LEXINGTON , Ohio. – Anthony Martin, from Perth, Australia, scored a narrow victory over title rival Victor Franzoni, from Sao Paulo, Brazil, this afternoon in the first of three races which will comprise the Cooper Tires Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products. The pair are now separated by just three points as they chase a Mazda Scholarship worth over $790,000 to assist in the progression to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the final step on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
Californian TJ Fischer rebounded from a disappointing weekend at Road America last month to complete the podium for Team Pelfrey.
Qualifying this morning for Round Seven of this year’s Pro Mazda Championship Presented by Cooper Tires threw up a surprise as Fischer’s young Brazilian teammate, Carlos Cunha, claimed the pole position ahead of title rivals Martin and Franzoni, who came into the weekend separated by just seven points after each winning three times in the opening six rounds.
After the first attempt at a start was waved off, Cunha edged away cleanly at the second time of asking, but he led only as far as Turn Four where a bold move to the inside under braking enabled Martin to claim the position. A close-following Franzoni also took advantage of his countryman’s loss of momentum to sneak through into second place.
The two leaders quickly stretched their lead, trading fastest laps as they edged away from Cunha, who in turn was unable to shake off Fischer.
Martin and Franzoni were never separated by more than a second, even as they worked their way past some slower traffic, but Martin maintained the upper hand to win by just 0.3847 second, securing Cape Motorsports its fourth Pro Mazda race win in succession at Mid-Ohio dating back to 2015 and yet another PFC Award.
The battle for third was just as intense until Lap 18, when Cunha inadvertently made contact with the lapped car of Jeff Green (Juncos Racing) at Turn Two. Cunha, who had been struggling with excessive understeer, was assessed a drive-through penalty but ended up losing only one position to Fischer – and still finishing ahead of the third Team Pelfrey car of Nikita Lastochkin, who had started a lowly seventh.
Max Hanratty (ArmsUp Motorsports), from Milwaukee, Wis., claimed sixth place and the Staubli Award following a race-long battle with Kris Wright (JDC MotorSports), from Pittsburgh, Pa.
Bob Kaminsky from Homer Glen, Ill., finished eighth overall and won the National Class for the third time this season, closing to within one point of Brendan Puderbach in the point standings.
Another qualifying session at 8:35 a.m. tomorrow will set the grid for this weekend’s second and third races, which will be held at 1:05 p.m. on Saturday and 10:20 a.m. on Sunday.
Anthony Martin (#8 Mazda/Burgess BLA-Cape Motorsports): “It was a perfect day – we just have to do that two more times this weekend! It’s a “one down” type feeling today, since we’re only halfway through our season. I have to focus forward and get as many points as I can. I got a good run on Carlos coming out of the Keyhole and was able to get to the inside of him, though I think the right side of my car was in the grass. It was quite slippery under braking but I was able to get past. I locked it up going through the corner but I was able to gather it up and go on my merry way. It was hard having someone filling up your mirrors so you have to focus on making no mistakes. It’s hard to pass here so I just had to be fast in the places he was fast. The Capes have done well here in the past so that gives me the motivation to push hard because I know I have the equipment to do it.”
Victor Franzoni (#23 Juncos Racing): “The points are really even now so we have to go for the win and try to increase that again. But today really came down to qualifying. The track changed so much between practice and qualifying and we were lost. The whole Juncos team sat down after qualifying and they gave me a great car to race. I was faster than Anthony but I couldn’t pass him. I had to let off to get a gap so I could get the point for the fastest lap. But we have found the car and are fast again and that will be important for the rest of the weekend.”
TJ Fischer (#82 Project O2-Team Pelfrey): “It’s been a very challenging weekend so far, so thanks to the Pelfrey team for working so hard. I hung in there during the race and was able to get by Carlos. We’ll hit the reset button and plan for qualifying tomorrow – two laps there will change your world, since Race Two goes off your quick lap and Race Three goes off your second quick lap. You have to bank not one, but two good laps so now that we’re in a good position, we’ll do our best to get to the front.”