Christian Szymczak is on the verge of a clean sweep in Sebring. The driver from Palos Verdes, Calif. ran way with the win in Race One of the SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup at Sebring International Raceway, part of the 61st Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh From Florida.
In 15 laps driving the No. 34 ALARA Racing MX-5, Szymczak managed to put nearly two seconds between himself and the second place car of former teammate and Sebring native John Dean.
“It's been a very good week for us,” Szymczak said. “We started out on the right foot. We were fast in testing. We've been trying to work with the car with my new team, ALARA, and they've done a fantastic job. We've got a really good engineer over there that knows how to set these cars up. The car has been working fantastically since day one.
“It was a great battle with Nathanial for the first few laps. He was in the draft and I thought it was going to be a great battle. And then John was right there and making a big charge. That was a little scary. I just had to keep my head together and make consistent laps and that's exactly what I did. I feel very fortunate to be able to win.”
Dean, in his No. 16 Projections Research/PPG MX-5, was able to come home second. In the process, Dean also set the race lap record with a 2:30.727 (89.327 mph).
“We had a good race. It feels so good to be up here as a team with Nathanial Sparks and Christian,” Dean said of sharing the podium with the two drivers that were his teammates in 2012. “It's a little bittersweet with Christian—it came one year too late.
“Early on in the race, I missed a gear coming out of the hairpin and lost a lot of ground. Had a good battle with Ara [Malkhassian] for a while,” Dean said. “I was able to get back up and get in a draft with Nathanial. We were able to work together and get away from the other guys. Sparky was able to point me by and give me the road to try and drag him up to the front. But Christian was really strong today. He had great pace. Congratulations to him for the win.”
Nathanial Sparks, from Spanish Fort, Ala., followed his Sick Sideways Racing teammate to the stripe to take third. Sparks, in the No. 8 OOTSK Performance/Bimmerworld MX-5, was in front of Dean for the first half of the race before falling back to third. Sparks then slotted-in behind his teammate in an attempt to run down Szymczak, who was enjoying the clear track.
“I had a pretty good start,” Sparks said. “I launched and it all just worked out. Filed in ahead of my teammate John Dean and was able to finish basically the way we started: two-three. I had a good start, the car ran really well and I can't believe how fast we were running out there. We were all pushing it. It was really incredible.
“John had a little bit of pace on me, so it was better to fall in line with him and try to run down Christian. Unfortunately, that didn't happen.”
Elliott Skeer, of Vista, Calif., was able to finish in fourth, the same position he started. However, Skeer, in the No. 17 MAZDASPEED/Pelican Windows/NewBalance/Phiten MX-5, had to make the pass under series veteran Ara Malkhassian in the exit of Turn 17 on the last lap.
Malkhassian, from Houston, had a solid run in the No. 11 ALARA Garage/ALARA Racing MX-5, scoring a series record 27th top-five finish.
Kenton Koch, of Glendora, Calif., cruised to a victory in the MAZDASPEED Skip Barber Pro Series. Koch drove the No. 21 SB MX-5 to victory by more than 13 seconds over Drake Kemper.
Results will remain provisional until technical inspection clears on Friday.
Round Two of the Mazda MX-5 Cup will take place Friday at 4:30 p.m. (EDT).
Follow the Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup on Twitter @MazdaMX5Cup.
SEBRING, Florida - Results from Thursday's 15-lap, 56.1-mile SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup Round One race, part of the Mobil 1 12 Hours of Sebring Fueled by Fresh from Florida at Sebring International Raceway, with finishing position, class, starting position in parentheses, driver, hometown, car, laps and reason out (if any).
1. MX, (1), Christian Szymczak, Palos Verdes, Calif., MX-5, 15.
2. MX, (2), John Dean II, Sebring, Fla., MX-5, 15, -1.767.
3. MX, (3), Nathanial Sparks, Spanish Fort, Ala., MX-5, 15, -4.422.
4. MX, (4), Elliott Skeer, Vista, Calif., MX-5, 15, -9.165.
5. MX, (5), Ara Malkhassian, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 15, -9.386.
6. MX, (8), Patrick Gallagher(R), Thornville, Ohio, MX-5, 15, -14.178.
7. MX, (10), Sebastian Landy(R), Great Falls, Va., MX-5, 15, -19.305.
8. MX, (6), Bryan Hixon(R), San Antonio, Texas, MX-5, 15, -19.634.
9. MX, (17), Forrest Landy(R), Great Falls, Va., MX-5, 15, -47.535.
10. MX, (11), Scott Phillips(R), Tucson, Ariz., MX-5, 15, -47.568.
11. MX, (13), Tim Probert, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 15, -47.785.
12. MX, (14), Harrison Williams, Houston, Texas, MX-5, 15, -48.267.
13. MX, (18), Ari Strauss, Cold Spring, N.Y., MX-5, 15, -49.467.
14. MX, (12), Beth Chryst, Herndon, Va., MX-5, 15, -49.711.
15. MX, (16), Brent Mosing, Lafayette, La., MX-5, 15, -1:01.544.
16. MX, (19), Christian Tetzlaff, Athens, Ga., MX-5, 15, -1:26.515.
17. MX, (9), Chris Windsor, Thurmont, Md., MX-5, 15, -1:26.998.
18. MX, (20), Charles Paquin, Ottawa, Ontario, MX-5, 15, -2:07.059.
19. MX, (15), Emilee Tominovich, Clarksville, Md., MX-5, 15, -2:13.162.
20. MX, (7), Dean Copeland, Bowie, Md., MX-5, 11, Mech.
21. SBMX, (21), Kenton Koch, Glendora, Calif., Barber MX-5, 15.
22. SBMX, (24), Drake Kemper, Toluca Lake, Calif., Barber MX-5, 15, -13.142.
23. SBMX, (25), David Knight, Ludlow, Vt., Barber MX-5, 15, -21.134.
24. SBMX, (22), Robby Foley, Randolph, N.J., Barber MX-5, 15, -33.322.
25. SBMX, (26), Russell Muck, Grosse Pointe, Mich., Barber MX-5, 15, -35.922.
26. SBMX, (27), Greg Holloway, Melbourne Australia, Barber MX-5, 15, -1:03.940.
27. SBMX, (28), Fred Chin, Henderson, Nev., Barber MX-5, 15, -1:07.179.
28. SBMX, (23), Lucas Bize, New York, N.Y., Barber MX-5, 6, Mech.
Time of race: 37 minutes, 50.472 seconds.
Average speed: 88.950 mph
Margin of victory: 1.767 Seconds
Lap leaders: Laps 1-15, #34 Christian Szymczak
Fastest race lap: #16 John Dean II, 2:30.727 (89.327 mph), Record
Fastest qualifier: #34 Christian Szymczak, 2:29.865 (89.840 mph)