Franzoni Nips Martin In Pro Mazda Thriller

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Victor Franzoni won Saturday's Pro Mazda Championship event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. (Al Steinberg Photo)

LEXINGTON , Ohio. – Victor Franzoni bested Pro Mazda Championship title rival Anthony Martin to win Saturday’s event at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Just as was the case Friday, the Brazilian and the Australian were never separated by more than a few car lengths. Only this time, after taking his fourth pole of the season and holding a narrow advantage for the majority of the 35-minute Pro Mazda Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio Presented by Allied Building Products, Martin was unfortunate enough to run afoul of a lapped car with just a few minutes to go, gifting an opportunity for Franzoni to sneak past and secure his fourth win of the season.

Another Brazilian, Carlos Cunha, took advantage of another clash with lapped traffic on the last lap to pass Team Pelfrey teammate Nikita Lastochkin for the final place on the podium.

After edging his rival to the pole in qualifying this morning by almost three tenths of a second, Martin accelerated into the lead at the start. Martin maintained his lead for almost 23 laps around the undulating 2.258-mile Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, while Franzoni ducked and dived in his mirrors, anxiously looking for a way past.

Just when it looked as though Martin would snag his fifth win – his third in succession and second in as many days – the two leaders encountered the second Juncos Racing entry of Jeff Green, who for most of the race had been trying to fend off the advances of Kris Wright. Faced with a much slower car in front of him at the entry to the tricky, off-camber Carousel turn, Martin was forced to try to make a pass around the outside line. Unfortunately, at the same moment, Green drifted wide into his path. Martin was forced to take evasive action which allowed Franzoni to sneak past on the inside and take over the lead.

Green then spun causing a full-course caution which left just enough time for a one-lap dash to the finish line. Franzoni made no mistakes as he held on to win by less than a half-second from an aggrieved Martin, who took small consolation from claiming the additional championship points for posting the fastest lap of the race and leading most laps.

“I had a better car and I was faster in the middle of the race but it was another day that I was just stuck and I couldn’t do anything,” said Franzoni. “I had some good luck, which is what we need to win the championship. But to have the luck, you have to be in position so I’m really happy we did what we had to do. I was a little bit behind what happened. I saw Jeff (Green) moving so I’m not sure if he had a brake problem or what. I saw him go outside but I went inside, so I couldn’t see what was happening. I am starting second tomorrow so we’ll try to do the same – if I have the chance to pass, I will.”

Franzoni now holds a slender five-point edge, 230-225, heading into Sunday’s ninth round of the 12-race season.

Los Angeles-based Russian Lastochkin snatched third place from teammate Cunha on the opening lap and held it until turn two on the final lap when his attempt to pass the lapped World Speed Motorsports entry of Bobby Eberle ended with contact and allowed Cunha to take the place.

T.J. Fischer also profited from the incident to finish fourth ahead of an unhappy Lastochkin and Sting Ray Robb.

The finish:

Victor Franzoni, Anthony Martin, Carlos Cunha, T.J. Fischer, Nikta Lastochkin, Sting Ray Robb, Bob Kaminsky, Kris Wright, Dave Zavelson, Max Hanratty, Bobby Eberle, Brendan Puderbach, Jeff Green, Kevin Bury.