ST. PETERSBURG, FL (March 25, 2012) – And so a new, and well-deserved nickname is born; 'The Hawk'… for despite Connor De Phillippi's championship-caliber performance in the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear Spring Training at Barber Motorsports Park (fastest time), pre-race practice for the Grand Prix of St. Pete (fastest in every session), qualifying for Race 1 (on the pole) and Race 1 itself (won the race), it was English racer Jack 'The Hawk' Hawksworth (center), driving the #82 Team Pelfrey / TORGOEN Swiss / EXA Networks Mazda, who left the season-opening Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg with the championship points lead.
Hawksworth, who finished 2nd in Race 1 on Saturday also set the quick time in the race and thus won the pole position for Race 2 on Sunday…. which he promptly converted in to a dominant race win… in his first-ever race on a street circuit. De Phillippi won Race 1 in the #2 Juncos Racing / ModSpace Racing / One24 Mazda, but turned only the 7th-fast lap in the race, thus starting from 7th on the grid for Race 2. And with several major yellow flag sessions breaking up the race, he had no opportunity to build a credible charge to the front and, despite feeling he had a car capable of winning the race, was forced to settle for 5th.
"I had a pretty easy time of it since all the carnage was behind me, though having a race broken up with that many major full-course yellows does make it harder to concentrate and you have to be very careful about keeping the tires up to operating temperature for the re-starts," says Hawksworth. "But the Pelfrey team gave me an immaculate car that was consistent throughout the race and we were able to build a bit of a lead and bring it home well clear of the second-place car."
That 2nd-place car was the #9 JDC Motorsports / Petrosur / GFK Motors Mazda driven by Juan Piedrahita, a former Star Mazda driver who moved back to USF2000 to gain more experience and is not back to demonstrated how well he learned his lessons… quite well, apparently. Rounding out the top-3 finishers was another rising star, Finnish racer Petri Suvanto, the 2011 USF2000 Champion who is racing in Star Mazda with scholarship funding from the Mazda Road to Indy. He brought the #81 Team Pelfrey / Mazda Road to Indy Mazda / RKM Building Mazda home in 3rd for the first podium finish of his U.S. career.
Joining them on the podium was the first finisher in the Expert Series from drivers 30 and older, top AMA SuperBike racer Larry Pegram, making one of his periodic forays from the world of 2-wheel racing to 4-wheels. He won the class in both Race 1 and 2 driving the #72 AIM Autosport / Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery / Foremost Insurance Mazda. "I really want to run with the kids, but while there are some things that are the same about racing a SuperBike and a Star Mazda open-wheel car, there are some instinctive things that you do with a motorcycle that are completely wrong for a car. I just need to get those compartmentalized, and get some more testing, and I think I can give these young hotshoes more of a fight."
As he did in Race 1, Sage Karam, the 2011 Star Mazda Championship Rookie of the Year' put in the drive of the race, though still not producing the results he expected or is capable of. He moved up 5 places to 8th by Lap 2, at which point Canadian racer Jerimy Daniel in the #10 The Racing Company / FixAuto Mazda and Ryan Tveter in the #33 Team GDT / Alpha / Ryan Tveter LLC Mazda tangled wheels in Turn 1, sending Tveter barrel-rolling into the concrete wall, where his car caught fire. While he sprinted smartly toward the fire truck, the small fire was put out and the car removed. Daniel was able to continue until, while still circulating around behind the pace car during the full-course yellow his incident caused, he got caught in an 'accordion effect' with cars ahead and nose his car smartly into the Turn 9 wall… so the full-course yellow got a bit longer. Then on Lap 10, Ashley Freiberg's #91 JDC Motorsports / TrueCar Mazda and Camilo Schmidt's #21 Linares Racing / Mindeporte Mazda wound up side-by-side nose into the tire wall; Schmidt was able to back our and continue, but Freiberg's – after an excellent top-10 finish in Race 1, was done.