Salt Lake City, Utah – SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup competitors, staff, family and friends gathered at the Pierpont Place in Salt Lake City to celebrate the season following the doubleheader finale at nearby Miller Motorsports Park.
Mosing, Playboy’s Deanna Brooks, Piscitell, Rampelberg, Playboy’s Pilar Lastra, and Evans (L-R) pose with their banquet hardware.
Rick Benjamin, the television voice of the MX-5 Cup, hosted the celebration on Sunday evening. The guest of honor was Brad Rampelberg, of San Jose, Calif., who claimed the Championship on the strength of five wins in his No. 4 AMG Racing/Mazda/Cobalt Brakes Mazda MX-5. Rampelberg scored 559 championship points, regaining the lead following a win at Mosport International Raceway that had slipped away through the middle of the season. Rampelberg entered the doubleheader finale leading Justin Piscitell, of Weston, Conn., and brought home the crown with a pair of fourth-place finishes.
Rampelberg’s Championship led a sweep of the top-three spots from previous winners of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Shootout. Rampelberg, the 2008 graduate of the manufacturer program that provides its winners with a seat in the MX-5 Cup for a season, led Piscitell (the 2009 winner) and Nick Evans (the current award recipient).
Again in 2010, the MX-5 Cup Champion’s true prize comes during the 2011 season, where Mazda will fund a seat in the Grand-Am Continental Tire Challenge Series.
“It’s really an honor to win the Championship, it had been the goal for all of us at AMG since the beginning of the season,” Rampelberg said. “I have to thank all the guys for the work they’ve done all season, and my teammates for the help on the track. This is a great series that Mazda really supports, and I wouldn’t have been here without them. To see three Mazda Shootout winners finish at the top of the championship is just awesome, and it’s nice to get that recognition at the banquet in front of everyone who makes this Series happen.
“I can’t believe the competition in this series, especially out of the young kids, and the way they fought all year long – it certainly wasn’t an easy Championship to win. I’ve got to thank Mazda again, because I’m really looking forward to driving the Continental Tire Series MAZDASPEED3 next year to see how well I can do in that car.”
Piscitell, behind the wheel of the No. 89 Team MER/DAMG Worldwide/Merchant Services MX-5, earned his first win at New Jersey Motorsports Park on his way to a runner-up finish. It was the second season of competition for Piscitell, who finished in the top three as a rookie a season ago.
Evans’ third-place finish in the Championship netted him the Series’ Rookie-of-the-Year Award. Evans pulled into the third position on the final weekend of the season, earning his first professional win in his No. 28 Team MER/Mazda/Sparco MX-5 and ending the season with pole positions in five of the final six races.
As an additional prize, title sponsor Playboy gave each of the top-three finishers Hugh Hefner-autographed silk robes. Two additional robes were given to drivers representing the spirit of the MX-5 Cup. Jeff Mosing, for his enthusiasm and attitude throughout the year, earned a robe, as did Kristine Craine, representing determination and resourcefulness as a single-car team in the series.
ALARA Racing earned the Team Award for their spirit, represented by full-season drivers Ara Malkhassian, Lyonel Kent, Jesse Combs and Tim Probert. As a team, those four drivers combined for two wins, a pole position, four runner-ups and eight total podium finishes.
The banquet also reflected on a season of close racing that began with a 0.024-second victory from Rampelberg over Dean Copeland at VIRginia International Raceway. Four events, including races at Road Atlanta, Autobahn Country Club, and Mosport International Raceway were decided by less than 0.400-second.
The SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup now turns its attention to 2011 for a sixth season of competition. For the latest news and developments regarding the 2011 season, including the not yet released schedule, visit www.MX-5Cup.com and follow the series on Twitter @MazdaMX5Cup.