champion who moved up to race in Star Mazda this season with scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy, finished 5th with 271 points. In addition to points for where a driver finishes in a race, one point is also awarded for winning the pole, and one for turning the fastest race lap.  For a full list of points, and how each driver did in each race during the season, click here.

"I think the race was an ideal end to a historic season of growth for the Star Mazda Championship and the Mazda Road to Indy," said series founder and President Gary Rodrigues.  "It showcased extremely close and smart racing between drivers who are fierce competitors but also respect each other.  We have an extremely worthy champion in Jack Hawksworth, and a deserving race winner in Gabby Chaves.  We know they both, along with the other rising stars in this year's field, will make us proud in coming years."

The next item on the agenda for the Star Mazda drivers and teams is an awards ceremony tomorrow at Chateau Elan where prizes valued at $1.2 million will be given out.  Included is the scholarship funding provided by the Mazda Road to Indy that will pay for a full-season drive for champion Jack Hawksworth in the 2013 Indy Lights Championship.

This is the final race of the 2012 season, which saw for the first time a schedule with 17 races on 10 weekends, and included road courses, street circuits and ovals.  More than 25 drivers from eight different countries participated, and the races were broadcast in the U.S. on the Velocity channel and globally on ESPN International.

Peter Frey - photos Star Mazda


20.10.2012 / MaP

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