MX-5 Cup Cars Begin Sebring Test

Ara Malkhassian, seen here at last year’s SCCA Mazda MX-5 Cup opener at Sebring Int'l Raceway, was fastest during Monday morning's first test session at the historic venue. (Mark Weber/SCCA Photo)
Ara Malkhassian, seen here at last year’s SCCA Mazda MX-5 Cup opener at Sebring Int’l Raceway, was fastest during Monday morning’s first test session at the historic venue. (Mark Weber/SCCA Photo)

SEBRING, Fla. – The SCCA Pro Racing Mazda MX-5 Cup season got it’s unofficial start this morning at Sebring Int’l Raceway, with a number of teams and drivers gathered at the series’ official test session on Monday and Tuesday.

Teams have nearly four hours of available track time each day to come to grips with new machinery and the track before the season opener at the same location, March 13-15.

Though 2012 champion Stevan McAleer has taken his Mazda-funded prize to the Grand-Am Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, the remaining six of last season’s top seven are on hand at the test among the 14 total Series cars.

All are looking forward to the starting back at zero and aiming for a championship of their own.

“I am very excited and a bit nervous to get started with the 2013 season,” said Sebring’s own John Dean, of Sick Sideways. “We have been rebuilding my original No. 16 MX-5 that I crashed at VIR last year, so I am nervous about how the car will perform.

“We learned a great deal about racing these cars last year. I think we will be even stronger this year than we were last year. I’m stoked that we have official preseason testing this year and that it is at Sebring! I am also extremely excited to have Sparky [Nathanial Sparks] as a return teammate this year. I couldn’t ask for a better teammate, and I wouldn’t count him out for a shot at this year’s title.”

There with the Sick Sideways pairing of Dean and Sparks, who finished third and sixth, respectively, in their rookie seasons, is Ara Malkhassian of ALARA Racing. Last year’s runner-up and dean of the series as the career leader in starts, he’ll be joined this year by Christian Szymczak – fourth in last year’s title chase as a Sick Sideways team member.

Last year’s championship winning team, CJ Wilson Racing, is back with an eye on a repeat win. This time, it may be up to Elliott Skeer to carry the banner. Skeer finished fifth, including a win, last season as a 17-year-old rookie.

“I can’t wait to get back to Sebring and to get back together with my other family,” Skeer said. “2013 is looking to be a good year. I learned so much last year that should be very helpful in the fight for the championship.

“The test will be good fun, much less pressure and we get to check everybody out before the race weekend. I think each team will have a different agenda which will make the test interesting in trying to pick the favorites and rank the rookies. Were all back to zero points so anybody has a shot at 2013, and it all starts at the test.”

Unofficially, Malkhassian led the first session of the test days with a fast lap of 2:33.322 on Monday morning.

The MX-5 Cup will test for two days at Sebring in advance of the 12-race 2013 season.