M1’s Franzoni Charges from Ninth to Fourth
 August 3, 2015| 
  • Team News

LEXINGTON, Ohio — The 2.258-mile, 13-turn Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has a way of generating memorable races. That was the case on Sunday morning when M1 Racing’s Victor Franzoni charged from ninth to finish fourth in the Pro Mazda race presented by Cooper Tires even though his car was damaged in an incident at the start. 

Franzoni, a rookie from Sao Paulo, Brazil competing in only his fourth Pro Mazda event after joining the Dallas-based team in May, earned the Quartermaster Hard-Charger Award for being the driver who increased the most positions in the 30-minute race. 

The fourth-place finish equaled the fourth he earned in the street course race in Toronto in June. The way he did it was most impressive due to conditions both on and off the track. 

Franzoni’s #21, which is sponsored by Auto Enginuity, Novac Sports and Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Centers, was involved in an incident on the initial start and suffered damage to its rear wing and nose cone. The former was especially noticeable, but Franzoni persevered despite the compromised handling characteristics the damage caused. 

When the race actually got going on lap three after the initial start was waved off, Franzoni wouldn’t have been faulted if he’d been a little tenuous until he saw how the damaged rear wing was going to affect the car. He focused on moving forward instead. He saw an opening in Turn 1 after the restart and capitalized on it, advancing from eighth to fourth by passing Jose Gutierrez, Will Owen and Florian Latorre. (His original starting position was ninth, but the polesitter, Garett Grist, had been relegated to the back of the field for jumping the initial start.) 

Franzoni stayed in fourth place the rest of the race, although Latorre and later Owen did everything in their power to get by. Latorre held fifth place until lap 15, when Owen got around him. Two laps later Latorre went off course in Turn 12 after contact while running sixth and retired, bringing out a second full-course caution. The race ended under that caution with 20 laps complete. 

Franzoni kept getting faster and faster during the race. His fastest lap continually improved until it peaked on lap 16 with a 1:21.0985. The two drivers who finished directly behind him – Owen and Pato O’Ward — were faster but Franzoni was determined not to let them by. 

“Victor did an amazing job today!” said team owner Paul Mata. “He raced forward and almost had a podium finish. I don't know how he finished the race with the broken rear wing. 

“It was an amazing job by the whole team to keep fighting to move forward. We’re racing with no testing and no tire budget, so to get fourth against teams that tested here and have unlimited budgets for new tires is very satisfying!” 

“It was a really good race for us and we had a really, really good car,” Franzoni said afterwards. “I got involved in the crash on the main straightaway at the first start and broke the car’s rear wing. The nose was damaged too, but it didn’t matter as much as the rear wing. 

“On the restart I saw an opening in the first corner and I was able to get to fourth place because the car was fantastic. 

“I tried to take third place, but I couldn’t do it. If the wing wasn’t broken I feel sure we would have been on the podium. Big thanks to M1 Racing, Auto Enginuity, Novac Sports and Tampa Bay Jaw Surgery Centers for their support!” 

Franzoni started eighth and finished tenth in the first half of the doubleheader on Saturday, which turned out to be a lesson in defensive driving. 

He passed Owen on the first lap to rise to seventh. He remained in seventh place until O’Ward passed him working lap seven. Owen got back in the picture at that time, and Franzoni held him off until lap 12. Dalton Kellett got by with about 16 seconds remaining to push him to tenth place. His best lap in that race was a 1:20.737 on lap nine, which was actually faster than he ran on Sunday but slower than his qualifying time, which was 1:19.9536 and eighth-fastest at an average of 101.669 miles per hour. 

“We didn’t test here, so for Saturday’s race we tried a different set-up and it didn’t work as well as we hoped,” Franzoni said. “Remi [Lanteigne, the team’s engineer] suggested some more changes after Saturday’s race, and on Sunday our whole package was really great!” 

The next Pro Mazda event is the season-finale doubleheader Sept. 11-13 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in Salinas, Calif. 

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