Rotaries Bellow At The Brickyard
Mazda Makes History With First Ever Rotaries At IMS
For more than a century the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has laid witness to the greatest motoring competitions in the world. Its seductive soundtrack includes the likes of Offenhauser, the scream of the Novi V-8 and the whiz of turbine power. In 2012 the roar of the rotary was added to Indy's party mix.
The Grand-Am Brickyard Grand Prix in late July was a race for the ages and the rotary was represented well as SpeedSource Racing put Mazda and the Wankel on the podium.
The team was quick on the button as some minor post-practice adjustments put the #70 Castrol Edge Modspace Mazda RX-8 on the pole. The three-hour endurance race started with most cars on rain tires as Indy was a blustery, wet mess. The inclement weather threw teams a curve ball in their strategy, but SpeedSource proved resilient. The #70 Castrol Edge Modspace Mazda RX-8 continued to lead the pack in GT for most of the race as Bomarito and Tremblay consistently pumped out the fastest times on the track. While the weather persistently showed scattered showers, the track showed scattered cautions. SpeedSource was sharp in the pits and the drivers continued to keep Mazda near the front of the pack. As time got short Bomarito got brave and made an exhilarating pass on a Porsche to secure second place and solidify the rotary's first podium at Indy.
Team Sahlen split the pot at Indianapolis one car saw the lead, the other say the business end of a wrecker. Driver Will Nonnamaker, who drove the first stint in the #42 had a unique perspective on Indiana's weather patterns. "The early stages of the race were a bit funny. Not only was it raining, but after several laps the sun came out, despite the fact that was still raining. I was hydroplaning all the way down the back straightaway. And turning into some turns was a matter of just guessing that you were near the turn in point."
About 10 laps after the field switched to slick tires the skies opened up again and teams were forced to rains. The unique thing was that this rain pour occurred under yellow flag conditions, as the pack was rounding the banking heading for green flag continuation of the race. Thus all but two of the Rolex competitors choose wisely to pit for rain tires. Even at this slow pace one of the GT competitors spun in pit lane due to the treacherous conditions.
When the race went back to green, the #42 RX-8 was the victim of a collision with an overtly aggressive GT driver. "It seemed awfully early in the race to be attempting such a risky pass, which ended up taking both of us out," shared a dejected Nonnamaker.
During the middle stages of the race, as the track was neither soaked or dry, the #43 Mazda came to life and Dane Cameron worked his way into the GT class lead, which he held for 10 laps. After a series of driver switches the RX-8 finished the race eighth in class. "There no other way to describe the first Grand am Rolex race at Indianapolis other than crazy," related Cameron. The race was only three hours long but it felt like 10. Our car was fantastic in the damp conditions and it was really cool to be able to lead some laps at Indy. We lacked a bit on outright speed in the dry but we survived a wild day and now both #42 and #43 RX-8s are in the top 10 in team points."
Dempsey Racing also experienced mixed results at Indy. Its #41 Visit Florida/Bass2BillFish 'Charles In Charge' car piloted by Charles Espenlaub and Charles Putman finished ninth in class while the #40 entry of Patrick Dempsey and Joe Foster fell from the competition on lap 45.