2001 season review
Star Mazda Series North American Championship Recap 2001 Season Comes To A Successful Close The 2001 edition of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship marked the 11th year of the one-design, entry-level, open-wheel professional road ...
Star Mazda Series North American Championship Recap
2001 Season Comes To A Successful Close
The 2001 edition of the Star Mazda Series North American Championship marked the 11th year of the one-design, entry-level, open-wheel professional road racing series. With its continued success, came new achievements that included not only increases in driver participation and spectator counts, but also remarkably generous contributions to the year-end purse thanks to the support of series sponsors Mazda USA, Goodyear, BBS, Bosch and VP Fuel. After eight races, 408 racing miles and 168 laps, World Speed Motorsports' Scott Bradley, of San Jose, Calif., beat 42 other points-scoring competitors to claim the 2001 Star Mazda Series North American Championship title. It was one of the closest points battles in series history, with the championship undecided as the last race of the season (Oct. 14, at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca) came to a close. In fact, as Bradley was signaled into the victory podium area, calculations were still being made as to who the 2001 Star Mazda champion would be. In the end, Bradley beat rookie-of-the-year winner Marc De Vellis, of Burnaby, B.C., by two points (289 to 287). Finishing third in the championship was Valley Motor Center's Chad Block, of York, Pa. As a support event for the renowned American Le Mans Series (ALMS), the Star Mazda Series schedule included high-profile eight events that attracted nearly 450,000 spectators at various tracks in the U.S. and Canada. From the season-opening date at Texas Motor Speedway, where the lightest spectator counts were registered (approximately 15,000 for the three-day event) to the March 16-18, race at Sebring Int'l Raceway, where an estimated 115,000 people attended the famous road racing event, the series was well received and very popular among the local fans and media. The Sears Point race drew 35,000, while Mosport and Road Atlanta both registered 58,000 enthusiastic spectators. The August 3-5, Portland weekend attracted about 18,000 fans. The Star Mazda Series made two trips to the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, one in September with ALMS and then in October with CART. The combined spectator count was 140,000 for the three-day events. Speedvision televised all eight Star Mazda Series North American Championship races with prime time broadcasts in both the Eastern and Pacific time zones. The series received rave reviews of the 30-minute shows and everyone agreed the racing made for a lot of edge-of-your-seat viewing. In addition to the above-mentioned television schedule, Star Mazda Series drivers were featured in many local media outlets, including newspaper, television and radio. Drivers also participated in local charity events, which often included pre-race media activities. Another popular activity instituted this year was the "Meet The Drivers" program, organized by the Star Mazda Series. At both Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca races, a pre-determined time and location were set where Star Mazda drivers signed autographs and greeted fans attending the races. Both events were very successful and will be continued in 2002. After the racing was over, more than $225,000 as well as various contingency prizes were handed out to the top drivers in the North American and West Coast (separate 13-race series) championships at the awards banquet, this year held at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. With eight top-seven finishes that included two wins, Scott Bradley was crowned North American champion and received a $20,000 check (not including the $2,410 winnings from finishing 14th in the West Division), a new 2002 Mazda Miata, as well as a test drive with BMW Team PTG in a GT-classed, Le Mans BMW M3. For the West Division series, Team Bucknum Racing's Scott Jenkins, of Portland, Ore., was crowned the champion, earning $7,491.94. Jenkins also received $12,000 from finishing fourth in the North American Championship, in addition to the $3,000 prize he'd won earlier in the year after being crowned the Red Line Oil Oval champion. --Jane Anderson