Mazda madness delights at Daytona
Apex Racing League iRacing Mazda Cup Round 1 Race Report
Mazda’s MX5 sports car has been a reassuring part of the automotive landscape for three decades. Light weight, rear wheel drive and perfect weight distribution are the cornerstones of the world’s most popular roadster. These vital components of the MX5 recipe make the Japanese sports car legend a perfect base for an affordable race car. In fact, the MX5 is the world’s most raced car.
Accessibility sits at the core of the Mazda MX5’s story in racing and these values carry over to the virtual world. When new members of the iRacing home simulator service log on for their first race, they are met by the reassuring surroundings of a Mazda MX5 cup machine.
This affordable access to competitive motorsport inspired the Apex Racing League organisers to launch a six round Mazda Cup on the iRacing.com simulator. Held across six circuits, all of which are included with an iRacing.com membership, drivers can join a competitive club racing environment from the comfort of their home. However, with a field of twenty drivers and counting, those with ambitions to win the Apex Racing League Mazda Cup will need to bring their best to do so.
Daytona International Speedway’s road course hosted round one of the fledgling series. Home to the Rolex 24-hour race, the Floridian circuit provides ample opportunities for slip stream overtaking on the speedway’s high banked curves.
Negotiating a tense ten-minute qualifying session, Roberto Ferrari edged Calieb Hydes for pole position by a tenth of a second. AM class duo, John Tressider and Damien McMullen, started immediately behind Ferrari and Hydes.
Breaking away early in the opening fifteen-minute race, Ferrari and Hydes left the rest of the pack to bicker over the remaining positions. Biding his time, Hydes carefully studied his Italian rival and plotted his attack. On the final lap, Hydes pounced at the bus stop chicane and led on to the speedway banking. Hydes initially headed the drag race to the tri oval but Ferrari drafted back again and swooped past the young Australian to win by a tyre’s width.
Ronald Moons triumphed in the next drag race duel to the line to claim third place, ahead of AM class winner Damien McMullen.
A PRO class contingent of Airijus Jomantas, Ronald Moons, Calieb Hydes and Roberto Ferrari eventually progressed to the front by the halfway point of race two. Exiting the bus stop for the final time, Ferrari had the disadvantage of playing sitting duck, while the others built up a run in his slip stream.
Ferrari and Jomantas began the run onto the tri oval door to door. However, Hydes had accumulated superior momentum and faced a choice of going up and over the high line or attempting to split Ferrari and Jomantas down the middle. Unfortunately, Hydes chose the latter. Despite the Hiroshima built machine’s diminutive proportions, Hydes couldn’t fit his MX5 through the gap and triggered a three-car pileup. Unable to believe his luck, Ronald Moons slipped through the wreckage and pinched a surprise win.
Thor Tulloh also profited handsomely from the demise of the leaders and shadowed Moons to second place overall and the AM class victory.
A sheepish and apologetic Calieb Hydes began race three keen not to repeat the antics of race two. On the opening lap of the final encounter, Hydes sped to a two second advantage over the rest of the field. However, Roberto Ferrari wasn’t going to allow his Australian rival to escape for long. Eventually evading Airijus Jomantas, Ferrari closed in Hydes and set up a last lap showdown once more.
Ferrari deployed his last lap attack meticulously and carefully built a perfectly timed run, slipping past Hydes on the run to the line. Hydes was defenceless to the attack and had to settle for second place.
Ronald Moons claimed the final podium spot by fending off Airijus Jomantas and AM class winner Joseph Saul at the finish line.
Following a thrilling inaugural meeting of the Apex Racing League Mazda Cup, several protagonists joined the Apex Racing TV commentary box to share their thoughts:
Damien McMullen: “I absolutely loved it. I’m drenched in sweat! Really good racing from everyone.”
Daniel Parmelee: “Frustrating would be the word to describe my day. In race one I got run into coming into the bus stop and that set the tone for the rest of the day.”
Calieb Hydes: “It was a hectic and interesting event but it was heaps of fun! We were able to get a couple of good results so I’m satisfied with how it went.”
On the 8th of March, the Apex Racing League Mazda cup takes to the rolling, dusty undulations of Weathertech Raceway Laguna Seca. Prior to naming rights being transferred to the auto accessory firm, Mazda’s name adorned this fine venue and remains a part of its rich heritage. Tune in to Apex Racing TV at 8pm GMT to catch all three sprint races live.
Photos by Kevin Zhao