Daytona Beach, Fla. (24 January 2018) – Mazda’s “Road to 24” will be well on display this weekend as the racing world focuses on the 2018 IMSA season kick-off with the Rolex 24 At Daytona on Saturday as well as the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge race on Friday.
Several racers with backgrounds in Battery Tender Global Mazda MX-5 Cup presented by BFGoodrich Tires competition will be in action on the high banks of Daytona International Speedway, including 2017 series champion Patrick Gallagher as he makes his Continental Tire SportsCar Championship debut on Friday.
A highly competitive category that attracts both up-and-coming drivers as well as seasoned veterans, racers in the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup have continued to move up in the sport. This year will see yet more drivers utilize the lessons learned behind the wheel of Mazda machines at the World Center of Racing in the top IMSA sports car ranks.
2017 Champion Gallagher is a prime example of the opportunity that racing in the Global Mazda MX-5 Cup can generate as he has utilized his $200,000 Mazda prize package to keep his racing career moving up. Friday will mark his debut in the IMSA Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge at the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge.
Gallagher will be in good hands for his big debut at Daytona International Speedway as he will be sharing driving duties of the No. 8 Modspace Ford Mustang GT4 with his Global Mazda MX-5 Cup team owner, Chad McCumbee.
“Chad (McCumbee) was always a friend before he was a team owner to me, so I never really viewed him as a boss-figure, but I have looked up to him in many ways,” said Gallagher. “He is so knowledgeable on the setup side of things and there is a lot that I can learn from him in that aspect. It’s fun and we’re having a good time. For now, we are focusing on getting in the groove and getting through the first one.”
When looking back on his astounding MX-5 Cup season – dominating the field with 8 wins in the regular season before also laying claim to the $75,000 prize for the Global MX-5 Cup Challenge – Gallagher plans to use many lessoned learned from his time in a tight pack of MX-5 Cup cars in his first IMSA event this weekend.
“Even though Global Mazda MX-5 Cup isn’t an endurance series, you spend the entire first three quarters of the race trying to put yourself in a position to have a shot in the win,” explained Gallagher. “The first couple hours in an IMSA Continental Tire race are the same way and I think it will be about surviving and putting ourselves in a good position to have a solid finish.”
Gallagher will be taking over a new beast during the Continental Tire SportsCar Challenge season as he gets behind the wheel of Ford Mustang GT4 machine. Despite the differences in power and disposition from an MX-5 Cup car, Gallagher is taking it in strides as he learns what the Mustang has to offer.
“The power and how you can attack a corner is definitely the biggest difference,” said Gallagher. “The MX-5 Cup Car gives you a good baseline to jump in anything even if it’s not the same. If you can drive an MX-5 Cup Car you can drive anything. I struggled at first driving with momentum like you would in an MX-5 but I had to realize that I could rely on some power to get through the corner.”
The stacked field of over 40 entries for the four-hour BMW Endurance Challenge will also see several Global Mazda MX-5 Cup faces in action including Max Faulkner, Tim Probert, Eric Foss, Brent Mosing, Aurora Straus, Matt Fassnacht, Justin Piscitell, Mat and Mark Pombo, and Devin Jones.
With the main event at Daytona International Speedway being the 56th running of the Rolex 24 – set to go green on Saturday afternoon – two additional MX-5 Cup Challenge alum will not only be partaking in the storied event and will co-driving.
Robby Foley, who was a Mazda Road to 24 Scholarship winner in 2015, and Kenton Koch who was the 2014 Battery Tender Global MX-5 Cup Champion and returned to action in 2017 for the Global MX-5 Cup Challenge, will be paired together as they drive a power Mercedes-AMG GT3 machine in the GTD class.