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Junior Formula 101- Star Mazda Championship

by Ryan Stringfield
Posted January 23, 2009 at 3:21 pm Junior Formula 101, Star Mazda


The beginnings of the Star Mazda series can be traced back to 1983, when their first formula car was created. The original set of cars were built by Hayashi in Japan for use in the Jim Russell Racing School. They were given the name: Formula Russell. The car made its debut at the 1984 Long Beach Grand Prix. Shortly thereafter, the car became so popular that numerous regional/divisional series were established by the Russell Racing School. It wasn’t until 1990 that the car was referred to as a Formula Mazda. At that time, the car featured a 180-hp two-rotor engine, weighing in with a curb weight of 1,140 lbs.

The actual Star Series originated in 1991 at the hands of current Star Mazda President Gary Rodrigues. Eight years later, in 1999, the regional Formula Mazda championships added a national championship race dubbed the Best Western Star Mazda Championship. That event offered the first big prize for Formula Mazda competitors; the national champion was awarded a 2000 Mazda Miata street car. In 2001, the series began its first official national program, referred to as the Goodyear Star Mazda North American Championship. In 2004, the series took on a new name which is still in use today; The Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear.

With the infamous Mazda rotary engine being re-introduced to the general public in 2003 via the RX-8 street car, the Star Mazda series decided to incorporate the new Renesis-powered rotary engine (used in the RX-8) into their race car. With the help of Elan Motorsport Technologies, the new car was created by Star Race Cars and built to meet the safety standards set forth by the FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) utilizing a light weight carbon-fiber chassis.

The current Star Mazda car was introduced in 2004 and features a 240hp Renesis, two-rotor rotary engine (same rotary engine used in the current Mazda RX-8). The naturally aspirated engine utilizes a MoTeC encrypted ECU, equipped with a rev limiter, speed limiter, traction control (which can be turned off by the driver inside the cockpit), as well as a fuel trim option.

The Star Mazda car currently uses a unleaded VP Racing fuel: Star Mazda MS100. The gearbox is a Hewland FTR six-speed sequential (with no lift shift), making shifts very efficient without upsetting the balance of the car. The chassis is a Star Race Car carbon fiber composite built to FIA standards, which sits on BBS wheels and Goodyear tires. The dry-weight of the car is very light and scales at 1090lbs, creating a very nice hp to weight ratio. Performance of the car is quite impressive: 0-60mph (2.9 seconds), 2.5 G’s (lateral grip), with a top speed right around 160mph. This is a true race car. The series is currently making some updates and will be releasing a new car for the 2009 season. Specs are not yet available, but it should be noted that all current cars can be easily updated.

The series used rolling starts in the past, but decided to incorporate standing starts for 2008 as well as incorporating a new Goodyear radial tire (slicks), specially designed for the Star Mazda series. Goodyear has been the sole tire provider for the national series since its inception. Races are timed by the scoring tower and last 45 minutes, requiring a very fit driver. The schedule utilizes three types of racetracks: road courses, street courses, and ovals. The variety of tracks, helps to make Star Mazda one of the premier development series in the world. Engine maintenance is minimal with a full rebuild occurring only about once every race season. The series is sanctioned by the IMSA (International Motorsports Association) and is part of the MazdaSPEED Development Ladder. As part of the current Mazda ladder system, the winner of the series is awarded a funded ride in the Atlantic Championship.

Drivers must be 16 years of age to compete in Star Mazda. According to several inside sources, the approximate budget for a season in Star Mazda is $250,000-$300,000 USD. Obviously, those numbers will vary from team to team as well as for the drivers involved.

Fun Facts:

  • World Speed Motorsports has been involved in the Star Mazda Championship longer than any other current team. (Dating back to the series inception: 1991)
  • The original set of cars used for racing in America, were assembled in the paddock by the Russell mechanics at the Long Beach Grand Prix (1984).


Past Star Mazda Champions

1999-Joey Hand (Grand Am Rolex Series, ALMS)
2000-Bernardo Martinez (NASA Honda Challenge)
2001-Scott Bradley (SPEED World Challenge)
2002-Guy Cosmo (Grand Am Rolex Series)
2003-Luis Shiavo (Atlantic Championship)
2004-Michael McDowell (NASCAR)
2005-Raphael Matos (IndyCar)
2006-Adrian Carrio (Atlantic Championship)
2007-Dane Cameron (Grand Am Rolex Series, Atlantic Championship)
2008-John Edwards (Atlantic Championship)

Famous Alumni (to name a few…)
Marco Andretti (IndyCar)
Scott Speed (Formula One, NASCAR)
Gerardo Bonilla (Grand Am Rolex Series)
Graham Rahal (IndyCar)
Colin Braun(NASCAR Truck Series, Grand Am Rolex Series)
Mike Potekhen (Indy Lights)
James Hinchcliffe (Atlantic Championship)
Kevin LaCroix (Atlantic Championship)

Star Mazda Championship

For more information on the Star Mazda Championship, please visit their Official Website.

For further Junior Formula 101 Reading; Click Here.

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