LEXINGTON, Ohio – Anthony Martin scored a narrow victory over title rival Victor Franzoni Friday in the first of three races for the Pro Mazda Championship at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course this weekend.
Martin and Franzoni now separated by just three points as they chase a Mazda Scholarship worth more than $790,000 to assist in the progression to Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires, the final step on the Mazda Road to Indy open-wheel development ladder, in 2018.
Californian T.J. Fischer rebounded from a disappointing weekend at Road America last month to complete the podium for Team Pelfrey.
Qualifying Friday morning for round seven of this year’s Pro Mazda Championship threw up a surprise as Fischer’s young Brazilian teammate, Carlos Cunha, claimed the pole position ahead of title rivals Martin and Franzoni, who came into the weekend separated by just seven points after each winning three times in the opening six rounds.
After the first attempt at a start was waved off, Cunha edged away cleanly at the second time of asking, but he led only as far as turn four where a bold move to the inside under braking enabled Martin to claim the position. A close-following Franzoni also took advantage of his countryman’s loss of momentum to sneak through into second place.
The two leaders quickly stretched their lead, trading fastest laps as they edged away from Cunha, who in turn was unable to shake off Fischer.
Martin and Franzoni were never separated by more than a second, even as they worked their way past some slower traffic, but Martin maintained the upper hand to win by just .3847 of a second, securing Cape Motorsports its fourth Pro Mazda race win in succession at Mid-Ohio dating back to 2015.
“It was a perfect day – we just have to do that two more times this weekend. It’s a one down type feeling today, since we’re only halfway through our season,” Martin said. “I have to focus forward and get as many points as I can. I got a good run on Carlos coming out of the Keyhole and was able to get to the inside of him, though I think the right side of my car was in the grass. It was quite slippery under braking but I was able to get past. I locked it up going through the corner but I was able to gather it up and go on my merry way. It was hard having someone filling up your mirrors so you have to focus on making no mistakes.
“It’s hard to pass here so I just had to be fast in the places he was fast. The Capes have done well here in the past so that gives me the motivation to push hard because I know I have the equipment to do it.”
The battle for third was just as intense until lap 18, when Cunha inadvertently made contact with the lapped car of Jeff Green at turn two. Cunha, who had been struggling with excessive understeer, was assessed a drive-through penalty but ended up losing only one position to Fischer – and still finishing ahead of the third Team Pelfrey car of Nikita Lastochkin, who had started a lowly seventh.
Anthony Martin, Victor Franzoni, T.J. Fischer, Carlos Cunha, Nikita Lastochkin, Max Hanratty, Kris Wright, Bob Kaminsky, Bobby Eberle, Sting Ray Robb, Dave Zavelson, Kevin Bury, Jeff Green, Brendan Puderbach.