Hacquard still in the Top Ten in his Rookie Season – Cumming Still Leading Expert Series
Battling blistering heat and a new circuit World Speed Motorsports drivers Taylor Hacquard and Chris Cumming both captured top ten finishes at New Jersey Motorsports Park during Rounds Nine and Ten of the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear as part of the Formula X race weekend at the new facility.
With temperatures peaking in the nineties along with unusually high humidity for the season, the assembled drivers and crews had their hands full before they took to the challenging Thunderbolt Circuit at the new facility. Once underway the challenges continued as drivers throughout the series would find themselves off course in the hay and mud that lined the circuit, clogging radiators and coating the cars in dirt.
“The conditions made it tough for everyone this weekend and I’m proud of all the hard work the World Speed crew performed this weekend,” commented Team Manager John Olsen. “On top of it being a double race weekend the gaps between sessions were really tight but everyone gave everything they had to get the cars ready.”
Saturday would feature four on-track sessions, including Round Nine of the twelve race championship, and heavy rains that had swept across the region after the conclusion of Friday’s test day would lead to a damp track for the first official practice session. The conditions would catch out Expert Series points leader Cumming in the #16 Inviro Medical Devices World Speed Motorsports Mazda early in the session, leading to an off track excursion coating the car in the mud that would come back to plague him during the race.
Starting from tenth on the grid, Cumming would hold his own on the standing start but would fall back with clutch problems and was forced to retire from the event after four laps. “Saturday’s race was disappointing as the team had worked hard to get the car clean and ready to race after the morning sessions,” the Vancouver, Canada based driver explained. “They did a heck of a job but the mud had packed in around the clutch and during the race it started slipping and that was the end of it.”
While Cumming was forced out Hacquard was moving up through the field from the fourteenth spot on the grid in his #15 Wolfe Auto Group World Speed Motorsports Mazda. Attacking the circuit, Hacquard worked his way into the top ten, capturing the ninth position in the closing laps despite being driven into the grass along the front straight by another driver.
“The crew gave me a great car for the race and I was looking at a top ten finish when it looked like it might go away when Lara tried to block me,” Hacquard explained. “I had two wheels in the dirt as we came under the starters stand and was running out of room but kept my foot in it and was able to take the position in the first corner. Once I was past him I was able to pull away pretty quick.”
Lara would receive a penalty for the maneuver, dropping him down from tenth to sixteenth for the event.
Even warmer temperatures would greet the team for Sunday’s round of the championship, but after a night of preparation the crew was eager for qualifying and the race. Hacquard would top the charts by over half a second in the first half of the split qualifying sessions featured by the championship, dropping time throughout the session as the track got faster, but would line up twelfth overall as the second group benefitted from increased grip during their half of the session. Cumming would line up just behind Hacquard in the fourteenth spot overall.
Hacquard would make another strong jump as the green lights came on for Round Ten, gaining several positions by the first corner but his good fortune would go south on the following lap. Closing on a group of cars ahead of him as they entered the chicane the airflow was taken off his front wing and he dropped wheels, collecting hay in the radiators. As the engine temperature increased he was forced to fall back to cool his engine.
“The setup on the car was awesome so it was frustrating to have to back things down,” Hacquard explained. “I was faster than the cars ahead of me going through the corners but couldn’t put down the power to pass them on the front straight because I didn’t want to hurt the engine. It’s better to finish in tenth than to blow a motor and finish last. I was able to stay close to the drivers ahead so if they had made a mistake I was ready and at the end of the weekend I picked up points and am looking to move up in the standings at Road Atlanta.”
Cumming was also able to make a strong start and would finish just ahead of Hacquard to record a top ten finish and earn a visit to the podium with his seventh Expert Class victory of the season. “After the disappointment of Saturday it feels great to wrap up the weekend with another visit to the podium,” Cumming revealed. “I have to thank my mechanic Virgil for everything he did this weekend. I also want to thank my Standing Start driver coach Mikel Miller and everyone at World Speed for helping climb the podium again and close in on the championship.”
With two races remaining Hacquard sits ninth overall in the championship with 250 points while Cumming is tied for eleventh with Jeffrey Kester with 236 points each. In the Expert Series points battle Cumming leads JW Roberts 186 points to 158 points.
The series now moves to Road America in Braselton, Georgia, for the penultimate round of the 2008 championship during the legendary Petit Le Mans weekend on October 1-3.