Saini Secures TC Rookie Title in Tri-Point MAZDA6

Jason Saini scored second place in the final corner and secured his Rookie of the Year title in the Mosport round of the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship on Sunday. After 28 laps of intensely close racing, Round Nine was won by MAZDASPEED driver Michael Galati of the Tindol Motorsports team after running away with the second half of the race. Tri-Point driver Jim Daniels ran most of the race in seventh, and crossed the line in 6th after a last-lap crash took BMW driver Seth Thomas out of contention. Unfortunately, Daniels' No.75 MAZDA6 was disqualified in post-race technical inspection for being too low. Charles Espenlaub battled a persistent handling issue throughout the race and finished 11th.

When the champagne corks were popped in Winner's Circle, Jason Saini was not only celebrating his third podium finish in his debut SPEED Touring Car season, but his newfound status as the 2008 Rookie of the Year. Before reaching the podium though, Saini had to contend with the boys from Realtime, bent on securing the manufacturer’s title for Acura.
“It was a tough race for me, with constant pressure from the Realtime bunch - Our Mazdas have the least displacement in the field, and on the long back straight here it showed. I couldn't make even a little mistake or they would be through. Knowing the implications for the manufacturer's battle, I wanted to make sure I kept those Acuras behind me.”
While keeping an eye on the rearview mirror, Saini was also watching the 4-car BMW and Mazda brawl in front of him between Bimmerworld and Tindol, which seemed on the verge of explosion for the entire race.

“All race long Seth was very aggressive in the last few turns; he had tried a move on Galati several times before Herr ended up in front of him. In fact, he tried it enough times that he should have known it wouldn't work! I sensed something was going to happen up front, I just didn’t know I’d have to wait the whole race to see it. Seth tried a dive-bomb on the last lap, went into the wall, and I was through along with Cunningham - unfortunately Mazda's hopes for a repeat of the manufacturer's title were over.”


It wasn’t all bad though, as Saini crossed the line in second, he clinched the Rookie of the Year title with one race remaining. “It's a dream come true!” exclaimed Jason, “I have to thank Mazda for the amazing MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder. The opportunity to drive with a top team like Tri-Point is just awesome; the team works so hard, and frankly they haven’t had the year they deserve with all their hard work. To validate Mazda's commitment to bring talent up through the ranks by finishing the way we have is so important. Whether I end up fourth or fifth in the championship, it will be a successful year for me - I'm just looking forward to another track I know well at Road Atlanta - with a bit of the pressure off we can go for the win and have a great battle there!”


Unfortunately, for the rest of the Tri-Point squad, Round Nine proved less fruitful. After qualifying the No. 75 MAZDASPEED/StopTech/Racing Hart MAZDA6 in 7th, Jim Daniels was determined to bring home a podium finish for Mazda. However, his forward progress was impeded by an exhaust leak early in the race that required all his concentration just to stay in contention.


"It was about as hot and as tiring and as difficult a race as I've run in about 5 years, championship events or not! I don't know if I had a cracked header or what, but I started getting strong exhaust fumes in the car and my eyes started burning early in the race. That made it a challenge not only to hold off some of the best drivers in the country, but to drive down the straightaway with one eye closed and one hand out the window scooping some fresh air in.


"After all the hours the crew put in this week, I'm very disappointed for the team after working till 11 or 12 each night that I couldn't get a fast lap, or mix it up out there more to pay them back for their hard work."
Daniels' car would ultimately be disqualified during the post-race tech inspection for being too low, likely the result of hitting a curb in Turn Five. Daniels remained upbeat despite the setback. "The DQ should not erase all the hard work the guys did this week, trying to find every hundredth of a second out on track. I learned a lot as a driver this week, and we're going to come out to the finale in Atlanta with a strong car and see what we can do."


Teammate Charles Espenlaub struggled a bit during the race to maintain pace, as his No. 73 Mazda Touring Car suffered from a handling issue that left Charles fighting to make up valuable tenths of a second on his rivals. He lamented, “The car had just a little less front end grip than we needed, so I could only match the lap times of the guys up front if I over-drive the car and even then, only for a lap or two.


“In World Challenge, there isn’t a team out here who isn’t trying their hardest to beat the next guy, so you have to be 100% dialed in 100% of the time or you’ll suffer. The car or the driver can’t be off at all without other drivers making a mistake or the pace car coming out. I’m confident the guys will have the car nailed down when we get to Atlanta. I can’t wait!”


The Tri-Point squad is heading back to their Canoga Park headquarters for nearly a month of MAZDA6 TLC, as they prepare for the final showdown of the 2008 SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car Championship season at Road Atlanta.


Info

Sunday’s SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge Touring Car race from Mosport airs Wednesday, August 27th at 12:00pm Eastern on SPEED. The series now heads to the Petit LeMans at Road Atlanta for the final round of the SCCA SPEED Touring Car series, October 1-4, 2008.


Sponsors

The Tri-Point team is proudly supported by the following sponsors whose involvement is critical to the team’s 2008 efforts and continued success.


Mazda, MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development, Racing Hart, Comptech, Sachs, Stop Tech, Sparco, Chase Cam, Crocotile, Quarter Master, Ron Davis Racing, Hawk, Pro Parts USA, Mazdas247.com, and Race Sign Specialists.


R
elease Contact:
Andris Laivins
Tri-Point Engineering