Freedom Autosport got the 2013 GRAND-AM Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge season off to a good start by finishing 6th in Friday’s 2.5-hour opener. Andrew Carbonell and Rhett O’Doski were the co-drivers responsible for the solid finish in the No. 26 Mazda MX-5.
Tom Long and Derek Whitis finished 13th in the No. 25 MX-5, meaning both cars left Daytona with valuable points in the Street Tuner standings. “Daytona can be a challenging track for the MX-5, which excels more on tighter tracks,” says Long. “To come here and get 6th and 13th really says a lot about how much we’ve continued to develop the MX-5, and it makes us even more excited about the season.”
This year, Freedom Autosport is honoring Marine Cpl. Christopher Singer, who made the ultimate sacrifice on January 21, 2012, during combat in Afghanistan. “Freedom Autosport has always supported the Injured Marine Semper Fi Fund, but we are also honored to remember those who have died in the line of duty,” says Whitis. “Fans will be able to see Cpl. Singer’s picture on our car all year long.”
Both of the Freedom Autosport MX-5s pitted during a caution, which allowed Carbonell to get behind the wheel of the No. 26 while Long took over in the No. 25. The pit stops were both so flawless that the cars gained positions, edging out other competitors who also took advantage of the caution.
Carbonell and Long ran nose-to-tail for a while so they could carry more speed on Daytona’s banking. Carbonell had to stop under green for fuel as the race neared its end, but the team’s strategy worked well, and Carbonell crossed the line in 6th.
Meanwhile, Long had to pit under green with a bent fender. The team used the stop to refuel the No. 25, so they avoided making any extra stops during the race. Long and Whitis eventually finished 13th.
“Our whole team had some bad luck at Daytona last year, so to come here and have everything run smoothly is a nice change,” says O’Doski. “Last year, we were already behind in the championship points after just one round. This year, we’re heading into the next race feeling much more confident.”
“It’s exciting to get 6th at Daytona, which is probably our weakest track,” says Carbonell. “It’s a real motivator for the rest of the season. Starting off strong puts you in a positive state of mind going forward.”
On Saturday, Freedom Autosport made their GRAND-AM Rolex Series debut in the No. 25 Mazda6 SKYACTIV-D. Carbonell started the race, handing the Mazda to Whitis for the second stint. The team’s day ended early, but Freedom Autosport is excited about the new SKYACTIV-D technology. The team will compete in more Rolex Series races in the Mazda6 this season.
Freedom Autosport has a month-long break before heading to Austin, Texas, to race at the new Circuit of the Americas on Mar. 2. In the meantime, see Freedom Autosport’s season opener during the broadcast of the Daytona round on SPEED. It airs Saturday, Feb. 2, at 4:00 p.m. ET.
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